How to Train a Cat to Do Tricks

This tutorial will show tips on training a cat to:
Sit, shake (paw), gimme 5, high 5, sit up, wave

Training was inspired by Kittens for Dummies By Dusty Rainbolt.

Note: Dogs do tricks to please their master/owner. Cats do tricks if they get something out of it.


The Treat

It must be so yummy that the cat will do anything for it

Bonus: tartar control treats for healthy teeth and gums

The Setup

  1. Put treats in a lid
    • quick access to reward the cat
  2. Sit cross-legged on the floor
    • have a place to put the treats where the cat can’t reach

Sit

  • Basis of many tricks: this must be mastered before moving on
  • When the cat approaches and stands before you:
  • Say “Sit”
  • Put light pressure on his rump to naturally induce the sit position

My Kitties

Sit: Success!

  • When the cat sits — either of his own accord or with your encouragement:
  • Immediately put out the treat while saying “Good sit”. Petting is good, too.

Shake

  • Have him sit and reward him
  • Put your hand behind his front right leg and bump his paw.
  • Say, “Shake.” Instinctively, he lifts his foot up.
  • Gently hold his paw.
  • Say, “Good shake” and reward.

Gimme 5!

  • Have him sit.
  • Put out your hand and say “Gimme 5!”
  • Perhaps thinking you’re doing the shake trick, the cat will put his paw on your hand
  • Reward with “All right!” and a treat

High 5!

  • Have him sit.
  • Put your hand up
  • Somehow the cat will “get” that you want his paw to touch the palm of your hand
  • Reward with “All right!” and a treat

Sit Up

  • Have him sit
  • Hold treat above his head
  • Say, “Up”
  • He gets up on his haunches to reach for the treat
  • Reward with “Good up!” and the treat

Wave

  • Have him sit
  • Hold the treat at eye level
  • Say, “Wave”
  • He reaches with a paw
  • Reward with “Good wave!” and the treat

Benefits of Cat Training

  • Despite challenges: very rewarding
  • Great bonding time
  • Entertain and awe guests!
  • My cats now understand the words “treats” and/or “tricks” to mean they’re going to get goodies. If I want them to follow me somewhere, I say either words to get them to obey.

75 thoughts on “How to Train a Cat to Do Tricks”

  1. I once had a cat who did a few unusual tricks on command. They were all gestures and behaviors that he came up with on his own, such as imitating me when I did the abdominal exercises “crunches”, playing fetch and waving his paws in front of his face while up on his haunches. Using treats as reinforcement I only associated names with the actions. It took a while to establish each trick but it definitely was worth it and absolutely did enteratain and awe guests! Most people assume cats cannot be taught tricks or to follow commands but with some patience, they certainly can be trained.

    1. First of all this is a great article on training that focuses on all the basics. Learning how to properly train your pets will make your life a lot better for you and your pet! Thanks for sharing all of this great info especially the insights for the trainer. I think that the biggest battle of training any animal is learning what they respond to and learning how to pair their actions with what you want them to do.

  2. I have a cat named Cedric, he’ll do almost anything for cat treats. I try to teach him to shake but he gets kind of lazy then! He’ll need some obedience before he does these tricks!

  3. I’m a kitty trainer with a new and very funny new book. Two of the best things I’ve found after traing cats for 10 years is
    1. If y ou can train them to use the toilet (not hard!) y ou can catch a midstream urine sample, and keep them from having episodes of urinary problems by monitoring the urine pH and correcting it.
    2. A well trained cat becomes extremely companionable–sort of doggie like. I take my cat to the Farmer’s market on a leash, lots of outdoor events, and even walking or biking in my backpack.
    He loves it!

  4. If I had a second bathroom, I would totally train my cats to use the toilet. I can’t share my one toilet with them for sanitary reasons. Plus, giving them free access to the bathroom means shredded toilet paper.

    I think of my cats as dog-like, too. They’re really friendly toward my friends and family. They don’t walk around like a dog, though, but I have taken them outside on leashes. My cats tend to resist when I try to take them outside. One cat was outright hostile to it the last time so I only took one cat.

  5. Hi, Great to find this blog.
    I’ve been training cats to use the toilet, walk on a leash, dress up, do tricks, as well as modify negative behavior. Have a new book on the subject called “Potty Talk by Toast.” It’s on my site at kittytrainer.com. Also have really fun things on my blog such as training your cat to go for “cat carries” in a backpack. The blog is kitty-training.blogspot.com.
    My latest project is “Jumping Through Hoops for Our Troops.” (I’ll have it on the site next week). I trained my cat, Kit Casanova, to jump through a hoop 8 feet off the floor, wearing an adorable cami-trimmed T shirt and matching bandana. (The T shirt is inscribed with the words Jumping Through Hoops for Our Troops.) He leaps over 9 feet from launch to landing; pretty impressive. Have a look.
    Trisha Yeager Menke

  6. what does it mean when a cat holds one paw up when im getting ready to feed them. im feeding 3 strays and 2 of them always hold one paw up which is so cute. ilove cats! but becasue of my husbands health i cannot let them in the house, or else they would be in . i feed them supper and sometimes breaksfast and lunch, kind of hard feeding them and the birds but i do manage. lol thanks so much amber

  7. I’m not sure how it would look like for a cat to beg. My cats meow when they want food or something but I don’t think I want to train them to do that on command. :)

    I watched a video of a dog being trained to beg and it seems to simply be the dog standing with paws up in the air. I have been trying to train my cats to stand by putting the treat up above their heads and enticing them to reach up. They tend to grab at my arm so I haven’t gotten them to stand free-style yet.

  8. My cat, Abby, taught herself “fetch”. One day a few years ago Abby came up to me with a piece of paper she had in her mouth that I had crumbled into a ball and tossed onto floor. She dropped it infront of me and and kept looking at me then the ball of crumpled paper. So I picked it up and threw it. She ran after it, picked it up with her mouth, and brought the piece of paper back to me and dropped it right infront of me wanting me to throw it again, which I did. We played for a good five minutes until one of my other cats decided to see what was going on. After that Abby lost intrest. She likes me to give her ALL my attention. She still does the fetching the crumpled ball of paper thing to this day.

  9. hi I’ve been trying to teach my cat to do A hi five for a week.though she never did it and I think she has a problem because she suck her nipples most often what do I do

  10. Dude amazing blog!!!! Wow first of all I just wanna say my gf and I were sitting here watching The Office and saying how “we wished we could train the cats to fetch the remotes!” So then I googled ‘how to train a cat to do tricks’ and I found your result #1!! Ya!! At first when I read your instructions I was somewhat skeptical of positive results being attained via your methods. But to my amazement I was even able to skip the “Sit” phase of training, and I proceeded to the High Five event. I approached my cat without a treat, awoke him from his nap, held out my hand, and he GAVE ME A HIGH FIVE!! AMAZING!! Then I awarded him with an “All Right” and he did it again!!! Next trick, fetch remote!!!!

  11. My cats have learned tricks on their own.

    Suki loves to play fetch – she just started doing it one day – its now her favourite game. If she wants me to play with her she will bring a balled up piece of paper to me (which she gets out of the bin), drop it at my feet and meow. Its the cutest thing. If I dont throw it -she’ll get another and another until she realises I don’t want to play and give up.

    My other baby is Kiska. She will reach up to me with one paw when she wants food and will retrieve cocktail umbrellas from the kitchen draw when she wants to play – very cute.

    I’m blessed with two very cute and smart little girls :)

  12. I was talking to a colleague about my cat last week. He said his was able to catch bats – I was amazed. I’ve never heard of that before, I mean birds and mice yea, but not bats. The cat’s caught 2 now, which is a shame because they are protected. Now the cat’s getting older though, he’s not speedy enough to catch them any more. It happened in the Derbyshire area in the UK.

    1. My cat just caught a bat the other day and i couldnt believe it!!!! A bat somehow got into our house from my living room window and my cat Rico saw it fly in. He jumped onto my sofa and jumped REALLY high, and caught the bat by the back of its neck. He is my little exterminator! He always is catching things, even though he is an indoor cat! Unlike my other cat Moxie. The only thing he has ever caught was a little toad in my back yard. I still don’t understand how Moxie is the alpha male! he is afraid of and male that steps into our house!

  13. Kit Casanova, the wonder cat who jumps through a hoops 8 feet off the floor wearing an adorable military outfit (that says Jumping Through Hoops for Our Troops) and a confident look! Kit and his owner Trisha Menke, http://www.kittytrainer.com, have made 4 different postcards of Kit performing variations of this feat, and have sent nearly 40,000 of these cards to our troops abroad. The postcards have attracted enormous interest from people all over the world, and yesterday, April 14, 2009, Animal Planet producer (from Mass.) flew to Texas with crew to interview Trisha and film Kit doing his amazing feats. The filming took 10 hours and Kit was a trouper! Local Boy Scouts were interviewed, giving their support of Kit and Trisha’s postcards–and the response of troops abroad! It was fantastic! The segment will be aired on TV this fall.

  14. Hi! Can u help me? I need 2 teach a at 1 trick, for a psychology science badge.

    I tried 2 teach both my cats how 2 sit, but they were ,ore interested in other things. i took the interesting things away, but then I didn’t know wether they were sitting ’cause I told them to, or just sitting anyway.
    then they bcame very interested in the door, so I had 2 let them out.

    What do I do?? plz help me!!

  15. cat crazy,

    I wouldn’t worry so much about their intention, as long as they do the desired behavior. If they are sitting on their own accord, go out of your way to show positive reinforcement. If you have treats readily available, give them a treat. Otherwise, pet them or do anything that they enjoy. In either case, give them verbal affirmations like “good sit” so they associate the behavior with the word.

    Check out my other blog post, http://takethu.com/blog/2008/10/27/old-cat-new-tricks/ to read about the Say Hello trick where I tried to turn a random behavior into one that I can invoke with a verbal command.

  16. Hey. Im going to try this with my two cats Jade and Pebbles. I just found out about this website and I hope it works well. Pebbles already knows “Sit” and Im hoping she will do more. Jade on the other hand, is lazy. I hope it works though. Thanks =)

  17. I went to the circus in Russia, and they had a guy there with a bunch of cats jumping through hoops and doing tricks. I just got my kitten 2 months ago, and she can already sit and give 5. I’m going to keep going with it.

  18. Just want to leave a tip that has worked fabulously for me in training Kit Casanova (who jumps through hoops for our troops), goes potty in the toilet, comes running to me when he’s outside, and more.

    I allow Kit to train me also! I understand that a lot of people might have objections to this, but for me it works very well!

    How does he train me? Well, here’s one thing he does. When he’s hungry he comes into my office, jumps up on the chair and gives me a gentle nip on the shoulder. If I don’t respond quickly he gives me another, slightly harder nip–and yes, I respond.

  19. Ok this is cazy!

    My cat doesnt want to come torward me at all! i have ben trying this for 2 weeks and I am still on sit! Please help. I dont know what is wrong, and if it helps i can tell you it is a grey tabby and it is a she. Can you help me at ALL??
    THX

    1. Does your cat love the treats that you are using for bribery? She should be begging for it or else it would be difficult to motivate her to do your bidding. Do you do the training before you feed her? I have found that my cats are less motivated to earn treats after their meals.

  20. I need help because my cat doesnt get the time to come to me and she will walk away if i put the treats in a place were she can’t get them. she does not make this easy. can u post back if you have ideas.
    HELP

    1. if she is a playful cat try a toy with some catnip on it and maybe some on your hand… if she doesnt react to catnip, just play with her… drag a mouse toy around the corner and she’ll bolt around to you! they go nuts when they cant see the toy :)
      good luck ;)

  21. I need help because my cat doesnt get the time to come to me and she will walk away if i put the treats in a place were she can’t get them. she does not make this easy. can u post back if you have ideas.This is sooo boring to try to do

  22. i got my gorgeous little baby just last night ! she is only 5 months old .i renamed her and she already is responding to her name . she is very playful and at certain times very cuddly and loving . i refuse to have her declawed despite my mothers wishes . she is an ex -stray who at one point had a broken paw . now she is fine and the only signs of her past injury is a spot on her leg with less fur from the doctors . shes still yet to completely wind down and get used to her new surroundings . but already she sits in front of the couch and meows when she wants me to lay down with her . when she gets her toys stuck she comes to me meows and runs towards it . My main problem is that she really only wants me . my mom has socialized with her , but only gets a common response . she is very fond of me obviously , but alot of times she wont sleep without me near her . does she really even like me ? does she think im her mother / child ? h e l p !

  23. My cat has taught ME to do tricks! She’s taught me to say “good sit” and give her a treat whenever she sits down in front of me. She’s sooooooooo clever!!

  24. i am so gunna try this!!! im so bored! but my cat is a total idiot… ill try anyways!!! haha i cant wait for this!!! ill post again after i hav tried :) woopdeedoo!

  25. Thanks for this article. I have two 5-month-old cats that look very similar, with the exception that one of them has a black toe on one foot. They are indoor cats who have managed to get out of every collar we’ve put on them so far, so I am hoping to train them to lift/offer their paw when we say “Who are you?” Do you have any tips on how often/for how long at a time to work on the tricks, or experience on how long it took to train your kittens?

  26. I have a stubborn kitten but she would do anything for treats she learned sit right of the bat. High five is conflicted when i bat her paw she pulls away. Tv

  27. hey my cats 8yrs old is it 2 late 2 train my cat or is there any hope.so far my cat is very obedient but i need better tips on how to toilet train it etc coz i tried everything so far and nothing helped.desperate…

  28. Writers are requested to submit research papers for referencing at http://www.ijtemt.org (International Journal of Trends in Economics, Management & Technology) and witness global recognition with issn & international associations.

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