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How to Train Your Cat

Can a creature as independent and sophisticated as your cat be trained? Cats are highly intelligent, which means they can absolutely be trained — or maybe cats are the ones training us. Either way, here are a few ways you can train your cat.

Tips for Training Your Cat

Cats are receptive to all different kinds of training, from tricks to sleeping through the night to litter box etiquette. The keys to cat training are patience and positive reinforcement. Remember to never discipline or punish your divine feline; cats don’t learn from negative reinforcement, so these experiences can lead to stress and even behavioral or health issues. Instead, focus on reinforcing desired behavior with lots of positive praise and petting.

Using treats and a clicker system is another form of positive reinforcement you can use. Find a pen or similar tool with a distinctive “click.” When your pet performs the action or behavior you’re training them to do, make the “click” sound and reward them with a treat. Adding this clicking sound can help your cat draw a connection to why they’re being rewarded: “I did the thing, heard the click and got a treat!”

Cats have shorter attention spans than humans, so be sure to keep training sessions short and sweet. It also helps to work on one type of training at a time; once your smart kitty has mastered one type of training, you can move on to the next goal.

3 Ways to Train Your Cat

Keeping the above training tips in mind, let’s explore three ways to train your cat.

black sketched cat icon walking with a cat toy

1. How to Train Your Cat to Fetch

Contrary to popular belief, cats do play fetch. These pointers will help your cat become a feline fetcher in no time.

  • Select a toy you can throw all the way across the room that is also easy for your cat to carry in their mouth.
  • Throw the toy and watch as your cat leaps to chase it. You’ll be surprised to find that, more often than not, your cat will bring it back to you to throw again.
  • Reinforce this behavior with petting or delicious cat treats like SHEBA® Meaty Tender Sticks
  • If your cat doesn’t bring the toy back, that’s more exercise for you! Keep trying and reinforcing the fetching behavior with cat treats.

black sketched cat icon walking with cat leash on

2. How to Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

Does your indoor cat love watching all the neighborhood goings-on from the window? Try taking it to the next level by leash-training your pet so you both can enjoy the great outdoors safely.

  • If you can, start early. Kittens tend to be more open to this kind of training, though established indoor-only cats can also come around.
  • Purchase a harness for the leash — not a collar. Collars can choke, detach or come loose, so a harness that attaches at the back is a safer option.
  • Start leaving the harness near areas your cat frequents, such as nap spots and the food/water station, so your pet gets used to the sight of it.
  • After a few days, put the harness on your cat while still inside. You may want to take it slow and start by simply draping the harness over your cat.
  • As your cat grows accustomed to the harness, practice wearing, walking and exploring with the harness and leash inside your home, gradually increasing time in the harness. Starting training inside allows you to spot any issues and deal with them in the safety of your home, plus, your cat won’t have as many distractions as they would outside.
  • Once you’re ready to go outside, take short walks, even if it’s just down the driveway. Gradually increase your distance as your cat becomes more comfortable. Try to stay away from busy streets, dogs and loud areas that may frighten your cat.
  • Cat food and cat treats like SHEBA® Meaty Tender Sticks or SHEBA® PERFECT PORTIONS™ wet cat food are great for rewarding your cat for participating in each step of the process.

black sketched cat icon walking and looking back

3. How to Train Your Cat to Come on Command

Teaching your cat to run your way with a verbal cue can be helpful in a number of situations: if your cat sneaks out the door, is hiding a little too well, etc.

  • First, decide what cue you want to use. This could be calling your cat’s name, a phrase such as, “Come here,” clicking your tongue or any other vocal cue.
  • Start using the cue before normal feeding times. Be sure to make the sound before snapping open your cat’s favorite SHEBA® PERFECT PORTIONS™ wet cat food. Over time, your cat will learn to associate the cue with something good (mealtime!) and should start coming to you when they hear the cue.
  • Begin encouraging the behavior outside of mealtime with short distances. When your cat is nearby, make the noise and reward them with a treat (and click beforehand, if using clicker training) when they come to you.
  • Work your way up to calling your cat when they’re farther away from you, rewarding them when they come.

Cats are highly intelligent creatures hungry to learn. What will you train your feline best friend to do next?