Teach your cat to fetch – Part 1

Fetch is not at all a hard trick to teach a cat, if you take advantage of the cat’s natural tendency to pounce. The sweetest, cuddliest cat was designed by nature as a predator; it is in his or her DNA. It is this trait that fetch training exploits.

Any cat training should be done at a time when there are few or no distractions, and when the cat or kitten is in a wide awake and playful mood. I strongly advise that only one cat be trained per session, and that sessions be short enough that the cat does not become bored and restless. Fetch is very easy to train though, and it is possible the cat will be fully trained after one session.

Pet supply stores sell a variety of toys suitable for fetch training, for example the light fluffy balls from Whisker City that are designed to be recharged with catnip. You do not want to use catnip at this time though, so use a stale puff. Any other small light cat toy will work as well, or you can make one with lightly crumpled foil. Attach a line of white or clear sewing thread tightly to the toy. You will also need some of whatever treat you normally use to reward your pet.

Now, to the actual training: Wave the toy around to catch the cat’s attention, and then toss it on the floor a few feet away. The cat will most likely leap on it. When it does, slowly reel the ball in, bringing the cat with it. Then praise and reward the cat. Wave the ball around again, and repeat. Eventually, you can detach the string, because the cat has learned the trick.

Reinforcement is the psychological term for the praise and rewards you give your cat to encourage the behavior you want to see. Scientists say that behaviors are established most quickly with consistent reinforcement. Therefore, reward the cat each time he or she fetches while learning. However, once the trick is mastered, the cat will perform for the most times without a reward if the rewards you dole out are intermittent. Essentially, once the cat knows the trick, you should begin training him or her to wait for a reward for good behavior. So use consistent rewards to teach the cat how to fetch, and then switch to inconsistent rewards to keep him or her performing.

Some cats just will not learn this trick. They are cats, after all, and free beings. Most cats though, will be delighted to learn. Before long, your cat may well begin to pester you to play many happy games of fetch.

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