Clicker training is a proven and popular positive reinforcement-based training method that involves using a small handheld device called a clicker that makes a sharp clicking sound when you squeeze it.
The click tells the cat when she has performed a desired behavior and will receive a reward. Eventually, the cat learns to associate the clicker with something pleasant that she wants, helping to shape her future behaviors.
Clicker training has many benefits for cats and their owners, including improving the bond between them and developing effective communication. Cats enjoy more mental and physical stimulation in a fun, enriched environment, while owners can train their cats quicker and more effectively.
Read this guide to learn how to clicker train a cat, and check out our top cat training tips!
What Is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is a method of positive reinforcement training for cats that uses a small, handheld device called a clicker to mark the desired behavior. When the cat performs the desired behavior, the clicker is clicked and the cat is immediately rewarded with a treat or praise. The clicker helps the cat to learn the association between the desired behavior and the reward.
Clicker training is a very effective way to train cats, as it is based on the principles of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a learning process in which an animal learns to associate a behavior with a consequence. In the case of clicker training, the consequence is a reward, which is why the cat is more likely to repeat the desired behavior.
What Is A Clicker?
A clicker is a small, handheld device that makes a sharp clicking sound when pressed. It is used in clicker training, a type of positive reinforcement training that uses the marker sound to mark the desired behavior.
Clickers are typically made of plastic or metal and have a button that is pressed to make the clicking sound. They are available in a variety of sizes and colors.
How Does Clicker Training Work?
Clicker training works by teaching your cat to associate the clicking sound with a reward, such as a treat, until, eventually, the click itself becomes the reward.
The click is always immediately followed by a reward, so the cat understands the click is a good thing. The idea of using a clicker instead of giving rewards alone is that the cat understands immediately when she did the right thing.
This training method is popular because it typically brings quicker results than more traditional methods and makes it easier for the cat to understand when they have done the right thing.
For example, if you ask your cat to lie down, she might have stood up again before you’ve managed to get a treat out of your food pouch, leaving your cat wondering exactly what she’s being rewarded for.
However, in clicker training, the click sound pinpoints the exact moment your cat has exhibited the desired behavior, helping to rule out any confusion.
What Are The Benefits Of Clicker Training?
The benefits of clicker training are that this method helps your cat understand the precise moment she has exhibited the behavior you want, making training quicker and more effective and helping to prevent obesity by eventually reducing the number of food rewards your cat receives.
Here are some other benefits of clicker training your cat.
Clicker training gives your cat clear, consistent signals, telling her the exact moment the desired behavior happens. That helps your cat understand what they did right and makes it more likely she will repeat that behavior in the future.
Positive reinforcement training is highly effective in teaching cats to modify certain behaviors and learn new commands, and using a clicker can be an excellent substitute for food rewards.
Cats are intelligent creatures that need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to keep them busy and prevent undesirable behaviors. Clicker training provides your cat with problem-solving and mental challenges, helping to keep their minds engaged and focused.
Clicker training is a fun, interactive training method for both you and your furry friend, allowing you to spend quality time together and helping to strengthen the bond and trust between you.
Improved Focus And Attention
Cats are typically easily distracted, and clicker training helps to keep your cat’s attention and focus on your training session and the new commands you want to teach her.
Enhanced Coordination And Agility
When you teach your cat advanced tricks, a clicker can help improve your cat’s coordination and agility.
Stress can lead to aggression in cats, and if you can identify your cat’s stress triggers, clicker training can help by teaching your cat to associate the clicker with calmness.
Use the clicker when your cat is relaxed or busy playing, grooming, or doing other activities she enjoys. Whenever your cat is exposed to a stress trigger, click your clicker and reward her when she remains calm to tell your cat she’s doing well.
Fun And Enriching
Clicker training sessions can be fun and enriching for cats, helping to alleviate boredom and reduce stress and satisfying your cat’s natural predatory hunting instincts.
What Do I Need To Clicker Train My Cat?
The things you need for clicker training are easily available from good pet stores and online.
To clicker train your cat, you’re obviously going to need a clicker device!
The clicker is a small handheld device that makes a clicking sound when you press it and is used to teach your cat that the clicking sound means she’ll get a reward, such as a treat. You use the clicker to modify your cat’s behavior and teach her new commands and tricks.
- Box Clicker: A small box with a metal plate inside that makes a clicking sound when pressed.
- Standard Clicker: Works the same as a box clicker but is often more round in shape.
- Adjustable-Tone Clicker: This kind of clicker enables you to adjust the volume and tone of the click to suit your cat’s preferences.
- Soft Clicker: This kind of clicker has a muted sound that some cats prefer.
- Ring Clicker: This style of clicker fits on your finger like a ring, leaving your hands free.
Treats are edible tidbits that many cats enjoy and are used to reward desirable behaviors during clicker training.
Treat Pouch Or Container
Rather than struggling with bulky plastic bags, you’ll find it much easier to grab a treat to reward your cat if you keep a supply in a handy treat pouch or container.
Target Stick Or Object
A target stick is a short wand with a ball on one end that you can use to keep your cat’s attention and direct her to a particular place.
Training Mat Or Area
A training mat is a mat that’s either textured to make it unpleasant for your cat to walk on or generates a small pulse when stepped on.
These devices are used to deter a cat from walking in specific no-go areas in your home.
Comfortable And Quiet Training Space
Cats can be easily distracted, so you’ll need to choose a suitable area in your home where you won’t be disturbed during your feline friend’s clicker training sessions.
Timer Or Watch
It’s essential not to prolong your training sessions beyond your cat’s focus tolerance, so you’ll need a timer or watch to enable you to keep track of the time.
Patience And a Positive Attitude
If you become frustrated and lose your cool, you risk stressing your cat and setting back your training sessions. So, the most important essential tool for clicker training is unlimited patience and a positive attitude!
How Do You Introduce Your Cat To Clicker?
To introduce your cat to the clicker, follow these steps:
- Choose a quiet place in your home that’s free from distractions, and have your pouch of training treats on hand.
- Sit with your cat and show her the clicker device, allowing her to sniff it.
- Take the clicker in your hand and make the clicking sound, immediately offering her a treat.
- If your cat is nervous about the clicker’s sound, you might need to buy a soft or adjustable-tone clicker and then repeat the introduction process.
Of course, not every cat appreciates the sound made by a clicker, but most accept it if you persevere.
How To Clicker Train A Cat
Clicker training is a positive reinforcement method that you can use to teach your cat commands and modify her behavior.
The cat learns to associate the sound of a click with a high-value reward, such as a treat, making it more likely for her to repeat the desired behavior in the future.
Step 1 – Choose A Trick
Before you begin training your cat, choose the behavior or trick you want to teach your cat. Start with something easy, such as touching a target object or sitting.
Step 2 – Choose A Suitable Time And Place
Choose a quiet, comfortable place in your home to train your cat, where you won’t be distracted or interrupted.
Your cat must be receptive to the training before you begin, so ensure she’s not hungry, tired, or feeling feisty.
Step 3 – Break The Trick Into Small Steps
Don’t expect your cat to learn the whole trick in one go! Instead, make it easier for her by breaking the trick down into small steps.
Step 4 – Click and Reward
Hold the clicker in your palm.
Ask your cat to perform a simple action, such as coming when you call her. Immediately, your cat responds correctly to your verbal cue; you click the clicker and treat your pet.
Step 5 – Repeat And Shape The Behavior
Repeat the exercise until your cat understands the clicker concept, gradually building up each stage until she can perform the whole trick.
Now, shape the behavior, withholding the click and reward until the cat carries out the whole behavior.
Clicker Training Your Cat To Stop Bad Behavior
Step 1 – Why?
The first thing to do is to establish why your cat is doing what she is doing.
For example, if your cat jumps onto your counter to steal food, she will need a different training plan from a cat who jumps up merely to seek your attention.
Step 2 – Managing The Situation
Now you know why your cat is misbehaving, you must stop reinforcing it.
So, if your cat jumps onto the counter to get food, you must ensure there is never any food up there for her.
For example, when making dinner, give your cat a food puzzle to keep her occupied and distract her from what’s happening at the counter. Once the cat knows there’s nothing on the counter for her, she will stop jumping up there.
Step 3 – Clicker Train An Alternative
Once the undesirable behavior is identified and managed, you must train an alternative behavior.
Rather than focusing on what you want your cat to stop doing, change the focus on what you want her to do instead. In the example of a cat counter-surfing to get food, one solution to the problem is to teach your cat to go to a more appropriate place to get food.
So, choose a spot where your cat can go to get food and treats. Each time your cat visits that spot, use the clicker right away to reinforce the behavior.
What Are Clicker Training Tips For Cats?
Here are some clicker training top tips to help your cat training program succeed.
Training With A Treat-Eager Cat
When your cat exhibits a desired behavior, you’re going to reward her with an immediate click and a treat, but that won’t work if your cat isn’t interested in the treats on offer!
One of my cats likes only one particular brand and flavor of treat, so I always ensure I have a good supply of those feline favorites on hand. So, before you start clicker training your cat, be sure you know what’s a high-value treat for your feline friend.
Finding The Right Reward
Not all cats are food oriented, and if your cat isn’t interested in edible treats, you’ll need to learn what she loves instead.
For example, many cats prefer a head rub, a cuddle, or a game with a favorite interactive toy, so you’ll need to use that to reward your cat when she behaves as you want her to.
Ensure Your Cat Is Incentivized
You must provide your cat with an incentive to perform the desired behavior.
For example, if your cat knows that she will receive one of her favorite treats every time she hears the clicker, she will be more likely to perform the behavior that results in you using the clicker.
Clicker Training Multiple Cats
You’ve probably heard the expression, “like herding cats,” and that can be applied to clicker training in a multicat household!
I find that one of my cats will always try to muscle in on the other’s lessons, making it impossible to achieve anything! So, the easiest and most successful way to clicker train multiple cats is to separate them into different rooms or training areas and hold individual training sessions.
That said, if one cat is observing a training session, watching the other learn can be helpful to the cat observing.
Training For Good Behavior
Rather than using negative reinforcement for your cat, reward good behavior using the clicker training method and high-value rewards. I’ve always found that approach to be far more enjoyable and successful.
In this part of our guide, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about clicker training for cats.
Can You Teach Cats Tricks?
As you’ve learned from this article, you can teach cats tricks by using clicker training.
Can Cats Be Trained Like Dogs?
Yes, to a certain extent, cats can be trained like dogs using positive reinforcement in combination with clicker training.
For example, cats can learn to sit, stay, come when called, play dead, and even complete simple obstacle courses, just like Fido!
Is Clicker Training Bad?
No. Clicker training is absolutely safe and is an excellent way of training your cat when carried out correctly.
Is Clicker Training Effective?
Yes, clicker training is a highly effective, reward-based training method that uses positive experiences to modify your cat’s behavior or teach her new tricks.
Can You Train Without A Clicker?
Not all cats respond well to a clicker, especially older kitties who are too set in their ways. Sometimes, using reward-based, positive reinforcement training methods without a clicker work just as well. It really depends on your cat’s preference!
I hope you enjoyed our guide to clicker training for cats and found our tips and advice helpful. If you did, please hit the share button before you go!
Clicker training is a popular, positive reinforcement training method that involves using a small handheld device called a clicker.
Pressing or squeezing the clicker device makes a clicking sound, which tells your cat she’s performed a desired behavior and will immediately receive a reward. The cat quickly learns that hearing the clicker means she’s about to get something pleasant that she wants, and that helps to shape your pet’s future behaviors.
There are many benefits of using clicker training for cats and their owners, including helping to form a bond, developing better communication, and providing mental and physical stimulation for your pet. You can also use clicker training to modify undesirable behaviors.
How did clicker training help to improve your relationship with your cat? Tell us in the comments box below!