Before you can begin any clicker training work with your cat, you’ll need to introduce the clicker to her. The purpose of this initial training is to teach her that the sound of the click means something wonderful is about to happen…. in the form of a very tasty treat. First the cat will learn that the sound of the clicker is associated with a great food motivator, once they’ve become comfortable with that, we’ll move on to using clicker training to encourage behaviors that we’d like to see happen with more frequency.
What do you need?
- A clicker
- A cat
- A relatively quiet space
- Some very exciting treats or wet food. The treats should be broken up into small, pea sized pieces.
It’s important that you use food or treats that your cat truly loves, and, if possible, save that food motivator for the times that you’re training with your cat. Cats can be picky, your cat may change his mind about what he loves most, so you may need to swap treats or wet food out often to keep him interested. You can use a spoon to offer wet food, if your cat is comfortable eating from a spoon. Also important is that the sound of the clicker not be frightening to your cat. If she does seem nervous of the sound, you can use the click of a pen, or try clicking with your tongue. You can also use a word as a marker, something like a firm “yes”, but this could be confusing if more than one person is training the cat as all voices sound different, she may not respond to everyone the same way if the tone or volume is different from person to person.
Keep in mind that these training sessions will be short. Your cat will respond best to two or three, two minute training sessions a day. Any longer and your cat may lose interest, making your efforts less important to her. Keeping them short and fun will make training a game for her, encouraging her to engage when the next session happens.
Where to start?
Find a quiet moment in your day to gather your supplies. Call your cat to you, or encourage her to come to you in whatever way you would normally call her over. Make sure that you have your treats or wet food ready and settle in comfortably with your cat, in a manner that’s normal for you both. Click, wait one second and then offer a treat. Give your cat time to eat their treat and then repeat the process. You’ll know that your cat is understanding that the click means a treat when they consistently startle a bit and look for their treat when they hear the click. When you’ve made it that far, you’re ready to move on to working on other behaviors.
Some clicker rules:
- Click only once
- Be sure that you’re consistently clicking before you give a treat
- If you click, you must offer a treat, even if you didn’t mean to click
- Avoid absentmindedly clicking… it’s easy to forget that the clicker is a tool, use it only for specific training needs.
- Avoid pointing the clicker at your cat. Keep it behind your back while you’re clicking in one hand and offer treats with the other hand.