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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Teach your cat tricks with clicker training

Jun 01, 2022 03:31PM ● By Jenna Kretschman

Earlier this year, a long-haired, cat was found in a field—dirty, sick and completely blind. 

After arriving at Roice-Hurst Humane Society (RHHS), the 4-year-old kitty was given the name Oak. 

Oak quickly became a staff favorite. He craved attention and would perk up when a human approached his cage. The RHHS team decided that Oak would benefit from clicker training to help him navigate the world through sound.

Clicker training involves using a small, plastic tool that makes a click noise when pressed. When an animal performs a desired behavior, the button is pressed and a treat is given, linking the sound to a reward and positively reinforcing the behavior. The click helps the cat understand the exact moment they perform a desired behavior.

The first step to clicker training is to find a cat’s jackpot reward—a treat that the cat will do anything for. Luckily, Oak went crazy for lickable liquid treat tubes! 

Because training a cat is much easier when there’s a jackpot treat involved, it makes sense to do training sessions before mealtime when the cat is most hungry. Favorite treats may also include freeze-dried chicken and tuna. 

Next, charge the clicker (no electricity required)! Charging the clicker is a phrase that means allowing the cat to build an association between the sound of the click and a reward. At first, the click means nothing to a cat, so they must learn that a click equals a reward. To charge the clicker, click it and follow immediately with a treat. Do this repeatedly until it’s clear that the cat expects a treat when they hear a click. Some cats build this association after a few tries, but others may take a few days.

After the clicker is charged, decide what behavior you want to train your cat to perform. We wanted Oak to come to the sound of his name, so we let him loose in a room and called him. When he approached after his name was called, Oak heard a click and was given a tasty lick of his treat. After several sessions, Oak learned to respond to the sound of his name! And after more than a month in our care, Oak was adopted into a loving family.

Clicker training can be used to teach a cat almost any behavior, including tricks like sit, high-five and spin. It also trains them to get into a carrier or walk on a leash outdoors—which are all things we teach cats at RHHS.

Need help clicker training your cat? Reach out to Roice-Hurst Humane Society at 970-434-7337 to learn more

Jenna Kretschman is Roice-Hurst Humane Society’s Communications Coordinator.
Contact her at [email protected]

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