Positively Success Story: Clawsewitz
As a lifelong dog lover who lives in a flat and works every weekday, I can't own a dog – my lifestyle wouldn't allow it. Instead, I make do with a cat. But I love amateur animal training, and a little thing like species won't stop me!
Luckily for training purposes, my cat Clawsewitz is highly food-motivated. She isn't the brightest I've owned, but she's attentive towards me and very open to any opportunity for treats – two key qualities.
To date, I've used positive techniques to teach Clawsewitz to sit up and beg, come to me and have her neck felt, chase a thrown treat (granted, she needed no encouragement there, but I find it's useful for her to know the command) and, her latest triumph, ring a little bell. I know she loves practising her tricks, because she will come and fetch me, lead me to our usual place and volunteer a "sit up"!
Here she is ringing her bell after just under two weeks of daily training with it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA_c15wBeW4
How'd I do this? In stages, over many short sessions, with respect for the limited feline attention span.
I began by rewarding her for showing interest in the bell, while intermittently also ringing it myself so she'd associate the sound with yummy things. From there we worked up to touches with the paw that had to become more accurate over time, focusing on the push button. After some patience she made the final breakthrough and began reliably pressing down – not an instinctual motion for a cat at all – to make the bell ring. Oh yes, the process was far from instant, and her lashing tail at times showed that her brain was working hard!
Clawsewitz loves playing the Bell Game and asks me at least once daily to get it out for her so she can "ring for service". It's very funny to see her relish in ordering me around with her bell, and reflect on the fun we had together learning the process.
My conclusion? Never believe it when people say cats can't be trained. They have brains, they have curiosity and, best of all, they have absolutely blatant self-interest! Simply make it worth your cat's while and you'll be surprised what you can do together.
Just be sure you think long and hard before you give your tiny tyrant a noise-making device with which to order you around… I suggest you keep it in a drawer when not in use.
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