Target training involves getting your cat to go to a target consistently. This can be as simple as a tennis ball on a stick or even the end of a pencil. You want to consistently use the same object for your target. Once you have a target, you want to start encouraging your cat to touch it, either with a paw or his nose -- your choice.
First, hold out your target item. When your cat begins to show interest by sniffing at the target or making contact with it, give him a treat. Once you've established the connection between the target item and a treat reward, start moving the target away from cat. Any time he follows the target and touches it, reinforce the connection with a reward. Once the cat consistently goes to the target, you can attach a verbal cue, such as "come" or "here" to the activity.
Target training can form the basis for more complicated tricks down the road, such as twirling or even walking into a carrier on command.
Author's Note: 5 Things You Can Train Your Cat to Do (Really)
As the mom of a Sphynx cat, I've given and received kitty high-fives, played fetch as well as hide-and-seek, and reaped the benefits of target training in action (it sure can make those times when the crate has to come out a little bit easier). One thing that didn't require any training, though: holding hands.
More Great Links
- Pets 101: Cats
- Petfinder: Cats
- Animal Planet. "Cat Guide: Top 5 Funny Cat Tricks." (March 28, 2013) http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/top-5-funny-cat-tricks.htm
- ASPCA. "Teaching Your Cat to Walk on a Leash." (March 28, 2014) http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/teaching-your-cat-walk-leash
- ASPCA. "Training Your Cat." (March 28, 2014) http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/training-your-cat
- Campbell Thornton, Kim. "Can you teach an old cat new tricks?" NBC News. Oct. 15, 2007. (March 28, 2014) http://www.nbcnews.com/id/20841270/ns/health-pet_health/t/can-you-teach-old-cat-new-tricks/#.UzTYGvldVbw
- Johnson, Ruthanne. "It All Clicks Together: Tips for Clicker Training Your Cat." All Animals Magazine. April 28, 2011. (March 28, 2014) http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/2011/05-06/it_all_clicks_together_join.html
- Larimer Humane Society. "Unleash Your Cat's Potential: Try Trick Training!" 2003. (March 28, 2014) http://www.larimerhumane.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=141&Itemid=15
- Orr, Joan. "Click and Laugh: Fun Cat Tricks!" Karen Pryor Clicker Training. Sept. 1, 2008. (March 28, 2014) http://www.clickertraining.com/node/1776
- Sellers, Jennifer. "How to Teach a Cat Tricks." Petfinder. (March 28, 2014) http://www.petfinder.com/cats/cat-behavior-and-training/how-to-teach-a-cat-tricks/
- Shaffer, Chris and Linda. "Agility Training For Your Cat." The Cat Fanciers Association - Feline Agility Competition. (March 28, 2014) http://agility.cfa.org/clicker-training.shtml
- WebMD. "Healthy Pets: Training Tips for Your Cat or Kitten." 2009. (March 28, 2014) http://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/kitten-training-tips
If your cat's pawing food out of its bowl to eat, it might be more than an annoying habit. Learn how cats can have whisker fatigue at HowStuffWorks.