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Tips for Your Tiki Pets

How to Train Your Cat

Learn expert cat training tips from Trish Seifried of CatBoss TV! 

Who said cats can’t be trained? While cats are naturally more independent than dogs, cats are highly intelligent and gain many benefits from training.

To get started, we went straight to the cat training authority: celebrity cat trainer and “Original Cat Boss,” Trish Seifried of CatBoss TV! Trish has nearly 25 years of professional animal training experience, including 10 years in animal training at Sea World and Busch Gardens. She owns an animal talent agency, Got Pet-ential, which specializes in working with cats on sets, and hosts the podcast “CatBoss and Furriends” on Pet Life Radio. We spoke with Trish about her passion for training cats and her top tips for those starting their cat training journey.

Why is training your cat important?

Training works cats’ minds, exercises their bodies, and keeps them healthy and happy. It also helps you connect with your cat. When people adopt a cat, they don’t often think about training them like they would a dog. The world has taught us that cats are unreliable and unresponsive, but it’s not true! By not training a cat, they miss out on so much! My goal is to change the way people look at cats for the better, so more cats can live up to their fullest potential.

What tools do you recommend for cat training? 

My three must-haves are wand toys, motivating treats, and meals that excite them. People always ask me what magic I use to train cats so well. I can honestly say that the magic is Tiki Cat. I use both Tiki Cat STIX and Tiki Cat wet meals as rewards, in addition to praise and affection. 

What are your top tips for training cats?

  1. Schedule training times around meal feeding, using the meal as the jackpot reward. This builds confidence and positive associations quickly.
  2. Find your cat’s ultimate motivation. Some cats are picky. Tiki Cat has options for every cat — toppers, mousse, and so on. Find the food that drives them the most.
  3. Timing rewards is critical. Rewards should follow immediately after a positive behavior. 
  4. Keep sessions short and positive. 5-10 minutes a day works. And always end on a high note. If you try to go too fast or do too much at once, you’ll see confusion. Don’t wait until they get bored and uninterested and walk away. 
  5. Make it fun and use training to bring out their natural behaviors. For example, hunting. Divide up their meal and hide it around your house to encourage them to hunt for it. 
  6. You can train at any age. For new kittens, I recommend starting socialization with new people and environments as early as 4 weeks and trick training at 6 weeks.

You mentioned meal feeding. What if someone’s cat is a grazer? 

It is so important to meal feed rather than free feed. Don’t just put a bowl of dry kibble on the floor and walk away. There are multiple reasons for this. First, cats need high protein and moisture as obligate carnivores, so they should be fed wet or mixed meals. Second, if you allow your cat to graze, they learn not to rely on you for food. Meal feeding keeps cats reliant on you for food, so they’re motivated to do what you ask. Third, using food for training is a natural behavior for cats. In the wild, they hunt for their food. They play with their prey. Use this natural desire to engage with their food to bring out the best in your cat. 

If someone is just starting to train their cat, what should they teach them first? 

There are a few basic things that I believe all cats should learn:

  1. Their name. Pair food and treats with their name, so they learn to be happy and responsive when they hear it. 
  2. Come. Knowing how to come when called is so important. If there is an emergency, like a fire in the house, they need to go to you quickly. This is a great one to practice at meal times — call them to eat a meal.
  3. Go to their crate. This is important for emergencies as well, plus it makes taking them places  — like the veterinarian — so much easier. The key is to build a positive association with the crate. Feed your cat in their crate. This is especially good for multi-cat households because you can keep each cat in their crate with their specific meal. You know exactly what and how much your cat ate, which can help in identifying health concerns as well.
  4. How to wear a harness. You can train a cat to wear a harness at any age, but it helps to start young. Harness training gives cats confidence when they’re out in public and provides easy handling for vet visits. First, make sure the harness isn’t too tight. You should be able to slide two fingers between your cat and the harness. Then feed your cat while they’re wearing the harness. Have them chase down treats while having the harness on. Gradually work your way to longer sessions of wearing it. 
  5. High five. I teach all my cats how to high five because it tells me whether the cat is focused on me and sets them up for successful training. If they don’t want to give the high five, they aren’t in the right state of mind to train. It also teaches the cats to engage with people, which builds confidence.

How do you use training to correct unwanted behaviors?

If your cat is doing something you don’t want — clawing your furniture, jumping on the kitchen table, etc. — the first thing to do is to truly observe them. What is it that the cat is wanting? It is hugely important to provide appropriate outlets for cats’ natural behavior. If they are scratching the furniture, they are trying to mark their territory. Break the pattern and redirect their behavior. Find a texture your cat doesn’t like — one they can’t sink their claws into, such as sticky tape or a stretchy blanket — and put it over the furniture. Get a cat tree or scratching post and put it next to the furniture. Give them treats and meals on it so it feels like their territory. If they’re jumping up on counters, they are trying to climb up high. Give them a cat tree or shelf where they can climb and create positive reinforcement with food.

Training not only helps fix bad behaviors, it helps prevent them as well. Cats will be mentally and physically tired from training. They won’t be bored, restless, and searching for energy outlets. 

Where can cat parents go to learn more from the Cat Boss?

They can go to my website, CatBossTV.com. I have tons of great tips on my blog. And they can download the CatBoss Cat Training app on the App Store or Google Play. It’s the only cat training app! It includes step-by-step tutorials on 57 tricks you can teach your cat, including all the basics. 

Training your cat is 100% worth the effort – and it really doesn’t take much effort! With the right knowledge and tools, your cat will be high five-ing and harness walking in no time. Good luck and HAVE FUN!

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