This is the tale of a lucky kitten that refuted the myth that “cats can’t be trained.”
Kitty, whose human is Jacob Hollingsworth, KPA CTP, recently was awarded the Advanced Trick Dog (ATD) title from Do More With Your Dog!, the official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of dog tricks. The Do More With Your Dog organization believes that trick training with positive methods establishes a pattern of learning, teaches skills and focus, and promotes a bond between canine and human. Kitty is the second cat to earn the ATD title, and is much younger than the previous winner.
Jacob adopted Kitty from a local veterinarian who had rescued the kitten from a high-kill shelter. As a student in the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA)Dog Trainer Program, Jacob chose Kitty as his subject for KPA training exercises that required work with other species. What began as a captured “sit” quickly grew into much more as Jacob realized that clicker training was the perfect tool to bridge the feline-human gap. Kitty’s trick career began at Karen Pryor Academy!
“Clicker training empowered Kitty, offering an effective means of communication and enriching his life with mental stimulation,” says Jacob. “Let's face it. Cats have a reputation for demanding whatever they want and becoming frustrated when their expectations aren't met. In the absence of a mutual vocabulary, cats are quite skilled at training their servants to respond to a language consisting largely of persistent screaming, pawing, and getting underfoot.”
From mascot to star
After completing the KPA program, Jacob wanted to build on some of the work he had started with Kitty, so he made Kitty a mascot for his Dog Tricks classes at Teamworks Dog Training, in Raleigh, NC. Each week, Jacob worked on training exercises and tricks with Kitty that roughly corresponded to the tricks and training concepts that his students were learning. He opened class each week by showing video clips where Kitty demonstrated a new complex trick and a few simple tricks. The tricks were predominately trained using free shaping, and included some targeting and some capturing. In just a few months of clicker training, Kitty transformed from a shelter kitten to a sensational and happy cat.
“Cats love to win. Clicker training sets up cats for success by focusing on rewarding desired behaviors,” Jacob points out. “Clicker training gives cats more influence over their worlds, and elevates their caretakers from ’servants’ to teammates.”
Can cats be trained like dogs? They can with clicker training! Kitty showed that he could not only keep up with the big dogs, but that he could win!
Want to train your own cat to do tricks? Learn how with our Cat Training Kit!