Why is it vital to break down tricks into small chronological steps to train my cat?

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Contrary to popular myth, cats can be trained to do “tricks,” but only in the context that the cat sees himself as getting something for his effort. Unlike dogs who will jump through hoops — literally — to please their humans with or without any other reward, cats are the accountants of the animal world. When the payment stops, the service is suspended.

Teaching a cat a trick starts with simply figuring out something the cat will be interested in doing and then directing it to execute the action on request. For instance, if you notice that your cat frequently stands on his hind legs to get a better look out the window, praise him for the behavior using his name and a word with hard syllables the cat will come to recognize more easily.
“Look at you, Fluffy! You’re standing UP!”

If your first goal is to get Fluffy to stand upright, try the language at his dinner time holding a can of food in your hand. “Can you stand UP, Fluffy?” Every time this works, reinforce the idea. “Good job, Fluffy! You stood UP.”

Essentially you’re building a trick around this cat’s natural propensity to satisfy his curiosity by standing on his hind legs. If you want it to appear that he’s trying to take the can for your hand, hold your hand, with the can, close enough for the upright cat to rest a paw on your arm.

Timing is everything, and the same commands must be repeated in the same order against the same actions. It won’t take him long to figure out that from his “trick” vantage point he can easily see what’s on the kitchen counters without getting scolded for jumping up there. At this point the “trick” has been associated with a benefit in his sharp little noggin and he’ll continue to use it.

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