We know that dogs often love to play fetch, to the point of becoming obsessed with the idea. Perhaps you didn’t realize that you can also train your cat to fetch. It’s a fun game you can play together.
In this post, you will learn a method you can use to teach your cat to fetch. It can take a little time and patience, but you will find it rewarding for both you and the cat. You can follow these 9 steps to teach kitty this new game.
First, find the perfect fetch toy
You can pick a toy that already rates high on the favorite list with your cat, just as long as he can carry it in his mouth easily. Or, you can pick out a new toy similar to the one he already has and finds especially nice.
One of my references suggested keeping the “fetch” toy to use only when you play the fetch game. If kitty can’t play with it all the time, but really likes it, he might have more incentive to learn this new skill.
Now find the right spot for your game
The best place you can use is quiet and offers fewer distractions. You need such a space to keep him focused on the game. You need enough room so he does not have to compete with obstacles in his way.
Choose the perfect time
You need to pick a time when kitty is fully awake and active. Obviously, if he naps or if he has just eaten a big meal, his energy level might not be up for the game. He will most likely be more receptive to learning and playing just before he fills his stomach with a tasty meal.
The cat will probably not obsess over the game as a dog might do. Do not run your sessions overly long. For most cats five minutes might work best. Once he understands the game, you can extend the time longer for him if he remains interested.
Short sessions are better, especially at first. The cat may love the game or he may indicate that he’s just not interested. You won’t know unless you try.
Give rewards for proper action
Make sure you stock up on treats before you start training. Having some of his favorite treats on hand can go a long way toward his learning successfully. Providing incentive will always help.
Remember — reward the cat when he does well, but never punish him if he does not. if you punish, he will never learn. After all, you are playing a game together, and you don’t punish your team-mate.
If your cat has a special favorite treat, that should offer good incentive.
Teach a new word
Once you have started throwing the toy, as you throw it, say the word “fetch.” Eventully, kitty will connect the word with the action of the game, and you can then reward him when he responds to the word.
Using a clicker to enforce positive action
If your cat has had some clicker-training, you can use the sound of the clicker to emphasize correct behavior. When kitty successfully completes an action in the game that you encourage, then click and give him a reward. He will come to associate the sound of the clicker with getting that reward for his achievement.
For the clicker, you can use it to help kitty get started. Hold the object you want him to fetch around six inches away from his face. Then use the clicker as soon as your cat sniffs the object or touches it with his nose. Give him treat.
Repeat the process until the cat starts looking for the toy as soon as he finishes his treat.
Get the cat to take the object in his mouth
If you use the clicker, when your cat reaches the stage where he touches the object every time you show it to him, don’t click — Kitty will look at you with this “don’t I get a treat now” look. Very often, the cat will then try something new.
He may approach the toy with his mouth slightly open. As soon as he takes such an action, click and treat.
If you reach this point in your training, it’s a good idea to stop and continue later.
Please be aware that you can train kitty without the clicker. Then treats and repetition become the techniques to use, if you keep repeating the process and praising and rewarding kitty when he progresses. Watch two or three YouTube videos and you will see that you do not need the clicker.
You might want to rub the toy with a treat, as the cat might feel more compelled to take it in his mouth. Once you can get the cat to hold the object in his mouth for ten seconds, you can move to the next step.
Now kitty needs to retrieve the toy from the floor
You want the cat to pick up the toy. Place it on the ground in front of your cat. When you see your cat put his open mouth on the object, click and treat. Do the same if he picks it up.
Now you can try the final step
Your kitty has now mastered holding the toy for at least ten seconds. Now, place the toy a bit further away. Behind your cat would be a good choice. If he turns and picks up the object, click and treat. Of course, if he brings it to you, that’s another reason for a treat.
Move the toy further and further away, until he understands what you expect. Remember to say “fetch” every time you toss the object, so that word comes to have a meaning to him.
When we shared our Kodiak home with Uptight Cat and Loose Cat, Uptight Cat learned to fetch. Actually, he just seemed to want to play the game without any training.
My husband, Les, got a toy rubber mouse and tied a short piece of nylon fishing line to it. He would whip that mouse back and forth in front of the cat and then throw it into the next room.
The cat would run and get it, bring it back to him, then sit down and meow, which apparently meant, “throw it again.” They would play the game for quite a while, until Uptight finally tired of it. So cute!
Remember to keep your sessions short at first. You can do five minutes each day and you can both have fun together. Just keep a good store of patience, don’t scold or punish, and have fun.
I’m including a YouTube video so you can watch some “fetch” training in action. Sometimes seeing works much better than reading.
There are a number of fetch videos on YouTube. I did not watch one using clicker training. In fact, on some of them, treats did not play a role. The cat’s person simply petted and praised.
I learned a few other pointers from the videos. One: Repetition is very important. The idea must become fixed in kitty soft, furry head.
Also, do not use the word “no.” Reserve it for discipline. We are playing a game here, and “no” should not be part of the game. If kitty becomes distracted by the toy, pat the floor in front of you to return the cat’s attention to you.
Remember that you must have patience.
If you would like a source of supplies for your fetch training, I offer some here. If you want an instruction book on clicking, clickers, treats, or new toys, look over these selections from Amazon. Just click on the image or the blue highlighted link and you will be taken to the site to make your purchase.
As an Amazon affiliate, I will receive a small commission for your purchase, though it will not affect your price at all.
References I used for this post:
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