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How to Train Your Cat to Sit With Your Dogs

Updated on December 18, 2012
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, a former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Cats can be trained to sit too!

Cats can learn to sit too!
Cats can learn to sit too! | Source

Cats can be trained too!

More and more dog trainers are expanding their horizons by adding other animals in their training routines. While dogs are, of course, their area of specialty; cat, horses and chicken may help trainers improve their skills. Indeed, famous dog trainer Terry Ryan holds quite come interesting workshops on training chicken. Because chickens are prone to move quite quickly, clicker training them can be quite a challenge. The result is better and faster timing which can ultimately be quite rewarding in many ways.

I have clicker-trained my chicken quite successfully, and lately, have been also adding my cats in my training sessions with my dogs. Never under-estimate the intelligence of cats. The notion that cats are un-trainable is quite untrue; if you find the right motivation, kitty will also be happy to perform some cute tricks! As a positive reinforcement trainer, I have taught my cats to sit by using their favorite treats: slices of hot dogs! As in dogs, you really need to find high-value treats that will motivate your cat and instill that enthusiasm that makes training both rewarding and fun. Following are some steps to train your cat to sit on cue.

How to train your cat to sit

This step-by-step guide will train your cat to sit in a few easy steps. Just as dogs, cats can easily get distracted by anything around them. For this reason, it is very important to find a quiet room with little distractions. (note how Mocha in the video below got distracted when her brother Mousse came running to sit on the window sill). Therefore, make sure you and your cat are in the room alone.

Things you will need:

  • High-value treats your dog loves
  • Treat pouch
  • Cat (obviously!)
  • Room with little distractions

Training Your Cat to Sit

  • Step 1) Fill your treat pouch with your cat's favorite treats. The smaller and smellier the treats, the better
  • Step 2) Take a treat and bring it toward your cat's nose and then move it upward slowly above your cat's head. Note; you may have to kneel down at your cat's level to do this as some cats are intimidated when looming over them.
  • Step 3) Your cat will follow the treat with its head which will make her sit.
  • Step 4) The moment your cat sits, praise and reward by giving the treat.
  • Step 5) Repeat the above steps to make it clear in your cat's mind that rear on the floor=treat.

Note: once your cat sits with reliability (this may take some time) start adding the cue ''sit''. You want to add the cue once you cat understands what you are asking for.

Tip: the prompt motion of moving your hand from your cat's nose to the head is known in training terms as ''luring''. Basically you are luring your cat with food to sit. However, you want to fade this movement gradually if you want your cat to obey only to a verbal command. This may take some time as animals tend to follow more body language than verbal commands. The body language, therefore, tends to ''overshadow'' the verbal cue. Give it time and fade the lure gradually, and your cat will learn to obey only to the cue ''sit''.

Consideration: some cats may stand up to get the treat, if so, you may be holding the treat too high. Use negative punishment in this case; in other words remove the treat when your cat tries to stand up or jump and try again, until your cat sits. Once sitting, praise and reward!

Adding Distance, Duration, and Distractions

The three D's of dog training apply also to cats. Indeed, you want to make the sitting behavior more reliable, and in order to do this, you need to add the three D's: Distance, Duration, and Distractions

Distance is added by asking the sit from a gradually farther distance. While initially, you may have asked your cat to sit from kneeling down next to her, you then will start to gradually ask the sit from an upward position and then one or two steps away.

Duration is added by delaying the treat. After asking sit, you may try to count one second before treating, then two and so forth. This will make your cat sit for longer and longer times before you give the reward.

Distractions may be tricky to add. Cats may get easily startled by noises or sudden movements in their surroundings. Try going very slowly. Try asking sits in other rooms, around other people and other animals. This part is fundamental if you want to show your cat's tricks to family and friends. Note: some cats can get ''stage fright'' when around others.

Training your cat can be quite rewarding and fun! Below is the finished product of asking your cat to sit. In the video below both Mousse and Mocha are sitting with no distractions and then Mocha is sitting next to my big and bulky Rottweilers. Have fun training your cat!

Training my Cats to Sit!

Have you ever trained a cat?

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