Why is timing important in clicker training a cat?

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Timing is important in clicker training because it associates the sound of the click with a reward. In initial lessons with your cat, you want to click and treat simultaneously, gradually increasing the interval between the sound and the reward.

From those first steps you move on to the concept of “targeting,” which shows him that if he does “A” he gets the “click / treat” sequence. This is simply using your cat’s native curiosity to touch or interact with an object. You can use an actual target stick, a pen (which cats find endlessly fascinating) or even your hand.

Using the touch / click / treat sequence, it’s possible to get your cat to engage in more complex behaviors, following the target, for instance, or jumping onto or off of a surface to get to the target.

Make sure that everything you do is geared toward positively reinforcing the behavior. There’s no need to verbally reinforce the “commands,” just let the clicker do the talking for you, and don’t make the mistake of admonishing your cat for a “mistake.” In fact, “shape” his behavior by rewarding even attempts at the correct sequence. Over time, his responses will be more on target and “correct” as he begins to see both what you want and what’s in it for him.

Keep the training sessions to around 10 minutes since cats get bored easily, and remain patience and consistent throughout. Cats have no inbred need to please as dogs do, and they need to feel the behaviors are their idea, not something you’re “making” them do.

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