Can You Make A Cat Do Tricks?

Cats are often seen as independent and stubborn, but they can be trained. Teaching cats tricks provides mental stimulation and strengthens the human-feline bond. While cats may not be as easily trainable as dogs, they are intelligent animals capable of learning new behaviors with proper motivation and persistence.

With a positive reinforcement training approach focused on food rewards, even the most aloof cat can learn simple tricks like high-fiving, climbing a pole, or ringing a bell. Some cats may pick up new behaviors faster than others, but most healthy cats without cognitive issues can be trained if the human is patient and makes it a fun experience.

Training sessions should be kept short and positive to hold a cat’s interest. It also helps to incorporate tricks into a cat’s daily routine. With regular 5-10 minute training interactions, cats can master tricks to show off to delighted human audiences.

Are Cats Too Stubborn for Training?

Many people believe that cats are too independent and stubborn to be trained effectively. However, the truth is that cats are intelligent animals that can learn to perform behaviors through positive reinforcement training. Their independent nature simply means that training a cat requires more patience, consistency, and motivation compared to training dogs.

Cats have a strong prey drive, which means they respond well to training methods that tap into their natural instincts to hunt, pounce, and play. Using praise, treats, toys, and clicker training can help motivate cats during short, positive training sessions. Cats learn best through repetition and reward, not punishment or scolding. Unlike dogs, who aim to please their owners, cats need to see an obvious benefit for themselves in order to be trained.

So while cats may seem aloof at times, with the right motivation and techniques, they are capable of learning tricks, commands, and appropriate behaviors. But owners should not expect a cat to be as obedient as a dog. The key is to make training sessions feel like an engaging game that rewards their natural curiosity and independence.

Best Tricks for Cats

Many of the easiest and most rewarding tricks for cats involve treats and positive reinforcement. Some simple tricks to start with include sit, high-five, come, and spin. These tricks align with natural cat behaviors and instincts.

The sit command teaches your cat to plant their hindquarters on the floor on your command. Hold a treat above your cat’s head and slowly move it back towards their tail, while saying “sit.” Reward with the treat when their bottom touches the ground (Source 1).

High-five is another fun one to try. Hold a treat in your hand and say “high-five” while holding your palm out. Reward your cat with the treat when they lift their paw up to touch your hand. This replicates their natural tapping behavior (Source 2).

You can also train your cat to come when called. Say their name excitedly and reward with a treat when they walk over to you. Increase the distance over time. Use high-value treats to motivate them. Never punish if they don’t come (Source 1).

Finally, try “circle” by holding a treat and slowly moving it in a circle, so your cat turns their body around following it. Again reward when they complete the full spin. Go slowly and keep sessions short to avoid frustration (Source 2).

Avoid tricks like fetch, play dead, or dance that go against a cat’s natural instincts. Tricks should be fun bonding time, not stressors.

How to Train Your Cat

The key to successfully training your cat is using positive reinforcement techniques. This means rewarding your cat with treats, praise, or play when they perform the desired behavior. You’ll want to use rewards your cat loves to motivate them to learn. Keep training sessions brief, around 5-10 minutes, so your cat doesn’t get bored or frustrated. Be patient and consistent in your training, practicing the same tricks daily in short sessions until your cat masters them. Use targets like toys or your finger to lure your cat into performing the trick, then reward them as soon as they do it. Always end each session on a positive note, with your cat successfully completing a trick and earning the reward. With regular, positive training sessions, most cats can learn tricks like sitting, high-fiving, jumping through hoops, and more.


Common Mistakes

Many cat owners make common mistakes when trying to train their cats. It’s important to avoid the following errors:

Punishing or scaring cats is counterproductive. Yelling, hitting, or using fear tactics will make cats distrust you 1. Instead, use positive reinforcement.

Inconsistent training confuses cats. Stick to a routine and use the same commands consistently so your cat learns to associate actions with rewards 2.

Trying to rush the training process overwhelms cats. Take it slow and keep sessions brief. Cats need more repetition than dogs to learn tricks 3.

Attempting overly complex tricks is unrealistic. Start with basics like sit, come, or high-five. Build up to more advanced tricks gradually once those are mastered.

Best Training Treats for Cats

When it comes to the best treats for training cats, the key is to find something that provides high motivation for your feline. As explains, small, soft, smelly treats tend to work best as they are easy for cats to quickly consume and are very enticing. Some top options are meat purees like Churu or Inaba, as well as small soft treats like Greenies and Temptations. According to, treats that contain catnip can also be very motivating for many cats.

It’s important to find treats that your specific cat loves. As one Reddit user shared on r/CatTraining, they have success using Sheba meat sticks cut into small pieces for training treats. You can also use pieces of your cat’s regular food if they are highly food motivated. The key is finding a “high value” treat that will capture your cat’s attention and provide strong positive reinforcement for desired behaviors.

Other Mental Stimulation

Providing mental stimulation for indoor cats is crucial for their health and happiness. Puzzle feeders, treat balls, and other interactive toys can provide enrichment. Rotate different types of toys frequently to prevent boredom. Changing up play routines regularly will also keep your cat engaged. Some examples are varying the types of toys used or the times of day for play sessions.

Catnip and cat grass can be great forms of stimulation. Place catnip or cat grass in different locations around the home to motivate exploration. Just be sure your cat doesn’t consume these plants excessively. Rotate the locations periodically for continued novelty.

According to Purina, recreating hunting challenges that cats enjoy can provide fulfilling mental stimulation at home (1). Interactive feeders that require effort to obtain treats are excellent for this. Food dispensing balls that cats must bat around are another fun way to simulate the hunt.

While most cats can handle some basic training, there are certain situations where it’s best to avoid pushing your cat too far. Training requires mental focus, and some cats may not be equipped to handle it. Here are some cases where it’s wise to skip advanced training techniques.

When to Avoid Training

Training very young kittens under 6 months old is not recommended. Kittens have short attention spans and weak bladder control at this age. It’s best to let kittens play and explore freely rather than try to make them focus on structured training. Once they mature to 6 months and older, basic training can be introduced if they seem receptive.

Similarly, elderly cats or cats with medical issues should not be pushed too hard with intensive training. Their physical limitations make long training sessions stressful. Simple tricks are fine for older cats, but avoid anything too mentally or physically demanding.

Cats who are extremely shy, anxious, or fearful may become overwhelmed by the pressure of training. Pay attention to your cat’s comfort level and don’t force training if it seems to cause more stress. Anxious cats do better with a predictable, low-stress environment.

Avoid starting any new training techniques after a stressful event like a move, new pet, or family member loss. Give your cat time to adjust before introducing anything new that requires focus and attention.

Signs of Stress in Cats

Stressed cats often exhibit common behavioral and physical symptoms. According to the Blue Cross, signs of a stressed cat include:

  • Aggression – A stressed cat may act defensively and lash out at people or other pets.
  • Hiding – Cats often hide when they feel threatened or anxious.
  • Excessive vocalizing – Yowling, growling, or other frequent vocalizations can signal distress.
  • Loss of appetite – Stress causes some cats to lose interest in food.
  • Excessive grooming – Overgrooming to the point of removing fur or damaging skin is a common symptom.
  • Inappropriate urination – Urinating outside the litter box is a sign of feline stress.

According to, stressed cats may also show physical symptoms like dilated pupils, panting, and a faster heart rate. Catching signs early allows cat owners to identify and address sources of stress before the cat’s health suffers.


As discussed, with proper training techniques based on positive reinforcement, even independent cats can learn fun tricks and behaviors. While they may not be eager to perform on command like dogs, cats are intelligent and can be trained through patience, consistency and enticing rewards.

Tricks provide excellent mental stimulation for cats and help strengthen the bond between pet and owner. However, it’s important to have realistic expectations when training more aloof or stubborn cats. Set your cat up for success by keeping training sessions short and engaging.

Don’t get discouraged by slow progress. Cats may take more time and effort to train than other pets. Remain patient, consistent and always end sessions on a positive note. With time, even the most stubborn cat will look forward to showing off newly learned tricks.

While cat training takes dedication, the payoff is a more enriched, stimulated cat and a stronger human-feline relationship. By following proper techniques, providing motivation and having realistic expectations, you can indeed teach your independent cat entertaining tricks and behaviors.

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