How to Train a Cat to Do Tricks

September 14, 2012

By Julia Williams

“Train a cat? Ha ha! Very funny. That’s a joke, right?” No, it isn’t. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to train a cat to do tricks. You really can teach your cat to sit, shake, give you a high five, fetch on command and any other trick you want. But (and this is a BIG but)… it won’t be easy. Then again, if it was too easy the thrill of victory wouldn’t be half as sweet!

If you want to teach your cat to do tricks, you need a wealth of four things: patience, determination, time and cat treats. Anyone who is familiar with the independent nature of cats knows why training them requires lots of the first three things. Unlike our canine friends, cats really have no innate desire to please anyone except themselves. As for the cat treats, there’s simply no greater motivator for felines than food. Praise? Cats have no use for praise, and although most do enjoy a good brushing or petting, it’s just not enough to inspire them to do your bidding.

So before you begin to train a cat, it’s wise to stock up on some tasty cat treats. You really can’t go wrong with FELIDAE TidNips™. These soft cat treats are made with real chicken meat and supplemented with Vitamin E, an antioxidant, and Omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat. More importantly, they are delicious! (No, I haven’t eaten any myself, but the reaction I get from my three cats at treat time is all I need to know).

If you let your cat “free feed” dry food, consider switching to two feedings a day and remove the 24-hour kibble buffet. Then you can try training your cat to do tricks before their scheduled meal time, which makes the food reward even more motivational.

Another important aspect of cat training is that you have to coax them to do what you want, such as “sit” or “shake.” When they do, say the command loudly and clearly, and immediately give them their food reward. You can also praise them lavishly and pet them, although as I said before, this is not nearly as effective as the cat treat.

If you don’t succeed after a few days (and you probably won’t), don’t get discouraged. Remember the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Simply keep trying. Trust me…training a cat to do tricks can be done!

How to Teach your Cat to Sit 

Step One: call your cat over to you, luring them with the treats if needed.
Step Two: when your cat approaches and stands before you, say “Sit.”
Step Three: put light pressure on their rump to naturally induce the sit position.
Step Four: when the cat sits, give them the treat immediately.
Step Five: repeat steps one through four as often as necessary to get your cat to sit on command.

After you’ve mastered the “sit” command, you can move on to the next trick.

How to Teach your Cat to Shake

Step One: get your cat to sit, and reward them with a treat.
Step Two: put your hand behind their right front leg and touch their paw.
Step Three: say “Shake.” A cat will often lift its foot when you touch it. If they do, take their paw in your hand and give it a gentle shake.
Step Four: Immediately give them a treat and a pet.
Step Five: repeat as needed.

I hope you find these tips for training your cat useful. Let me know if you succeed!

Photos by Dylan Ashe (top) and Lauri Rantala (bottom)

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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  1. Aubrie Weiss says:

    Everytime I touch my Leo's paw to train him to “shake”, he'll either swipe it away or quickly swipe his head down to my hand and bite it. So I can't really do that. Help?

  2. training a cat is not so easy as training a dog! you really need lots of patience!


  3. K_tigress says:

    Yeah my kitty loves to do loads of things.
    I make a certain sound and he responds by coming very quickly and getting it. Usually a fly or a large nasty daddy long legs centipede that’s on the wall.

    I make this other sound like a scratching sound on the wall, he comes and does a playful “ha! I caught you” with is paws.

    I do the pinch above his head which is two fingers touching each other and you get the rest and he knows to sit up on his hind legs and touch my fingers with this nose.

    He does a lot of cool things but he is definitely not motivated by treats to do those things. He definitely likes his praise, hugs and kisses. But he will come running when you mention the word “treats”. Or mention the word “numnums” and he knows its dinner time.

    But speaking of treats, my kitty hates chicken. He had some bad experiences with white chicken meat. It would be nice if more companies would make seafood based treats and food instead of making every thing chicken or grain based.
    Just my and my kitty’s two cents.

  4. Oui Oui says:

    Our girl taught Oui Oui to sit and down, but the mom just doesn’t have the patience for it.

  5. Rumblemum THINKS she has trained us to give her smoochies, but really I LIKE giving her smoochies and I have trained her to give me treats after I give her a smoochie. Hehehe

    (Humans are EASILY trained)

  6. CATachresis says:

    I have “trained” Austin to put his paw up for a treat. He learnt quite quickly, which surprised me. Training to sit? Well! We’ll see lol

  7. Marg says:

    Those are some mighty good tricks to teach a cat treats.We do have one cat that will fetch. She loves it. Take care.

  8. Me & Myself been working my whole life to train my Staff. Itza working and theyza feeding me my favorito FELIDAE Pure Elements just when I wants it.

  9. Deb Barnes says:

    This sounds like fun… sigh… but when to find the time!! Until then, I’m in the same boat as Brian – my cats have me very well trained to feed them dinner like clockwork!!

  10. Cats are easily trained. I’ll be doing more articles on the subject. Training before meal time using treats does works as does short session, consistently. I’m one of the few behaviorists who does not use clicker training.

  11. Vet didn’t sigh. I was trying to be funny becaause I am an anxious pet mom. Guess it backfired.
    But yes, if he in actuality did sigh, I would be gone.

  12. My crew comes when I whistle…they know it’s supper time!

  13. Brian says:

    I have been training my Dad and it is actually pretty easy. I used the mealtime trick with him too!

  14. Finn says:

    Training right before meal time – smart idea!!