For mixed breed cats, what temperaments or personalities are ideal to have to teach commands and tricks?
The primary ingredient necessary to train any cat is tapping into his native curiosity. Often cat “tricks” are an outgrowth of something the cat does instinctively, which has been reinforced and augmented in some way by training.
The basics of training, like litter box use, and coming when called for at dinner are not difficult to teach any cat because they will do only those things that they see as carrying a positive benefit. It’s a mistake to think that cats are not as intelligent as dogs; they just see the world a different way.
A dog defines his world by his role in the pack. In a household setting, the dog wants to please his pack leader, the human. Cats are more solitary and make their way in the world as predators. They spend their time observing their surroundings with the eyes and sharp intelligence of a hunter.
Also, cats are more active in the dim hours just after dawn and just before sunset. Any cat will be more responsive to play and to “training” in these periods. It is helpful if that cat has a good disposition and is willing to be handled. Cats do not like restraint, however, and they lose interest quickly.
It’s always best to let a cat’s personality dictate any efforts to teach it to do more than respond to the basic commands. Cats that are skittish and nervous by nature are going to want to be left to their own devices rather than be put on display.
If the person understands the rules of cat etiquette, for instance, not staring directly in a cat’s eyes, which is the height of rudeness, almost any cat’s comfort level and responsiveness can’t be increased. Start when the animal is young and work with those things in which he seems most naturally interested to have the greatest degree of success.