To train your cat to do a new skill, you will need to set aside a time and decide what you are training that day.  However, training should not always be something you do at a scheduled time with specific goals.

Training is a way of communicating with your cat, so training is a part of your  cat’s day.

My kitties wake up to a medication session. My oldest cat, Athena, is medicated twice daily. After having Zelda, the Maine Coon, dive in, snatch and swallow Athena’s medication, I decided to make training work for me.

Two Cats sit and stay

Medication Etiquette

  • I prepare the medication (getting the treat box and wrapping the pill in a treat)
  • Marley, Gus, and Zelda COME and SIT on the floor by the dining table.
  • Athena is directed to the dining table.
  • Marley, Gus and Zelda are then asked to STAY.
  • Athena is given her tablet which she eats most of the time. If not, I give Marley, Gus and Zelda a REWARD and repeat the STAY command
  • I take an extra minute to pill Athena.
  • Marley, Gus and Zelda are REWARDED for the stay.
  • Athena is REWARDED for taking her pill.
  • I give all cats the ALL DONE signal.

The medication etiquette uses 4 skills the cats have learned.

  • COME when called
  • SIT
  • STAY

It is a real time-saver when medication has to be given and I need to get to work.

Other times training is a part of your cat’s day…

Off the table!

You can ask your cat to move from place to place with your finger or a target stick. Let’s say that your cat jumps up on the table when you don’t want her to. You ask her to jump down; she does and gets rewarded with a treat.

Cat waits for food

Sit and wait for dinner!

You can ask your cat to SIT and STAY when you are fixing his food. You may need  a few treats to keep the STAY going until his dinner is ready.

Behavior when you don’t want it

Sometimes, you turn around in a minute or so, and your cat is back up on the table waiting to jump down and get a treat. When training, we repeat skills several times to see if kitty has gotten the idea.  So, it is not all that surprising when kitty repeats his skills when not asked, hoping to cash in on more treats.

It may be better to ask him to jump down, treat, then have him sit and stay for the count of 5. Then, give him a treat and the all done signal to let him know the session is finished.

The all-done signal is very important – it means that you will walk away and there are no more treats for the moment.

All Done
The “all done” signal marks the end of a training session.
Of course, you must have reasonable expectations. For example, if kitty really likes seafood, it may just be better for everyone if you ask him to go a room and close the door while you fix the fish or shrimp!

Train Your Cat to Sit

Teaching a cat “tricks” or behaviors is much more than just entertainment for us. Having a cat learn to do something on cue allows you to communicate with him. Training can give your cat physical exercise and keep him from becoming bored and restless.

Clicker training pairs a clicking noise (made by a “clicker”, fingers snapping, “mouth click”) with a reward. When your cat responds to a cue to do something and hears the “click”, she looks forward to receiving a treat, head rub or other reward. The behavior is positively reinforced by receiving the reward and your cat is more likely to repeat the behavior when cued.

Why Train Your Cat to Sit?

train cat to sit
Athena begins to sit as she targets a treat



Let’s say it would be handy for your cat to wait while you fix his dinner or you need him to sit still so that you can look at his teeth or eyes – train your cat to sit!

Getting Started

Choose a time that the cat is calm and up and about. Avoid situations with distractions – have a quiet room where you can have one-on-one time with your cat.

Have treats your cat likes and aim for a time when she is hungry. If she is free fed, you may need to pick up food a few hours before training. If kitty is on a special diet, you may need to train close to meal times and use her regular food to reinforce her.

First, teach your cat that

Click = Treat

 This will set the stage for further training and communication.

Train your cat to sit by “targeting” and clicker training

  • let your cat see and smell the treat
  • hold the treat in your hand and raise it slowly up and over kitty’s head
  • he will “target” the treat. When he sits, click and give him the treat.
  • Repeat 4-5 times a session.
  • After kitty has mastered this, add a verbal cue “sit” – say “sit”, and move your hand over his head.
  • When kitty starts to sit, click immediately. You can give the reward once he is seated but make sure the CLICK HAPPENS AS HE STARTS TO SIT.
  • After several sessions, the cat should sit on cue. Some cats will take longer to learn this than others.

TIP: Start with holding a treat in your hand, then move to having the cat “target” on your hand or finger without the treat.

“Shaping” the “sit”- teaching “stay”

We can use the word, “stay”, and a hand signal, an open hand, to cue a longer sit.

  • Say “stay” as you slowly move your open hand toward your cat.
  • Click and treat if your cat is still sitting as you count to 3; otherwise lure her back and start over.
  • Extend the sit counting to 3-5 seconds. Click and treat if she is still sitting.
    work up to a 15 second sit
  • establish an “OK” cue to mark the end of the sit; you could say “OK” and have the cat target your pointed finger and move away. Be sure to click and treat the “OK”.
  • when working with my cats, I use the words “all done” combined with a hand signal where I cross my open hands back and forth several times
Make training sessions short – 5 minutes or less
For hearing impaired cats – use visual cues
For sight impaired cats – use auditory or olfactory cues
If you are using food, be careful feeding the treat directly from your hand – cats do not see well really close up and may inadvertently nip you trying to get the treat.
Mark the end of all your training sessions with  an “all done” signal


Cat trageting finger

Training Your Cat to Target

Training your cat is a way of communicating with your cat. In Training Your Cat = Communicating With Your Cat, we talked about pairing a “click” with a treat or other thing your cat values. You can make the click noise with your mouth or with a gadget called a clicker.

Basic Vocabulary: “Click” means “Treat”


You can’t say to your cat, “if you sit quietly on that mat, I will reward you” because words don’t mean anything to him. We must find other ways to communicate what we are asking for: Capturing, Luring, Targeting and Shaping.


If your cat is already does a behavior, you can “capture” it by simply waiting until she does it, then click and treat. You mark the naturally occurring behavior using the clicker, reinforce it with a treat or reward, and then link it with a cue.



If you need to get kitty’s attention, you may need to “lure” him with food or a toy; for example, you may “lure” him to the area of the room you are using for training by having him chase a wand toy.



If you use a stick or your finger to point to a spot on the floor and your cat moves toward the stick or your finger, the cat is “targeting” the stick or finger. Training your cat to target will make it easier to tell him to move from place to place.



To fine tune a behavior, for example, to make your cat walk further when leashed, you can “shape” the behavior by rewarding him for going a little further on his leash.

Training Your Cat to Target

target stick,clicker and treats

What you need

  • Treats your cat values. (The reinforcers can be something other than food but food is the easiest to use).
  • A stick – for example, you can use a chopstick
  • A clicker (or you can click with your mouth)
  • For the gadget oriented, a click stick combines both functions; some are telescoping!



TIP: Train when your cat is likely to be hungry: pick up food a few hours before training if free fed; use her food as reinforcers if she is on a special diet.

TIP: Dip your target stick in a moist treat; if your cat is a dry food addict, rub the tip of the stick in some crushed treats to get the smell on the end of the stick.

Targeting: Step by Step

  1. Allow your cat to approach and examine the stick
  2. When he touches the stick, click and treat
  3. Repeat 4-5 times

If your cat loses interest, try training later
Frequent and short training sessions work best
Make sure you have a quiet environment, free from distractions


Treating is key part of training – like people, cats don’t like to work for free. Make sure the reward comes at some point – once your cat hears the click,  she will look for her reward. Make sure to reinforce her!