Clicker Training Your Cat

This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase from these links, at no cost to you, Catexplorer receives a small commission.

A side effect of exploring with your cat is the significant amount of time you need to invest in training your cat.

Cats react to positive reinforcement – that is rewarding your cat when they do something positive. A popular form of positive reinforcement training is clicker training.

Clicker training is better known for encouraging our pets to learn tricks like how to sit and wave. It can also be used for obedience training, like encouraging your cat to sit in one spot while you are cooking.

With this in mind, we asked the Catexplorer Community, how can we use clicker training while exploring?

But First, What is Clicker Training?

Clicker training is method of positive reinforcement training. Each time your pet does something positive, you ‘click’ the clicker and it acts as the marker signal for their good behaviour.

Each time a ‘click’ is made, you reward your pet with a treat. In time, this allows your pet to associate the ‘click’ sound with a reward. As they would like to receive this reward again, it is likely that they will continue the behaviour.

Isn’t Clicker Training Just for Dogs?

No, any animal can be trained with a clicker. Even dolphins, horses, birds and even fish can be clicker trained!

So We Can Train our Cat to be Clicker Trained?

Yes! Cats can be clicker trained. In fact there are online schools and programs that take you through the steps of clicker training your cat.

What Other Methods of Positive Reinforcement Training Can I Use With My Cat?

Members in our community also use other forms of positive reinforcement training, including whistling, saying particular words (like “good kitty/cat/girl/boy/cat’s name), target sticks and finger target. These methods work very similar to clicker training.

How Do I Use Clicker Training with Training My Cat to Explorer?

Members in our community have highlighted that clicker training at home has enabled them to bond with their cat. They have highlighted that it has been a great opportunity to open up communication with their cat – so that their cat learns to listen to them and vis versa. Clicker training has also taught many owners to learn to read their cat’s body language. Combined together, these are very important when walking your cat on a leash as it enables you to communicate and understand each other in new environments.

Clicker training for harness and backpack training your cat

Clicker training can even be used for one of the first steps in training your cat to walk on a leash – i.e. getting acclimatised to wearing a harness. When you start backpack training, you can also use the clicker to get your cat to enter their backpack – similar to how you would do it with a typical carrier.

Recalling your cat using clicker training

Another great behaviour that you can train is to get your cat to come to you when called. Being able to recall your cat is particularly useful when you are out and about as it may save their life. It can stop them running in front of a vehicle or into another form of danger. It may also help you re-unite if you get separated. Calling your cat back to you is also useful in situations where they end up in a position where you cannot reach them, like in a tree.

Teaching your cat to wait and stay

You can also use clicker training to teach your cat on how to wait and stay while you are walking them on a leash.

When you are telling your cat to wait, you are letting them know that they need to stay still for a short period of time and then they can go exploring. As Laurie Luck (a certified dog trainer) says – “It’s more of a hang on a minute, we’re going to do something, but you have to wait until I’m ready”. You can use “wait” when you are attaching a leash to your cat’s harness, or checking to see if a location is safe.

Meanwhile, stay means that your cat should get comfortable and nothing will happen till you have returned to them.

Teaching your cat to get in and out of the car

You can also use a target stick to train your cat to get in and out of your car. This is a common training technique for dogs, and can be used for cats. We recommend making sure that the area does not have any moving cars before trying this one.

Following you on the trail

One of the common struggles of owners exploring with their cats is that they do not always follow their owner on the trail, which is a behaviour commonly exhibited by dogs. Perhaps we can also use the clicker to train your cat to do this. This is something the Catexplorer team will be trialling in the future with Lumos & Noxie.

Tips for Clicker Training

As the reward in clicker training for a cat is typically a treat, it is a lot easier to train a cat who is food motivated.

As with any training, it is easier to start when your cat is a young kitten and consistent training is key. It is better to have 5 minutes of clicker training every day, rather than one 30 minute session each week.

We also recommend purchasing a clicker that you can easily hold and carry with you. This way, you can train your kitty easily.

While you are exploring with your cat, it is very likely that they are very easily distracted. One of the suggestions when clicker training your cat is to ensure that they are not distracted. This is very difficult to do while you are out and about.

Members in our community have found that it is easier to conduct majority of the training at home and then only practice the skills their cat has mastered while exploring. It is likely that there will be days when your cat is too distracted, or not in the mood. As with any type of exploring, we need to only work within our cats’ limits.

Some owners have places their cats treats (which are dry food) in a glass jar. They shake the glass jar to attract their cat’s attention when they are distracted.

Other Training Resources You May Find Helpful

Cat School

Julie Posluns (who has a M.SC in Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology) has created an awesome online program to clicker train your cat, called the Cat School.

Tim Ferris’ Podcast About Dog Training

Tim Ferris interviewed Susan Garrett (a master dog trainer) on his podcast. While the podcast is very skewed towards dog training, many of the topics covered also relate to cat training – we really recommend you listen to it.

Have you used clicker training or any other form of training with your cat? We would love to hear all about it!