Examples of Things You Can Teach Your Cat, Including 5 Musts

Yes, you can train a cat. Not only is it possible, but it can have many benefits – for you and your cat.

Ready for some training inspiration? Below we’ve listed 47 examples of things you can teach a cat, including 5 no cat owner should consider optional.

What can your cat already do? And what will you train for next?

In the following sections, we’ll explore details of the many reasons why training should be a part of the routine you have with your cat.

Top-down view of black cat sitting in front of two shoes, looking straight up at camera

The Bare Minimum Training for Every Cat

This first category of trainings includes things that will make having a cat a lot less stressful, and a lot more pleasurable and harmonious in your home.

5 Training Musts for All New Cat Owners:

  1. Use the Litter Box: Most cats pick up litter box use pretty naturally if you do things right from the beginning. But some need a little more guidance than others.
  2. Use Scratchers: Cats need to scratch something in order to maintain claw and paw health. You can train your cat to use scratchers (or scratching posts) instead of furniture. Put differently: train your cat to use a scratcher or he will use your furniture!
  3. Accept Nail Trimming: With positive reinforcement, cats can be trained to accept and stay calm during nail trimming sessions.
  4. Accept Handling: Cats can be trained to be more accepting of handling from a variety of people. This pays off when it comes time for grooming and vet visits.
  5. Travel Calmly in a Carrier: Carrier training and car training can make a huge difference in helping cats to feel more comfortable and less stressed when traveling in a carrier.

These Basics Should Be Trained First

1. Respond to Their Name: Cats can learn to recognize and respond when called by their name.

2. Come When Called: With consistent training, cats can be taught to come to you when you call them.

3. Participate in Clicker Training: Clicker training is a positive reinforcement method that can be used to teach a wide range of behaviors.

Once you have reliable name recognition and response to positive reinforcement methods, you have the foundation for training your cat to do all kinds of other things.

Other Trainings for Harmonious Cat Life

  1. Go to a Specific Place: Cats can be trained to go to a mat or bed on command, which is useful for mealtime or when you want to close the cat in a room.
  2. Crate Training: Cats can be trained to enter and stay in a crate or cage calmly, which is beneficial when you want to enclose the cat without needing to use a separate room.
  3. Tolerate Bathing: While most cats self-groom, some can be trained to tolerate a bath when necessary.
  4. Play Nicely: Cats can be trained to play without using their claws or teeth too aggressively.
  5. Understand ‘No’ or ‘Stop‘: Cats can learn to cease an action when given a verbal cue to stop.
  6. Stay Off Counters: With training, cats can learn that certain areas like kitchen counters are off-limits. This is a tough one, but it can be done! I know from experience that it’ll be a lot harder if you have a habit of leaving dirty dishes and pans out.
  7. Get Along with Other Pets: If you’ve got other pets, you should take the time to train your cat to be comfortable with cohabitation. Of course, this should be combined with training of the other animals as well.

In the next sections, we’ve provided a non-exhaustive list of cat tricks and commands you can teach your cat.

Cat Training for Basic Tricks and Commands

  1. Follow a Target: Target training is a method where cats learn to follow a target stick, which can lead to other training opportunities.
  2. Sit on Command: Cats can learn to sit on cue, just like dogs.
  3. High-Five or Shake Paws: With positive reinforcement, cats can learn to give a high-five or shake hands.
  4. Ring a Bell: Some cats can be trained to ring a bell for attention or food.
  5. Retrieval: Some cats enjoy retrieving toys and can be trained to bring them back to you.
  6. Beg or Sit Pretty: Some cats can learn to sit back on their haunches and “beg” for a treat.
  7. Navigate Puzzle Feeders: Cats can be trained to use their paws to navigate puzzle feeders for mental stimulation and treats.

Cat Training for More Advanced Tricks and Commands

  1. Stay or Wait: Training a cat to stay in place is possible with patience and practice.
  2. Walk on a Leash: With the right harness and gradual conditioning, many cats can learn to enjoy leash walks.
  3. Open Doors: Cats can learn to open doors, especially lever-style handles. I once had a cat that figured out how to do this all by herself.
  4. Agility Training: Cats can learn to navigate through agility courses, which is both mentally and physically stimulating.
  5. Turn Lights On and Off: With motivation (usually a treat placed strategically), cats can learn to jump up and hit a light switch to turn it on or off.
  6. Spin or Twirl: Cats can be trained to spin in a circle on command.
  7. Wave Goodbye: A cat can be trained to lift a paw as if waving goodbye.
  8. Fetch Specific Toys: Beyond just fetching, cats can learn to fetch specific toys on command if they are trained to differentiate between them.
  9. Speak or Vocalize on Command: Some cats can be trained to meow or make a noise when asked.
  10. Lie Down: Cats can be trained to lie down on command, similar to the ‘sit’ command.
  11. Roll Over: With encouragement, cats can learn to roll over on command.
  12. Jump on Command: You can train a cat to jump onto or off of furniture or other designated areas on command.
  13. Find and Touch an Object: Cats can be trained in a form of search and find, where they locate a specific object and touch it with their paw or nose.
  14. Ignore Distractions: With training, cats can learn to ignore distractions and focus on their owner’s commands.
  15. Kitty Kisses: This is where a cat learns to gently touch their nose to a human’s cheek or hand on command.
  16. Boundary Training: Cats can be trained to stay within certain boundaries.
  17. Respond to Hand Signals: Cats can learn to associate hand signals with specific commands or actions.
  18. Open and Close Drawers: With training, some cats can learn to open and close drawers to retrieve an object or toy.
  19. Balance on Objects: With careful training, cats can learn to balance on narrow or wobbly objects for short periods.
  20. Solve Advanced Puzzles: Some cats enjoy the challenge of more complex puzzle toys that require multiple steps to solve.
  21. Touch a Buzzer or Button: Cats can be trained to touch a button or buzzer with their paw, which can be used for communication or to perform a specific action, like ringing a bell for food.
  22. Perform a ‘Salute’: Similar to a high-five, a cat can learn to raise a paw in a salute-like fashion.
  23. Retrieve Items from Another Room: With training, cats can learn to go to another room to fetch a specific item.
  24. Help’ with Simple Household Tasks: Some cats can be trained to assist with simple tasks, like helping to remove laundry from a basket.
  25. Jump Through Arms: Some owners train their cats to jump through their arms or a hoop held by their arms.
  26. Jump into Arms: You can train your cat to jump into your arms on command.
  27. Jump onto shoulders: Similar to jumping into your arms. I have Gandalf trained to do this, but it means that sometimes he does it when I’m not expecting it at all – like when I have my back turned to him in the kitchen. I probably need to refine the training a little bit!
  28. Hang Out On Shoulders: With incremental training, you can get your cat to enjoy being on your shoulders, and even walking around with you.

Foundations for Training

If you want to have success with cat training, you should know that the better you understand cat behavior and the principles of positive reinforcement, the easier it will be.

Basically, you need to train yourself before you try training your cat.

You Need to Understand:

  1. How cats’ natural basic needs and motivations shape their behaviors
  2. How your own behaviors shape your cat’s behaviors
  3. How the environment you’re providing for your cat shapes your cat’s behaviors
  4. There are unwanted behaviors, but there is no such thing as a cat “being bad”

Never Use Punishment

Punishment should never be used in cat training. Many cat owners resort to things like squirting with water, yelling, or even hitting their cats, thinking that it’s necessary to get the cat to do what they want.

While spraying or yelling at your cat may work in the moment to get the cat off the counter, it is damaging to your bond and won’t prevent the cat from repeating the unwanted behavior in the future.

When you use punishment, you are teaching your cat that you are sometimes an unsafe person to be around. This results in a pet that trusts you less, and is scared of people.

Last Meows

So much is possible in the world of cat training. Just remember that a cat’s ability to learn trained behaviors will depend on their personality, early socialization, and the training methods used.

If you’re just starting out, you have to start with learning about cat behavior, basic needs, how cats respond to their environment, and how to shape a cat’s behavior with positive reinforcement.

Never force your cat to do anything, and never use punishment as a training technique.

Explore other articles in our Cat Training Collection:

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The information provided here is not meant to replace professional guidance from your own veterinarian or cat behavior specialist.

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