April 24, 2011

Cody learns to jump through a hoop etc.

As you know, Blog, our cat Cody has been working long and hard on clicker training, and we finally have a performance on video to document his great success. So I'm here today to share with our readers the proof that you can train a regular house cat to do the same cool stuff big cats do!

After seeing on the show "Must Love Cats" how easily kitties can be trained using a clicker, I was determined to try it at home. I started by ordering myself a copy of the book Cat Training in 10 Minutes by Miriam Fields-Babineau. I highly recommend this book as a terrific resource.

In addition to the book, I needed a few essential tools for Cody's training. The first, of course, was a clicker. They're not expensive, so spring for a sturdy one; you'll find them at your local pet supply store. I also needed cat treats, and nothing says "treat" to Cody like turkey. Training treats only need to be pea size or less, so even an ever-so-slightly-husky cat like Cody won't put on weight from training.

The one other item I really needed to lay my hands on, Blog, was a hoop. Now this proved a daunting task. It seems that no one actually sells sturdy plastic hoops suitable for being jumped through by housecats. Go figure. In fact, there's not even anything (until NOW!!!) on the Internet about how to make one.

I went to my local Home Depot, thinking "irrigation tubing," but they didn't have any that was a nice ~1/2" size. So I asked the helpful Home Depot Lady about plastic tubing. "What sort of thing do you need it for?" she asked. "I'm training my cat to jump through a hoop so I need to make a hoop," I told her.

Blank, confused look. "Okay," she said, "let's ask Jim, he's the specialist on PVC tubing." We found Jim. The H.D. Lady said, "She's looking for 1/2" plastic tubing," and he said, "What sort of thing do you need it for?" I told him, "I'm training my cat to jump through a hoop so I need to make a hoop."

Deja vu.

Anyway, the illustration shows what I ended up buying: some Pex tubing and a Pex fitting. It worked perfectly and took about five minutes to convert to a hoop for Cody. Here's the resulting hoop:

So, I have trained with Cody maybe 5 days a week, for five to ten minutes a day, for about five weeks. Honestly though, Blog, he learned each new trick in a couple days...continuing training is simply helping him focus so he's less distracted and confused. You can see in the video how well it worked! And the video will also show you a few things about how clicker training works.

The coolest thing I learned from training Cody is that a cat really does care enough about your opinion to want to learn to do what you ask. It's not just about the turkey. He really seems to love our training sessions and getting to play along and do things that get a pleased reaction from his best buddy (me). I'm looking forward to teaching him more tricks like high five, shaking hands, jumping from chair to chair, etc.

So I highly recommend you try this with your cat! And if you do, or already have a cat that does tricks, please share in the comments. Say it with me, Blog: "Yay Cody!"

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