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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-25-2011, 11:47 AM Thread Starter
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Training cats to communicate

I've been trying to teach my cat some communication skills. I'd like to teach him how to paw (then point) at an object and also how to convey a yes/no.

I came up with a crude method for this:
I lay out 2 different kinds of cat treats and a can of food.
I give him the one he paws at first.

I'm hoping that over time, he'll learn how to paw and point at stuff. Coupled with a way to convey a yes/no, it'd be a powerful learning and communication tool.

I'm still brainstorming a way to teach him yes/no without conveying good/bad along the way.

Has anyone else had success improving communication with their cat? Do you think this is expecting too much from my cat? I should mention that this is my first cat, but he seems pretty bright so I thought I'd give it a shot.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-25-2011, 12:00 PM
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I have great communication with my cats, but it's on their terms, not mine.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-25-2011, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catnip View Post
I have great communication with my cats, but it's on their terms, not mine.
Lol that's what the food's for- he lost interest a couple times only to come running back after hearing the bag rustling.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-25-2011, 08:28 PM
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I communicate with our many cats all the time. I don't believe in training the cat as much as I believe in allowing the cat to train YOU.
Stop. Look. Listen. Our cats communicate to us all the time and I feel it is up to *us* to pay attention to what they are saying. We keep a multi-cat home and I can tell by the sound of a meow, which cat it is, where they are and most likely what they want. They are also able to communicate with me silently, simply by me observing them.
Example ...
Malibu wants to jump onto the top of the rolltop desk, but doesn't jump, she just keeps shuffling her feet and looking at the top of the desk. I can tell she wants up there. So I ask her "Do you want me to lift you up there?" or I tell her "Hang on, I'll help you." and I can see her body language change. She stops shuffling, spreads her feet to stand more squarely and raises her tail as she looks at me. I stand up, scoop her up with my hands/arms and lift her to where she wanted to go.

I've never tried to give our cats choices about what food/treat they want but I feel we communicate all the time.



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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-25-2011, 08:44 PM
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My cat Ginger used to try to grab my hand and pull it toward her mouth. Yep, I could tell she wanted my food...
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-28-2011, 10:57 AM Thread Starter
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I think it's going to take some more time for him to fully get it, but it really does seem like he's starting to pick it up. It can still take minutes or more for him to paw a container. Still sometimes, he'll paw the containers quickly enough that I really do think it's just a matter of time. When I get a can of food out, he sometimes stands up and paws the can.

Based on his progress over the last couple of days, I think he'll have it down in another week or two. The next step is transitioning from pawing to pointing.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 11:21 AM
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A lot of people just think cats will only do their own thing and are not very trainable. But in fact most cats are just as trainable as dogs. Clicker training is especially effective, and I think you'll find this video a real eye opener. You should have no difficulty in clicker training your cat to paw an object. Keep training sessions fairly short, not over 15 or 20 mins. in length.

Cats convey a "yes" by looking intently at you in an interested way and/ or vocalizing, and a "no" by looking or walking away and showing no interest.

Last edited by catloverami; 03-01-2011 at 11:23 AM.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-03-2011, 09:31 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by catloverami View Post
A lot of people just think cats will only do their own thing and are not very trainable. But in fact most cats are just as trainable as dogs. Clicker training is especially effective, and I think you'll find this video a real eye opener. You should have no difficulty in clicker training your cat to paw an object. Keep training sessions fairly short, not over 15 or 20 mins. in length.
Thanks! I wasn't even aware of clicker training and it looks very promising. It looks like more of a 1-way communication tool - while her cat knew to go where she pointed, it didn't point back at anything. My goal is to just improve communication with my cat, not necessarily towards an end like running a course.

At this point, Cosmo has pawing down. And as far as I can tell, he understands it's a communication tool. I was able to get him to press the button on his laser pointer. I was also able to get him to press buttons on the remote control for his toy rc car. Unfortunately, the buttons require too much pressure for him to actually fully depress

Still it's encouraging to me that he's able to step back and understand that pawing isn't just applied to food, but also to other things. I don't know if I could've ever gotten him to even try pressing buttons on a remote without it. Sure it's silly and didn't accomplish anything in the end, but I think it demonstrates some of the possibilities of alternate forms of communication with cats.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-03-2011, 09:51 AM
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I have trained my girls in a few things, but they have trained me in more ways. I'll definitely agree with Heidi's comments that when you pay close attention to your cat(s) you find yourself communicating with them.

I've trained them to sit and fetch, and since their fetching is a little absent minded we've come to a mutually trained compromise on returning the puff to a shoe placed a little in front of me.

They've trained me to understand their voices and body language. Fern tells me when she wants the lid taken off the litter box, when she wants me to go upstairs with her, when she wants food, or when she wants me to go away. Fergie tells me when she wants to play, when she wants me to go into the bathroom, when she wants attention, and when she wants to go into the basement. And of course, they both tell me if they're not happy with me!

They also tell me they love me sometimes, when I'm least expecting it. Makes my day since it's not a common thing.

~Diana, happy mom to Fern and Fergie
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