Special Reports

Teaching your cat to do tricks

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cats have long been thought to be very independent pets. They do their own thing, in their own time, when they want to. But we've found one local woman whose house cat goes way beyond that.

Zucca is a 13-year-old delightful little house cat. And while she looks like your average cat, she's anything but!

"She kind of blows my mind."

Dr. Cynthia Otto, Penn Veterinary Medicine, has spent years training her dog, Dolce, for competitions.

She said one day, during an at-home training session, Zucca decided to join in.

"Then one day she just, jumped over the jump," she said.

And from there Zucca blossomed. She can give her paw on command, roll over, play the piano and jump over hurdles. In all, Zooka knows about 35 tricks and actually has a "tricks" title she earned from a well-known trainer.

"It really has made her more interactive with us," Dr. Otto said.

Being a veterinarian, Dr. Otto said teaching a cat versus a dog is a very different process.

"They're not nearly as easy as dogs. It's not as natural for them," she explained. "She'll take a lot longer to learn something and we do things in small steps."

So how do you know if your cat can do this? Dr. Otto suggests simply start by playing with your cat.

"Giving them a toy, something to play with and you know even playing with a toy is something that, that might be an opportunity. But just trying," she said.

And watch for things your cat may already be doing.

"If you have a cat that fetches paper or whatever, there are all sorts of things that you can train. That cat is already obviously giving you behavior so you can kind of build on that," she said.

If your cat kneads a lot or tends to use their paws to touch things, then introduce a baby piano or big button baby toys to them. And foods, food, food, use their food or treats to reinforce every time they get something right.

Another thing you can teach your cat, using the toilet instead of a litter box. We all remember the cat in the movie "Meet the Parents" well a local woman has created a device that will train your feline to do just that! She was even featured on ABC's "Shark Tank".

"Why would people want to have a litter box if they could be totally rid of it."

Rebecca Rescate of Morrisville, Bucks County founded CitiKitty after toilet training her own cat back in 2005.

"You can train cats of all age, all size, all breed it doesn't matter as long as the cat is 3-months old and they're healthy," she said.

Here's how it works. You put the training seat on the toilet with the completely closed portion exposed. Then you fill that with flushable cat litter. Every week, you remove a ring in the training seat so the hole exposed gets larger and larger, until finally the cat is using the toilet itself.

"For the average cat it takes about 3-6 weeks," she said.

If your feline is a little more particular, you may need to give it more time per ring.

And while the cat can't flush the toilet, Rebecca recommends getting an automatic flusher if you want that extra convenience.

CitiKitty retails for 30-dollars.

And by the way, Dr. Otto's dog, Dolce, knows 150 tricks, pretty amazing.

We'd like to see videos of your great pet tricks. Click here for a link to our Facebook page to upload your videos.

For more information: CitiKitty
Videos of Dolce & Zucca
101 Dog Tricks Series (this is the link to the "title" Zucca earned)
Dog Training Central
Cat Training Tips

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