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!

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4 thoughts on “Training Your Cat: Targeting

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