Clicker Training For Cats - Cat Info Detective

Clicker Training For Cats

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings feline fanciers! Skye Blake here with a question for you… Ever heard of clicker training for cats?

It’s a secret we cats have kept for a very long time! You think we can’t be trained, but we actually CAN… and have fun doing it!

Let’s take a closer look…

paw prints coming in from a distance

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian or breeder) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

All sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping… 

What Is Clicker Training for Cats?

cat sniffing a finger - training treats

We’ve already learned about training your cat to be comfortable in a carrier, come when called, and wear a harness and leash.

Clicker training is another method of communicating with your cat that you can use either with regular training or on its own.

tabby cat licking a person's finger

Dolphin trainers developed it using whistles and it’s now a part of working with other wildlife, dogs and even cats.

The fancy term for clicker training is “operant conditioning”.

It uses positive reinforcement and a marker (usually a sound or “click”) to shape and develop behaviors.

How Does It Work?

person calling

A clicker allows you to mark (“click”) the action as it’s happening followed by a reward (treat).

Think of it as taking a photo… you’re capturing (“clicking”) a moment.

Your cat catches on that when the clicker sounds, she gets a treat for what she’s doing.

Burmese-cat-playing-with-string

This works for getting behaviors you want (letting you pick her up) and stopping those you don’t want (ankle biting).

You may call it “clicker training” but it’s actually “clicker games” because it’s loads of fun.

Kitty Clicker Games

Dark tabby kittens playing with mouse toy, clicker games

Ever have a cat knock things off the counter?

He’s bored! When he does it, he gets the fun of watching it fall and your reaction!

Since you don’t want that behavior, clicker games are a great way to give your cat the mental stimulation he needs, while getting behavior you want.

Teaching Cats Tricks

black kitten in play tunnel

Once you learn clicker games, you and your cat will have lots of fun learning new tricks and reinforcing old ones.

You can teach him to touch things, do “high fives”, sit on a stool while you make dinner, and wait for a signal to jump down and eat.

No more winding in and out of your legs demanding food or tripping people!

person brush teeth of black cat

You can work with multiple cats and use treats other than food like praise, pets and toys.

Learning speed games is also fun because you’re changing the response time to a specific signal, giving your cat great exercise and joy.

The Difference Between Clicker & Regular Training

person giving high-five to cat, clicker training

Clicker training is used when you want to mark a specific behavior for the cat to understand it gets something pleasant when it does “X”.

Regular training is getting the cat to make an association with something generally rather than a specific movement.

cat sitting on a person's feet

For example, if you want your cat to get used to wearing a harness, the clicker isn’t necessary because the cat only needs to understand that something good will happen with it.

Once your cat accepts the good association, you can play clicker games to get specific behaviors, such as stepping into the harness or walking forward with it.

Clicker Training Podcasts

graphic of white cat walking with headphones, clicker training

There’s a helpful interview worth listening to conducted by Stacy LeBaron with Julie Posluns, Cat School – The Community Cats Podcast

Julie Posluns is an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist (ACAAB) at Cat School, teaching people clicker games and general cat training methods.

Videos

This video is one of many created by Julie Posluns, ACAAB, showing how to train your cat to do many different things.

“How To Start Clicker Training Your Cat”, Julie Posluns, Cat School Clicker Training, April 22, 2020

This video from Jackson Galaxy, featuring Samantha Bell, is a good example of how easily cats can learn and connect with people using clicker training.

“Clicker Training Your Cat is Easy and Fun!, Jackson Galaxy & Samantha Bell, May 5, 2021

Sources for Clickers

cat raising paw for treat - clicker training

Products and brands mentioned on this page are for your convenience and information only… I make no money from them.

To discover more about how to play clicker games effectively, read a great little book “Getting Started:  Clicker Training for Cats” by Karen Pryor, an animal behaviorist and one of the developers of positive reinforcement training methods.

It’s available at libraries, bookstores, and online suppliers like Abe Books and Amazon.

cat on a bookshelf

You can buy clickers at pet stores and from online suppliers (Chewy has an inexpensive one from Frisco).

You can also use something you have at home like a pop-up lid, pen… or even a computer mouse.

Some people use a specific sound, like clicking their tongue, but it must be the same sound every time, which can be difficult to maintain.

Be sure to get a clicker that’s appropriate for cats… dog clickers are too loud for cats.

Related Pages of Interest

cat raising paw for treat - training

Curious about training your cat to use the carrier? Check out “Behavior” to discover what your cat wants you to know.

Planning a trip with your cat? Discover what you need to know at “Traveling With a Cat“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Learn How To Clicker Train Your Cat…“,Julie Posluns, ACAAB, Cat School, catschool.co

“The Cat Whisperer”, by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com

“CatWise”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2016

Julie Posluns, Cat School“, Stacy LeBaron, The Community Cats Podcast, April 28, 2020

“Getting Started: Clicker Training for Cats”, by Karen Pryor, Karen Pryor Clickertraining, Waltham, MA, www.clickertraining.com, 2001

“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011

“Total Cat Mojo”, by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017

The Trainable Cat“, by John Bradshaw and Dr. Sarah Ellis, Basic Books, Hachette Book Group, New York, NY, 2016

“What Your Cat Wants”, by Francesca Riccomini, Thunder Bay Press, Octopus Publishing Group, San Diego, CA, 2012

Updated April 14, 2024

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