What is clicker training?

Clicker training for cats is a behaviorist training system. Essentially, it is based on the simple psychological principle that rewards and punishments can influence behavior. This means whenever a cat does something you want them to do, you need to reward them. When they do something you don't want them to do, you need to punish them.


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The "clicker" is a noise device that you use whenever you reward the cat. This is because while a cat easily understands punishment (it's hard to mistake what getting sprayed with a bunch of water means), it's harder for it to connect rewards. The cat will often not be sure exactly why it's getting a treat. The clicker is used for something that the cat can form a clear connection to. In essence, instead of trying to teach it that good behavior = reward, you teach the cat that good behavior = click = reward. Since the clicks only happen when the cat is doing something good, that's an easier association to make. Cooing and talking nice to the cat happen at other times, even when the cat isn't necessarily doing something you want. You can also make the clicks more precisely - at the exact moment the cat is doing what you want. A lot of people who do this kind of training say you shouldn't punish the cats at all. They subscribe only to the positive reinforcement aspect of it. Regardless of what you do, just remember that you should only associate the clicks with something good. If you click and then punish the cat, it will just get confused and not make the association.

A very good book on the subject is "Getting Started: Clicker Training With Cats" by Karen Pryor. She's one of the acknowledged experts on clicker training and you can get a very good idea of how to do it in detail from that book.

You'll also need to get a clicker. The training is more common with dogs, but you can use the same devices for either a cat or a dog. They're only a few bucks so it's not that expensive to get started.

This one is $7.00 and available here online. It comes with a little guide, but it's geared towards training dogs, so not much useful information there if you're using it with a cat. I recommend the Pryor book instead.

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