Can you train a cat like a dog?

Cat training starts with treats

Can you train a cat like a dog?

If you have kittens or cats, you know they’re affectionate and attentive—but you may be wondering “can you train a cat like a dog?” The answer is, yes (mostly)! Here are the basics of cat training.

Between cats and dogs, cats have a reputation for being the more self-sufficient, dare we say standoffish, of the two pets.

Sure, they may greet you when you return, meow mercilessly at feeding time, and happily bat the catnip toys you dangle, but respond to your commands? Many people wonder if that’s really possible.

But think about it: cat owners have been training their feline friends to use litter boxes for… a really long time! So, yes, it’s absolutely possible to nurture desirable habits that will leave both you and your cat purrrfectly happy.

Okay, puns aside, cats appreciate a good reward as much as the next creature. And you can use that as a tool to help train them to do just about all the same types of things dogs are trained to do—even tricks and agility maneuvers.

Top 3 tips for training your cat

  1. Short training sessions. Cats get bored quickly. Limit your practice sessions to 5 minutes or so, particularly if you’re working with a kitten.
  2. Repetition will be rewarded. Probably one of the biggest mistakes people make when training cats (dogs too, actually), is too little practice. Consistent, frequent training sessions are what create success.
  3. Really good treats. Choose ones you don’t give at any other time, and that he or she LOVES. (Tip: often this means soft, meaty bites.) Yours may also go wild for catnip.

A gentle pet and praise will help too, just remember that, while cats adore their humans, they are not particularly motivated by a desire to please them (this will not be news for cat lovers). Keep those treats handy!

A simple first step to start to train your cat like a dog

Try training your cat to come when called; here’s how:

  • Choose a word or phrase to use every time—avoid using their name or something you say at other times (since that can get confusing for them). It could be “Tuna,” a whistle, clapping, or a nonsense word—they won’t care as long as you use the same one every time.
  • Start by standing close to them as you use the word and invite them to see and smell the treat. When he or she comes to you, give them the treat along with plenty of praise.
  • Repeat this exercise for 5 minutes or so. Practice this several times during the day until you feel like they understand.
  • As your cat learns, increase the distance, until they come when called even when you’re out of sight.

Yes, you can train a cat like a dog, as long as you make some adjustments, and add an extra dose of patience. We love helping people train their cats—and we even offer kitten and cat training around the globe thanks to remote training sessions!