Sometimes, it just clicks
When you have a cat in your home, sometimes it feels as though the cat is the master of the household. Humans are smart, but we underestimate our cats’ ability to train us. We also underestimate our cats’ ability to be trained. The litter box is generally where most people begin and end a cat’s training. But why? Dogs love to learn, to be rewarded, and to spend that one on one time with us, seeing that they can please their owner with a job well done. Are cats really that different? Maybe not.
When we learn something new, find motivation or inspiration, get a pleasant surprise, or succeed, our brain releases dopamine as a reward. It’s a feel-good hormone that keeps us trying to succeed. We like that little high we get when we finish a project, ace a test, level up in WoW, or learn something cool from a documentary. Clicker training gives pets an instant hit of dopamine the moment they hear that click, followed by a treat; another reward, all without the use of voice commands.
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Maybe this kind of training is perfect for cats, who don’t really like to be told what to do. Instead, every time they randomly do the desired behaviour, they are rewarded. So they learn the pattern and choose to do it again and again. In this video, the cats are rewarded with a click and a treat every time they “target” their blankets, or, later, a straw. It stands to reason that hand or voice cues would be added so the cat doesn’t just lie on the blanket all day, expecting endless treats, but it’s a good start.
A sheltered life
When cats enter a shelter, they can usually expect some heavy-duty medical treatment. De-sexing, microchipping, worming, and vaccinations, to name a few. Plus a few pats every day, plenty of companions, and a lot of time in a cage. Dogs generally get some obedience training before they find their forever homes, but we don’t seem to expect as much from cats. Silky fur, a playful nature, and lap warming sums it up for most cats. Despite their seemingly complete disinterest in what we want them to do the rest of the time, cats still need some mental simulation.
This is where clicker training comes in. It gives the cat the chance to feel like more than a cute ball of potential affection in a wire box. It feels smart, useful, and capable. We all deserve the chance to challenge ourselves, and to exercise our minds. It’s a fun and interesting break from ruling a household, or being a widow ornament. Why not give it a try with your cat?
To see an introduction on how to do it, watch the video here.