Cat Pawsitive is a program started by Jackson Galaxy, of “My Cat From Hell,” with the goal of training cats to perform tricks. The logic goes that a cat is more likely to be adopted if it can perform tricks like giving its potential owner a high-five. Multiple animal shelters have joined into the program. The program’s premise is simple, cats that can perform tricks on command are more likely to listen to, and bond with, their owners. Learning tricks is also a means of easing the stress that tends to flourish in cats within a shelter environment.
Cats that go through the shelter system can lose their sense of self and their confidence, potentially even withdrawing from others and becoming listless. A training regimen is a great way to keep cats confident, willing to greet others and even raise the likelihood that a potential owner makes a connection. With the impending event of National High Five Day, Galaxy is hosting a contest for shelters and cat owners. Participants need only record their cats doing a high five and apply the proper tags and hashtags.
Stephen Holdeman, manager of feline behavior and training for the KC Pet Project shelter, explains that training a cat to perform a trick is easier than some might think. All a trainer needs is a certain level of patience, a sense of timing and proper motivation. Holdeman went as far as to describe his preferred approach:
• Learn the cat’s favored foods.
• Use that food as a reward for performing the trick.
• Confirm that the cat performed properly by using a clicking device.
Holdeman gets his cats primed for training by getting them to associate the appearance of food with the clicker’s sound. Once the cat understands the relationship between the clicker and food, the trainer can reinforce a successful exercises. After several training cycles, the cat “gets it” and can perform the trick on command.