Friday, November 26, 2010

How to Teach Your Cat the High Five Trick

By Julia Williams

I’ve never been very successful at teaching my cats tricks. It’s not because training cats is impossible – I’ve seen plenty of performing cats in videos and at cat shows to know that felines definitely can learn tricks. My cat training failures stem mostly from a lack of patience and motivation. Since my cats run and hide from nearly everyone who comes to visit us, the payoff of teaching them tricks doesn’t seem worth the effort.

That is, until now. I’ve actually found a cat trick that is pretty easy to teach, most likely because it’s a fairly natural behavior. One of my cats, Rocky, is picking up the High Five trick quickly, and although we’re not at the “perform on command for your friends” stage, I’m betting it won’t be long. Of course, then I will have to find a way to keep Rocky from hiding under the bed when people come over.

If you want to teach your cat the High Five trick, keep reading for my step-by-step instructions. But before you actually start your cat training, make sure you have plenty of their favorite treats on hand. Cats are not usually motivated by praise, but most are quite motivated by food, especially if it’s something they love. So keep the cat treats handy, because you’re going to need them.

Step One: Take your cat and the treats into a quiet room where the two of you can practice without distractions.

Step Two: Have your cat sit in front of you on the floor or the bed.

Step Three: Hold one of the treats in your hand. Let your cat know you have the treat and allow them to sniff it.

Step Four: Slowly move your hand with the treat back and forth, above your cat’s head. If they get up on their hind legs or try to grab the treat with their paw, just move them back into a sitting position and try again.

Step Five: Hold your hand with the treat off to one side above your cat’s head to encourage them to touch your hand with just one paw. If your cat reaches for your hand and touches it with their paw, say “yes” and give them the treat. If they use their claws or mouth, pull your hand away and try again.

Step Six: Repeat step five several times. Next, make the same motion but without a treat in your hand. When you are able to get your cat to touch your hand, say “yes” and give them a treat you’ve stashed somewhere nearby.

Step Seven: Practice step six several times. Next, place your open palm in the same place above your cat’s head. Say “high five” if they touch your hand with their paw, and then reward them with a treat.

Step Eight: Repeat the entire sequence a few times each day until your cat learns the High Five trick. Just like people, every cat is an individual and they don’t all learn at the same rate. Some cats might pick it up with just a few training sessions, and others might take weeks. Be patient!

Tips for Teaching Your Cat the High Five Trick:

● Make sure your cat’s nails are kept trimmed for training.

● Keep the training sessions short and try to make them fun.

● If your cat becomes agitated during training, stop and try again later.

● Schedule the training sessions before mealtimes so your cat will be more motivated to get the treat.

If you decide to teach your cat the High Five trick, let me know how it works out! In the meantime, I’ll be working on Rocky to get him up to speed. Then I can work on teaching him to stay in the room when company comes over.

Photo by Michaela Kobyakov

Read more articles by Julia Williams


  1. I heard a cat trainer say one time that in order to train a cat you needed to find natural things they like to do and then work from there. My cats also run and hide when company arrive. I'll have to try teaching them the high five.

  2. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

    Pet Portraits

  3. Thanks for posting this. I will try the high five trick. I tough one of my cats Shadow to "sit" and to "beg". It is going well. Well hopefully my cat will get this trick!!!

    Thanks again.

  4. This is great! This is going to be mine and my cat Kiara's 4th trick! And still more to come. :)

  5. i hope my cat does not scratch me while doing this :)

  6. You better listen cat!! Or else you wont get any treats. You cant get any until you give me a high five, You.. you!! *Cat grabs treat* NOOOOO!! You were meant to give me a high five first. *headbang*


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