Yes, you read that title correctly — cats can do the same things that dogs can do, and maybe even better. Discover how to teach a cat to fetch, and impress all of your neighbors and friends.
Think Like a Cat
Dogs love to please owners; however, cats are more concerned with pleasing themselves. By realizing this simple concept, you can understand why teaching a cat to fetch has to be approached differently from how you would train your dog. When it comes to training a cat, there are some basic techniques that you must know in order to be successful. These basic principles all start with the letter "R," so that makes it a little easier to remember!
You need to respect what cats do and don't like. Don't stare at your cat or make loud noises during training or playtime. When she doesn't feel up for play, don't force it. Try to train her when she's feeling extra playful.
Consistently recognize when your cat does things you want her to do, and be consistent in how you let your cat know she is doing things you don't like (for instance, walking on your counters). A firm "no" or clap when she misbehaves may work, but when she does something you approve of, don't give her a round of applause. Instead, pet her or give her a treat.
Cats love small treats as a reward for good behavior. One of the secrets of how to teach a cat to fetch may be hidden in simply having the right treats. Use them only when she does the action you want her to, and don't overdo it, so as to not add unwanted pounds.
Timing Is Everything
First, you have to get to know your cat, and build a trusting and loving relationship before you can start training them to do tricks or play fetch, says the ASPCA. Figure out what toys or items in your house they're drawn to the most. These items are the ones you should try to use for playing fetch.
Cats are drawn to hunt and pounce on things — throwing a soft item and allowing your cat to chase it, and then going over and placing a treat near the item may reinforce and reward the first step in fetching. After a few days of successfully getting your cat to pounce or go near the item you throw, you are ready to attempt having them bring you the item. You can do this by leaving a trail of treats after throwing the item. As time goes on, make the treats closer to you and farther from the object. Keep in mind, it is best to do all of this at a time of day when your cat is most active. Make sure to always use the same verbal queues to reinforce the action such as "fetch," or "bring it here."
If it seems like all of your attempts at training your cat to fetch have failed, take a break for a few days and then try again with new toys and different treats. Not all dogs like the same games, so it is possible your cat won't ever be interested in fetch. However, don't give up too quickly. Allow several different people in your home to try to train her. Cats sometimes bond with one person more than another and may only want to play fetch with their favorite human.
If you are successful, be sure to catch it on video so that all of your friends believe you! Everyone loves fun cat videos.
Image courtesy: Flickr/John Benson
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.