How can clicker training be used to address feline aggression?
A lot of people think a cat can’t be clicker trained, but it’s really an easy and fun way to help shape that tiny tiger’s behavior. The scientific term for the method is operant conditioning, which means you can take advantage of your cat’s natural tendency to repeat an action that has a positive consequence.
It’s not uncommon for a cat to become aggressive when playing, either defending herself or claiming territory. Sometimes they just don’t like other animals—and that can pose a problem for you if you have another cat or a dog.
But it’s really pretty easy to click your cat right out of this behavior. The key, though, is patience; it won’t happen overnight, especially if the negative behavior has been going on for a while.
To clicker train an aggressive cat, you use the same principle as you would when clicker-training her for anything else.
• First, help her make the association:
Sit at the same level as your cat, with a plate of tiny cat treats. (See our recipes for home-made Tuna Pops and Liver Cookies.) Whenever she shows interest, click and treat. Keep doing it so she catches on.
• Then, when you’re confident that she has mastered the association, click and treat whenever she does something cute, entertaining or friendly—in this case, it might be something like remaining calm whenever she sniffs the “enemy” or lying quietly whenever another animal approaches. Remember, this is about positive reinforcement, so ignore it if she still bites or scratches—but reward her for the good behavior.
WHAT IS A CLICKER?
The clicker is just a small, toy-like object that you can find in most pet stores. Your cat may take to it immediately, but some are a little slower to catch on and others can even be frightened. If that’s the case, use a unique, but softer, sound—such as the “snick” of a ballpoint pen or the “pop” of a jar.