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Teaching Cats Tricks

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By Dr. Donna Spector

Although contrary to common belief, cats can be trained to do many things—such as sit, sit up, come, stay, roll over, wave or shake paws, retrieve toys, and even walk on a leash.


Cat Trick Training Basics


  • Pick the right treats for training. Choose natural treats that are meat-based and low calorie. Skip the treats with sugars such as corn syrup, molasses, fructose, etc. If you want to use human food as a treat, select bits of lean meat or small pieces of fresh fish.
  • Have the treats readily available where you can reach them and your cat cannot.
  • Pick the right time for training. Make sure your cat is in an active, playful mood and hungry for the best success. Keep trick training sessions short—in the beginning start at 5 minutes or less per session. Cats get bored and/or distracted easily.
  • Pick the right tools for training. If your cat is having trouble following verbal commands for treats, you may have more success with “clicker” training.


Basic Cat Tricks


  • With your cat in front of you, say “SIT” while putting light pressure on his rump to help him sit. The hand offering the treat should be held in the same position every time. Your cat will then associate the hand gesture and the verbal command with the trick.
  • When he sits, immediately offer him the treat while saying “GOOD SIT”.
  • Repeat until saying the command “SIT” produces a reliable response from your cat.



  • Ask your cat to “SIT” and reward him with a treat.
  • Place your hand behind one of his front legs and bump up his paw while offering your other hand and saying “SHAKE”.
  • He will lift his foot up and you will gently hold his paw while saying “GOOD SHAKE” and offering a treat.
  • Repeat until saying the command “SHAKE” while offering your hand produces a reliable response from your cat.

Other tricks—such as Sit Up, High Five, Wave—all build off the ability of your cat to master the “Sit” trick. Start there and work up to more tricks slowly. Never punish your cat for not mastering a trick. Just be patient and try again at a later time.


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