Can I Train a Cat?

Published on February 7, 2020 by arothstein

Woman holding cat, train a cat to behave in arms

One of the jobs of a vet tech is to educate pet owners. A common topic of discussion is whether a pet owner can train a cat. Dog owners get recommendations about training for their dogs and puppies, but most cat owners don’t ask about training because they don’t think they can actually train a cat.

Although some vet techs work in different environments, including zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, and shelters, the majority of vet techs work in animal hospitals and care for cats, dogs, and other small pets. Vet techs here interact with pet owners and help educate them on training.

Are Cats Independent Animals?

For centuries, cats have been perceived as being more independent than dogs. The difference between dogs and cats is that dogs are naturally pack animals. Their survival in the wild depends on hunting as a group. Dogs and cats have different methods of hunting. Cats are typically solitary hunters. The way cats hide from their prey, stalk, and pounce couldn’t be performed successfully if cats hunted in packs.

Cats who live outside can survive using their hunting instincts, and a lot of pet owners who share their home with cats say that they aren’t the cat’s owner but their caregiver. However, cats that are properly socialized depend on their owners to keep them healthy, for mental and emotional stimulation, and for affection.

Cats are Affectionate Animals

One of the misconceptions about cats is that they’re not affectionate animals. If you’re a dog owner, come home after being away for a few hours, your dog gets very excited, may jump on you, bark, or run around. However, cats are more subtle in the way they greet their owners. Here are the ways cats show affection to their owners.

Cheek Rubs

Cats will rub their cheeks on a person they trust and feel comfortable around. Cats have glands located in their cheeks that produce the pheromone hormone. Rubbing their cheek against a human can be an invitation for socialization.

Grooming Their Owner

Cats don’t just groom themselves or other cats they have an affinity for. They may lick their owner or other people they feel comfortable with. Cats may lick a human to mingle their scents and show how affectionate they are. Grooming a human they have affection for makes them relaxed and builds a sense of community.

Being Close to Their Owner

A lot of cats show their affection to their owners by being as close to them as possible. Some cats will rest their paws on their owner, sleep or sit next to them, or relax and have a nap on their lap.

Head Bunting

When cats bunt you with their heads, that’s one way in which they mark their territory. The scent from the cat’s head is transferred to the owner, marking them as the cat’s territory.

Showing Their Belly

When they flop down on the floor or ground and show you their belly, it’s a way of letting you know that you make them happy, and the cat trusts you. Showing its stomach is one of the highest compliments a cat can pay to a human.


When a cat stares at you and starts blinking, this is one way they say, “I love you and trust you.” You can show your affection for your cat by slowly blinking at them. Blinking slowly at your cat gives them the signal that you trust them too.


Purring is one of the most obvious ways a cat has of showing affection to their owner or another human. When a cat feels relaxed or content, the motor in their throat vibrates, and they purr. A cat will often purr when you pet them or scratch behind their ears.

Can You Train a Cat?

The answer as to whether an owner can train a cat is “Yes.” However, training a cat is different from dog training. Some people compare training a cat to the employee of a company whom the cat would fire if they could.

The most significant difference between dog and cat training is that dogs see their owner as the pack leader and are eager to please them. Training sessions for dogs can last a lot longer than sessions for cats. When a cat has a short attention span, it can be attributed to never having any training.

What Must an Owner Know to Train a Cat?

The first thing any pet owner should know is that punishment should never be part of the training. Some owners think that they’re disciplining their pets by using punishment, but this should never be an option. Punishment can cause health and behavior problems and be stress-inducing for any pet, including cats. Positive reinforcement, patience, and a lot of love are the keys to training your cat.

Positive Reinforcement

As stated previously, positive reinforcement is one of the most effective methods to use when training a cat. There are many ways of using positive reinforcement using different training methods. Clicker training is an effective training aid for cats as well as dogs. When an owner uses clicker training, the person teaching the cat uses the clicker at the moment the cat performs the action it’s being trained to do. The cat is immediately rewarded with a special treat for performing the action.

Why Clicker Training Works

A clicker and some of your cat’s favorite treats can help to train any cat effectively. When your cat obeys a command, hears the clicker sound, and then is rewarded with a treat, it will understand what the owner wants. It’s essential to use the same method consistently when you’re training your cat. Clicker training is also very practical when you have to administer medication to your cat.

Train a Cat to Come to You

Cats can learn to respond to your voice and come when called. Making a distinctive noise like clicking your tongue or calling your cat by name, then opening a can or bag of cat food will teach your cat to expect something positive. This training method can be used for non-feeding times too.

Begin by standing a short distance from your pet, making the noise, or calling it by name. When the cat comes to you, give a treat as a reward. Gradually increase the distance you stand from your cat. The cat will eventually understand that when they respond, a treat is a reward.

Why Train a Cat to Use a Litter Box?

A cat should be trained to use a litter box for sanitary reasons. If the cat doesn’t have a specific place for its bathroom, it will go wherever it pleases, and it may be in the clean laundry. Find a quiet location to place a litter box and fill it with enough litter. A kitten should have a box with low sides to get in and out easily.

Putting a kitten in the box frequently will help it get the idea that’s its bathroom. Cats usually like to go in loose soil when they’re outside, so the litter serves the same purpose. Cats don’t want to use litter boxes that aren’t clean, so scoop the litter out frequently.

Biting and Scratching

When cats attack guests, it’s often because they fear someone is invading their personal space. Some cats are fearful of people they don’t know, so it’s a good idea to let friends and family know not to interact unless your pet initiates contact. To avoid having problems when you have guests in your home, feed a favorite food at the time guests are visiting, which turns a stressful experience into a positive one.

Cats should have their own space like a tree or shelves to sit on to observe the activity in your home while not being a part of it. It’s important for cats to know that they won’t be hurt by anyone who comes into the house.

Training Your Cat Not to Run Outside

Training a cat to respond to commands and come when called can be lifesaving. When a cat gets scared, sometimes it will head to the nearest door to get outside and hide. If the cat hasn’t been trained, it likely won’t come when the owner calls its name. It’s not as difficult for a person who lives alone to keep a cat in, but when you have a family coming and going, it’s necessary to make the cat understand that it’s not to go near an open door unless it’s called.

Benefits of A Trained Cat

Cats that are appropriately trained are less likely to have behavioral issues and will live more harmoniously with their owners. Well trained cats are happier and more content with their surroundings and don’t experience as much stress as those who aren’t trained.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about training a cat interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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