Q: What is clicker training and I use it to teach my cat to use her scratching post?
A: I certainly think you can try. Any cat owner knows that “training” is usually based more on what your cat wants to do and not necessarily your wishes, but clicker training cats is a way to teach your cat to do certain things based on reinforcing good behavior. For example, if you want your cats to use the scratching post instead of your sofa, you can “click” a small plastic clicker and reward them right away with a special cat food treat. The theory is as they repeat the behavior and receive more treats they learn to associate the good behavior with the reward.
This method is for good behavior — not when they misbehave. That being said, I believe strongly in positive reinforcement rather than yelling or scaring your cat, although sometimes cats can learn a lesson on their own. I remember one client had a cat named Sally who couldn’t keep her nose out of the kitchen garbage can. One night, the cat got her head fully stuck in a can and ran around the house trying to dislodge it. Fortunately her owner was home and helped the cat remove the can from her head. I will tell you: That cat never went near the garbage again.
According to the research I have done, start clicker training by clicking and feeding special treats (not her usual fare) to your cat so she first associates the clicking noise with something really yummy. Try teaching her to come when called. Then you can lure your cat to the scratching post with catnip and as soon as she uses it, click and reward. I would not use this method to try to teach a cat tricks — they are far too dignified for that! As with most things associated with our feline friends, patience and perseverance are best. As always I welcome your comments and stories.