So I have recently started clicker training Trouble, our resident hospital cat, and it is a new world! I have used clicker training as a tool when working with my dogs for many years. I love how much clearer it makes my signals to my dogs. And when we decided to start teaching Trouble some tricks I pulled the clicker out. It works great with cats too! But here are some of the little differences I have noticed with the clicker training and training cats in general.
** You need to be very patient! With Trouble we click, reward, and then wait for her to groom herself. There is not rushing anything. With the dogs, I am aim for a high rate of clicks/rewards, but with Trouble, we go at her pace. Lots of patience!
**Short sessions are best. I am used to my dogs who will work forever (not that I recommend this!) but with Trouble we keep the sessions really short. I few repetitions and then we take a break for a while. We can do multiple short sessions throughout the day, but if we do too much in one session she gets bored. So short and sweet!
**Find the food your cat likes the best. Just like with the dogs, you need to find what your cat values. Trouble loves her canned food, but when we tried to use this as her reward for training, it wasn’t enough for her. So we use canned spray cheese.
**And did I mention lots of grooming?! Trouble likes to groom herself between each reward. Now keep in mind we are using spray cheese for her so it is messier. The grooming would likely be less noticeable, if we could use hard treats. But we had to improvise as Trouble cannot eat any hard food.
It is really fun to work with a cat. I think it is making me a better trainer!
Boo Donoho, DVM
Here is Trouble's first session learning to target with a clicker