How can I teach my cat to sit on cue?
Any time you are teaching a cat to do anything, be prepared to reinforce the behavior with treats or some other positive reward the cat will interpret favorably. Unlike dogs, a cat will not do something just for the pleasure of pleasing the leader of the “pack.”
Cats are more solitary animals by nature, and are driven by predatory instincts that tell them to look out for number one. This does not mean your cat can’t or won’t learn something you want him to pick up, just that he’s going to write the lesson plan, not you.
The term “nocturnal” is really not an accurate descriptive of a cat’s day. He’s actually a crepuscular animal, more active during the twilight, dim light hours just after dawn and before sunset. Many cat owners report these are the times when their pets start bouncing off the walls for no apparent reason.
These are good times of the day to work with the cat because he will be alert and interested. It is, however, a good idea to make sure there are minimal distractions in the environment. Cats take in everything around them, so you want as little external stimulus as possible.
Sit in front of the cat on the floor on your knees so you’re higher than he is. Get the cat to focus on the treat and then slowly move the treat above the animal’s head. If the cat tries to reach for the treat gently encourage him to “sit.” Always be consistent with the command so the cat associates the word with the motion.
When the cat sits and holds the position for the desired length of time, give him the treat and praise him using his name. Never scold a cat by name or he’ll just start ignoring that sound altogether!
Cats are actually remarkably quick when they get your point, so the combination of the treat and the repetitive positioning of the treat is usually all it takes to teach a cat to sit. Don’t work with the cat for more than 10 minutes, however, as that’s about all the “training” the average feline will tolerate.