Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I am planning on becoming a first-time cat owner soon and have been enjoying your articles in preparation! My question is: how do you tell, when adopting a shelter cat, which ones are intelligent/problem solvers/easily trainable? Why is this so important to me? Well, if you are wondering why I would even ask such a question, my previous pet was a brilliant and beautiful Golden Retriever who delighted us with her quick mind and intelligence. She was also extremely easy to train. I understand that cats are inherently different from dogs, but I’ve heard of many cats who display similar trainability, understanding, and basic problem-solving skills, and that is very important to me in choosing a future pet. I know that certain cat breeds are highly intelligent, but I’d rather adopt a shelter cat who needs a home than a purebred kitten who is sure to have one. Thanks in advance!
Thomas: First of all, Allison, thank you for wanting to adopt a shelter cat and for understanding that cats are not just small dogs.
Bella: As far as training goes, a lot of people think cats can’t be trained–and in fact, some may even suspect the truth, that we cats train you humans!
Tara: But the fact is that some cats really enjoy being trained and will respond very well to that training!
Thomas: The first characteristic we think you should look for is an outgoing cat. Particularly if you have any visions that your training might lead your cat to a career as a therapy cat, you’ll want to have a kitty who isn’t easily startled and who isn’t shy.
Bella: Secondly, you’ll want to look for a cat who is very food-motivated. Food provides a great reward during the training process, and if you select a cat who is first in line when it comes to getting treats, you’ll be off to a good start.
Tara: So, intelligence isn’t the only thing you want to look for. That combination of an outgoing, food-motivated cat is probably going to give you the best odds for success at cat training.
Thomas: The most successful way to train any cat is with clicker training. Yes, you heard me right: Clicker training!
Bella: Want to see some amazing cat training in action? Check out the Incredible Acro Cats, all of whom are shelter cats who were trained to perform using clicker training.
Tara: The definitive book on clicker training for cats was written by Karen Pryor.
Thomas: Naughty No More by cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger also goes into depth about clicker training. And the best thing is, your cat doesn’t even have to be naughty for you to use the training techniques Krieger discusses.
Bella: Clicker training for cats works exactly like clicker training for dogs. You treat and click the minute your cat does what you want her to do. In the beginning, you’re going to click and treat for various steps of performing a trick.
Tara: So, for successful cat training, the best thing you can do is pick an outgoing and food-motivated cat. And that cat doesn’t have to be a kitten, either. You see, a lot of people think you can’t train adult cats, but that’s just not true.
Thomas: That’s right, clicker training works for everykitty!
Bella: How about you other readers? Have you trained your cats? Please share how you found out your cat liked to be trained and what you’ve done to train him or her.
Tara: How did you pick out your cat? Did you pick him or her out with training in mind, or is it something you stumbled onto as you lived with him or her? Tell us all about it in the comments!