What are the best ways to use a target stick in training cats?

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Begin by teaching your cat to target the stick. This is as simple as holding out the target stick and waiting for the cat to touch the end with his nose. Immediately use the clicker and dispense a treat. This is called “shaping,” which helps the cat to build on successes and respond more quickly with the desired behavior.

Once the idea of a “targeted” response has been established in the cat’s mind, you can use other target cues like your hand, which, when paired with a motion, will create directional awareness. This is important in building more complex training behaviors as the lesson progress.

Be both patient and consistent. Do not scold your cat, and in fact, avoid all verbal cues. You are using the cat’s native curiosity and response to sound to elicit desired behaviors. When the cat understands that touching an object gets a “return on investment,” you can teach Fluffy to walk up and touch inanimate objects.

The more this kind of targeting behavior is extrapolated, the more flexible your interaction with your cat becomes, and the more potential is injected in your training regimen. Don’t overwork your cat, and keep the lessons fun. Cats get bored and distracted after a few minutes, and they do not like to be “made” to do anything. The more that a training program can be handled as play and interaction with “his” human, the more cooperative Fluffy will be and the more progress he will make.

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