There’s a good chance your dog is fond of a game of fetch, if they’re not downright passionate about it. In fact, October 21 is National Fetch Day, and it’s hard to believe our pooches didn’t create the day on their own. (In reality, it was the dog product company Chuckit!) While it’s no secret canines may want to celebrate this day, what about felines? There are some cats that are fetch enthusiasts, and there’s always a chance yours could be, too! Here are some tips on fetch training for Fluffy.
Things to Remember Before Training
Cats all have their own personalities, and they may just not be on board with fetch. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other games or tricks you can enjoy together, but remember that if they aren’t enjoying it or understanding it, that’s okay. Don’t put pressure on the situation, or your cat.
If you decide to give it a go, the timing is important. Try to train your cat when they’re in a playful mood and alert, possibly before mealtime. Another time aspect to consider is how long each training session lasts. They should be short and sweet, no more than five or 10 minutes each time. You don’t want to tire your cat or have them get bored with the game, so take a break as soon as either of those things seem to be happening.
Picking the Fetch Item
Another cat personality quirk is the type of toy they like the most. For many, it may not be a toy. (Hello, any item you didn’t spend $15 on at a pet store.) Most cats will have a preferred actual toy, though, maybe a catnip mouse, a standard ball, or a crinkly ball. You could also attract them to a particular item a bit more by sweetening it up with some catnip. Whichever item you choose, try to stick with that one during each training session.
Successful training will involve some rewards, so it’s important to think about what will entice your cat to keep the game up. While words of affirmation are helpful and you should be positive and congratulatory each time they do the trick – or a step of the trick – correctly, let’s be honest: Those smiles aren’t going to hold a candle to a scrumptious treat.
Make sure you use a Fluffy-approved treat that will get her interested enough in learning the trick you’re trying to teach her. Once you’ve pinpointed that tasty morsel, you’ll need to be consistent in giving it to her promptly as she masters each step. Again, be sure to praise her with pets and snuggles immediately each time she does it right, too.
Teaching the Trick
To begin with, you’ll need to get your cat fixated on the item to be fetched. Each time she touches it or nuzzles it, praise her and give her a treat. You can also use a clicker, if that sort of training has worked for your cat before.
The next step is to place the toy a little further away from you so your cat has to move a bit to reach it. You can make it extra enticing by placing a treat on it when you set it down. When she reaches the toy and plays with it, be prompt with the rewards. Be prompt with the rewards each time she takes the toy in her mouth, too. This will get her used to dropping the toy in front of you to get the treat.
After that, you’ll need to encourage her to bring the toy over to you. This can involve leaving a trail of treats from where you’ve tossed the toy to where you’re sitting, and it should come along with a verbal command like “fetch”. Over time, the treats can just be in your hand, so they know they’ll have to bring the toy over there to get them. Once they bring the toy over and eat the treat, shower them with praise.
If they’re failing to bring the toy back, you can also grab the toy and a treat, and bring them to the starting point together. You can repeat this a few times so they understand the toy should be returned. Whenever she returns, give her the treat. Another option is showing your cat the treat and calling her over to you the second the toy is in her mouth.
If she’s still struggling, give her a break and try again the next day, possibly with a different toy.
Expanding the Game or Trying Something New
If your cat begins to master the game, you can start adding different fetch items and expanding the distance. You can also get your friends to try it so Fluffy’s ready to play with everyone… when she’s in the mood, anyway.
Is she still not catching on? Maybe you can try a different trick. Find some other trick training options here!