Our feline friends can master tricks just like dogs. In fact teaching your cat some clever tricks can improve their mental agility and wellbeing, as well as strengthening the bond between you.
Pets can learn to perform all manner of tricks, from heeding a potentially life-saving 'wait' command to more unusual activities such as skateboarding. 'The benefits of training are huge,' says behaviourist Claire Stallard from animal welfare charity Blue Cross. 'Mental stimulation is very important.' Indeed, trick training is likely to result in better overall health, helping to build muscle tone and stamina in your pet and improve his or her flexibility and balance. Training should always be fun. 'You should never use methods that intimidate or cause your pet pain or fear,' says Claire. 'Pets, like people, do not learn when they are stressed or frightened.'
Clicker training - where a device is used to make a sound that tells an animal when it is doing the right thing - is especially popular. A retractable pen or vocal noise can be just as effective. Before you start training, teach your pet that a click equals a reward by clicking and giving a treat straightaway.
Pet agony aunt and cat expert Celia Haddon has used clicker training to teach her five cats and recommends that owners use training to enrich their pets' lives. 'There are immense benefits to training animals such as cats and house rabbits,' she says. 'It gives them something to do and enjoy, and can boost the relationship between owner and pet.'
For maximum success, never force a pet to do something they don't enjoy, keep within their limitations and stick to short training sessions.
Teach a cat to sit and beg
You can teach your cat that the sound of a clicker means food over several short training sessions. When she sits of her own accord, click as her bottom hits the floor, and treat. Repeat frequently. Add the cue word 'sit' just before she sits down; click and treat. Then hold a treat above her head so that she has to stretch to reach it. Add the cue 'beg' just before she rises up. Now you shouldn't need to hold the treat above her head. Click while she's up there and treat.
Adapted from an article on tricks for cats, dogs and rabbits written by Karen Cornish in PetPeople magazine (Spring 2013).
Do you have any tricks that you've successfully taught your cat? Share your stories with us below.