Q: The videos of you clicker training cats has really piqued my interest! I am not really clear what clicker training is, but it looks like fun. Do you think my 12-year-old cat can be clicker trained?
A: Yes! You can teach an old cat new tricks. A couple of the videos on CatChannel feature Maulee, a 13-year-old Bengal. She loves clicker training and is always the first one in line to learn something new. I started clicker training her about two years ago, when she was 11.
Clicker training is a way of training cats and modifying their behavior without using punishment, based on positive reinforcement and rewarding desired behaviors. Through clicker training, cats can be taught tricks such as rolling over and jumping through hoops. But it is also very effective for eliminating unwanted behaviors and for bonding cats more with their human companions.
The first step in clicker training is to find something that motivates your cat. Most cats are food motivated, though some are motivated by affection or play. After you identify your cat’s motivator, you’ll need a device that makes a consistent sound. I use an i-Click clicker, a rectangular little box that makes a clicking noise when a button is pressed. By clicking, then giving your cat a treat, the cat will learn to associate the sound of the click with something positive. This is called “charging the clicker.” Depending on your cat, it might take about 12 clicks and treats until the cat makes the association between the sound of the clicker and something good. After your cat understands that the sound of the clicker is positive, you can use the clicker to build and shape desired behaviors. The clicker is used as a communication tool — marking good behaviors and communicating to your cat that it is doing something right.
You can find out more about clicker training in the upcoming March 2008 issue of CAT FANCY.