Cinder, Rainy, and I are going to school. We’re enrolled in the online school called Clicking with Your Cat, taught by Julie the Cat Teacher. So far, we’ve completed the 7-Day Cat Training Crash Course. This article will overview the course and share what we’ve learned.
The first series of lessons is called Welcome to Cat School. It includes a note from the teacher, an overview of clicker training, and a list of needed school supplies. In her note, Julie encourages students to take their time completing the lessons. I’ve appreciated the freedom to speed through some of the lessons and repeat others. As with all the Cat School lessons, the overview of clicker training includes a video demonstration, written explanation, troubleshooting tips, and access to Julie through email and Facebook. When I enrolled the course was free but didn’t include supplies; now it’s bundled with a $30 Cat Training Kit that includes a quiet clicker ideal for cats, The Karen Pryor Clicker Training Clik Stik™, and a 24-page step-by-step training guide written by Julie.
The second series of lessons is called Using Food to Train. Julie talks about the importance of having a food-motivated cat, and lists ways to improve one’s cat’s motivation for food. Then she discusses the different food options, dry and wet, and how to use them to train. Wet food turned out to be the most awkward and messiest for me to use, although like Julie I found puree of help for more challenging behaviors. Dry food remains my preference, with the drawback that with daily training Rainy was gaining too much weight. To offset the treats, I’ve reduced the size of meals and sought out the most nutritious treats. Last, Julie offers advice on how handle training in a multi-cat household. Her suggestion is to keep one cat busy while working with another; I train ours one-at-a-time in a separate room.
The third series of lessons is entitled Teach Your Cat to Touch a Target Stick. The topic is a huge part of the reason I wanted to take this course. Clicker training is relatively new to me. It’s also a skill that I find difficult to learn from printed material but prefer to see videos. The next step is to build on this gradually by moving the stick further away, with the result that the stick can be used to direct your cat to jump onto objects or go into a crate I taught Cinder and Rainy to jump onto their cat tower, cardboard boxes that serve as agility tables, and even a home gym. Julie next describes how to generalize the skill by using one’s finger to point instead of the target stick. Julie then describes how to use targeting to teach a cat to perform a relatively simple trick, using “spin” as an example. I’ve enjoyed teaching Cinder and Rainy to perform a command simply with a hand signal.
The fourth series of lessons, entitled Teach Your Cat to Sit, served as a partial review for me. All of our cats already knew the Sit command before I enrolled them, but I used the opportunity to enhance their training by combining a clicker. Julie covers two methods for teaching a cat to sit. The first uses food as a lure, while the second (called “capture”) waits for a cat to perform a skill and then rewards the cat. I’ve used the capture method in subsequent lessons to teach Cinder skills that otherwise she hasn’t grasped. I also intend to try using it with Bootsie, who has yet to progress past lesson four because she isn’t overly motivated by food.
The fifth series of lessons is entitled Teach Your Cat High Five, Low Five and Fist Bump. It took the cats and I into new territory. To teach a cat to fist bump, one must put a treat under a target that then one’s cat will push with her paw. After one’s cat successfully touches the target with her paw, one lifts the target. The final goal is to have one’s cat touch one’s hand with her paw. I must confess that initially I gave up on this skill with Cinder. She insisted on using her nose. When this didn’t result in my rewarding her with treats, she’d growl and walk away frustrated. My husband recently worked on the skill by capturing her in the act of extending a paw and since then I’ve been able to teach her to touch a target for a treat. I also must confess that I cheated in how I trained Rainy to do these skills. I first tried using clear objects to cover the treats, then tried a Kong-like toy. When nothing worked, I searched online for a video about how to teach a cat to fist bump. The video I found suggested holding one’s hand up and having a treat visible between the fingers. Rainy figured out that touching my hand earned her a treat, and then generalized the idea so I could teach her high five, low five, and fist bump.
The sixth series of lessons is entitled Teach Your Cat to Come. It returned us to familiar territory but I did learn an invaluable new technique. For the first step, Julie instructs: “Toss a treat away so your cat gets a little bit of distance from you.” I don’t know why this idea hadn’t ever occurred to me before, but until this class I had always been the one to create a distance by stepping away from my cats. Thanks to generalizing this idea, I now enjoy playing chase the treats with my cats. The idea has been particularly useful with Bootsie. She’s not an overly active cat, but by turning mealtime into a game where she has chase her food, I’ve been able to get her to lose some needed weight.
The seventh and eighth lessons teach similar skills. The seventh lesson is called Teach Your Cat to Jump Through Your Arms and the eight is called Teach Your Cat to Jump Through Your Legs.” As with all Cat School lessons, I got to see a video demonstration and read a written explanation. The troubleshooting tips proved invaluable here. Prior to enrolling in Cat School, I’d tried to teach Cinder and Rainy to jump through a hoop, but both preferred to go under it. They made a similar choice when I tried to teach them how to jump through my arms, but then I followed Julie’s recommendation to place an obstacle under my arms to force them to jump, and now they can jump through a hoop and over one arm and over one leg.
Despite their still needing to master jumping through both arms and legs, a skill they only perform when my husband lures them with treats, I consider us graduates of the 7-Day Cat Training Crash Course. The final assignment requires to combine four of the behaviors we learned in the course. You can see our successful completion of this assignment in the video on this page.
The tenth and final lesson suggests some ways to find more tricks and training ideas, a few of which don’t require enrollment in Julie’s Cat School.
- Subscribe to Cat School’s YouTube channel for more tricks and ideas.
- Join Cat School’s Facebook group to meet others who enjoy cat training.
- Share your training on Instagram.
- Email a testimonial (helloATcatschoolDOT.com) or leave Cat School a review on its Facebook page.
Videos aren’t my forte, and so I have been lax as a student in posting my cat training progress. This article (with its two videos!) therefore serves as a thank you to Julie for the creation of her economical cat training courses, free supplementary materials, and accessible communication. I’ve already enrolled in another one of her courses, Teach Your Cat A Secret Pawshake, and so expect a write-up about it later this year!