family & Pets

Courtney Allan

How to teach your cat new tricks

How to teach your cat new tricks

Cats are well-known for being aloof and stubborn, but as it turns out, cats just want to interact with their humans as best as they can.

This is according to cat behaviourist Regina Hall-Jones, who spoke to the ABC about the benefits that come with training your cat.

Not only can it be mentally enriching and fun for the both of you, it can also be used to address behaviour issues within your pet.

Although it might be tricky as dogs definitely have a head start on cats when it comes to training, it doesn’t mean that training your cat can’t be done.

"Cats were only domesticated 2,000 years ago, and even then, humans didn't actively select for certain traits [through breeding] until the 18th century," Bronwyn Orr, veterinarian from Sydney School of Veterinary Science says.

"In comparison, dogs have had a significant head start. Having first been domesticated 15,000 years ago, they have co-evolved alongside humans for quite some time."

 The benefits for training your cat can greatly outweigh the cons, says Hall-Jones.

"Enrichment and mental and physical stimulation is so important," Ms Hall-Jones says.

"Cats who are generally happy and secure, have routine and familiarity … are less likely to have destructive behaviours."

Cats who have been trained are also less likely to be surrendered.

"Depending on the people, they surrender them or get them euthanased because they can't handle [certain behavioural] issues. I don't think people realise there are people out there who can help with these issues."

Training your cat is easier than you think, says Dr Orr. As long as you’re “establishing trust, motivation and rewards”.

“Patience and repetition are key,'' she says.

Both experts agree to use positive methods and never resort to punishment.

"Punishment training methods — for example, yelling at incorrect behaviour — have been shown to be less effective than reward-based methods, and can greatly damage the trust and bond you have with your pet," Dr Orr says.

Depending on how old your cat is and what breed they are helps the cat learn quickly.

It’s a lot easier to train a kitten or a younger cat, but according to Hall-Jones, these breeds learn the fastest.

"Bengals, domestic shorthairs and Siamese cats tend to learn the quickest."

Food as a reward is usually all you need to begin training.

"Always keep training fun. Use short sessions, only try to teach one behaviour at a time, consistently reward good behaviour and try to be as consistent as possible," Dr Orr says.