Training cats is not only fun and a thing to amaze, but it also provides them with mental and physical activity–something that indoor cats cannot take for granted.
In this article you will learn how to train a cat to sit on command, a trick that is easy to train a dog to do but which can be demanding for a cat. But it is possible, and the end result is satisfying.
Though a degree harder, the basic concept of training a cat is similar to training a dog. Reward your cat consistently every time he or she responds to a command by chance, and soon the animal will connect the dots and understands that sitting after a command means a reward.
Keep in mind that not all cats are alike. Every cat is trainable, but some learn faster and respond better than others.
For example, in our three cat family, we have one named Bella. When we train her to sit, she simply sits all the time; she never gets up or changes spots. We’re not sure if she is super intelligent or quite the opposite.
Here are some tips to help you train your cat to sit.
- Choose a reward to which your cat responds. Most cats respond to food, but verbal praise and petting can work well in combination with food. Unlike dogs, few cats respond to verbal praise alone. Rewards can be your cat’s regular food or something more delicious and, thus, more rewarding. Treats should be easy to carry around and quick to take out, and your cat must be able to consume a piece reasonably fast. We often work with dry food, because it is easy to use as a training reward. Remember that treats provide calories, and you must remove the corresponding number of calories from your cat’s daily food intake. You can, for example, use regular food and feed one meal (or all meals) during training. Learn more about best treats for cats here.
- Draw your cat’s attention toward the treat. Hold it in two fingers, place close to your cat’s nose, and let him or her smell it. The goal is to get your cat’s attention with something he or she wants and to get your cat into training mode.
- Command your cat to sit. Say “Sit!” in an assertive but not offensive tone, and pair it with a visual gesture, such as positioning your palm vertically. This cue provides an additional input channel, because your cat will not only hear the command but also see it. Do not get frustrated if your effort appears to be in vain. Almost all cats will appear to pay little or no attention. Don’t worry; it isn’t as if your cat does not understand what you are saying. It’s more likely he or she simply does not care. But they will care.
- Get your cat sitting. Or wait for your cat to sit. The following technique, which works well with dogs, can also work with some cats. Place the treat near your cat’s head, and move it up and slightly behind his or her face. Your cat may decide to sit in order to keep the treat in sight. If that does not work, you can also stand up–your cat may find it easier to look at the treat when sitting. If neither strategy succeeds, you can always wait. No cat has ever remained standing for his or her entire life. All cats sit eventually with or without a command, even if it takes a month. Repeat the command to sit as often as you find appropriate. Say it out loud if you see your cat starting to sit.
- Give your cat a treat at the EXACT moment your cat’s bottom touches the ground–within half a second, if possible. The less time you wait, the better your cat will understand what caused the treat to arrive.
- Consider using clicker. Since rewarding the exact act of sitting down improves training efficiency, it is helpful to use a clicker. The basic concept is that instead of giving a treat within one to few seconds after the cat sits down, you can click a clicker at the precise moment your cat sits down and issue a treat within a slightly longer time frame. The click is very short and highlights the desired action precisely. However, you must teach your cat separately that the click means a treat coming soon. You can learn more about clicker training here.
- Get your cat up and repeat. Many cats remain sitting while eating the treat and afterwards. Likely you will need to stand up, walk to a different spot, and call the cat to you. Give the command to sit, and repeat what you did previously.
- Make training sessions short, and repeat them often. Several minutes for one training session is good enough, and you should train your cat only as long as you are able to maintain his or her undivided attention. Taking a break helps the information to sink in and will spare your cat from overstimulation. Take a break and return to training later that day or the next day.
During the first few sessions, your cat will likely have only accidental sits, which is okay. As long as you reward your cat consistently, you will see tremendous progress soon.
The time needed for your cat to sit will become shorter and shorter each training session. In no time your cat will sit right after you command him or her to do so regardless of whether or not you have a treat in your hand. Your cat will understand that the command “sit” actually means that he or she needs to sit down. Afterwards you can start to train your cat other cool things, too.