Wednesday, May 20, 2009
By Julia Williams
The short answer to the question is yes, you can. But (and this is a BIG but) it won’t be easy. If you want to teach your cat to do tricks, then you must have a wealth of four things: patience, determination, time, and cat treats.
Although many people believe it’s impossible to train a cat to perform on command, this simply isn’t true. I have not done it myself, largely because patience is not one of my virtues. I have, however, watched my friend train his cat, and have seen the cat perform a few different tricks. I’ve also seen countless other performing cats. For instance, at a cat show I watched in awe as a whole troupe of cats put on a mesmerizing performance of circus-type acts for more than fifteen minutes. The level of training and the complexity of the tricks were remarkable, particularly since it wasn’t just one or two cats performing the tricks, but dozens of them.
There are also many amazing videos on YouTube about the Moscow Cats Theatre, a famous, long-running show that features agile felines walking a tightrope, rolling on top of a ball, jumping through hoops, twirling batons with their feet, doing handstands and other impressive feats. And on Animal Planet’s Pet Star television show, I’ve seen a few people who were able to get their cats to do tricks. They had to dole out cat treats every step of the way, but still.
And finally, the very funny movie Meet the Parents featured a toilet-trained cat named Jinxy who nearly upstaged his co-stars (Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller) with his flawless performance on the loo. I’ve also watched other videos on the internet of ordinary housecats (i.e., not film star felines) that were trained to use the toilet – although apparently you can’t teach them to flush, which would certainly make this “trick” more appealing.
So if you really can train a cat to perform tricks, why is it far more common to see dogs doing them? It’s because dogs are far easier to train than cats, and many people simply don’t have the patience it takes to get cats to do tricks on command. Contrary to what some people believe, this has nothing to do with intelligence. Dogs by nature are much more eager to please their owners, who they regard as the pack leader. Although cats might love their human companions very much, their independent nature means that this leadership role doesn’t have much power. Cats have no masters, and they tend to listen to humans on their own terms.
If you’re intrigued by the thought of training your cat to do tricks, and think you have the perseverance and patience to succeed, I’ll give you some tips and step-by-step directions in tomorrow’s post.
Read more articles by Julia Williams