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How to Teach Your Cat to High Five (Step-By-Step Guide)

Looking to teach your cat how to high-five? Wondering exactly how to do it or if your cat is even able to perform such a cool trick? Well, you’ve come to the right place. The truth is that like dogs, cats can be trained to perform certain tricks or respond to behavioral commands.

And training is simpler than you may think. With a little bit of positive reinforcement and consistency, you can teach your cat to high-five in a matter of weeks. In this article, we’re going to teach you how to do it, as well as how to train your cat to sit on command.

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Pre-Training Tips

Before you start training your cat, it’s important to note that the process of training your cat should be a fun interaction between you and your feline. So, before you start the training process be sure that you create the right environment and present the training in a way that’s enjoyable for the cat.

It’s common for cats to be a bit apprehensive in some cases, though this may vary with each can. But overall, both of you should have fun. So, how do you make it exciting? You do this by using what are referred to as ” reinforcers”. This is similar to the “reward” that dogs receive when they perform certain obedience commands.

Reinforcers will usually fall into three categories:
  • Interactions, such as reaffirming talking, petting, and brushing
  • Toys, such as toy wands, balls, fuzzy mice, etc.
  • Food, rewards such as deli meat, cat treats, and mazes with hidden treats

Consider mixing up your reward system, so that your cat can learn that performing certain actions will result in something positive.

cat being fed a cat treat or cat food by hand
Image Credit: Jakub Zak, Shutterstock

Establish Your “Markers”

Training markers or sounds that you establish to immediately let your cat know that it has performed a specific behavior correctly. For example, this can include the use of a clicker, hand claps, or simply saying “Yes” in an excited tone and then petting the cat’s head.

Choose The Best Times to Train

Cats can be finicky, so they won’t always be as open to training as dogs may be. One of the best things that you can do when training your cat is to choose the appropriate time to perform the training. This is usually when the cat’s in a good mood.

So, for example, if your cat hates baths, it’s best not to try to initiate a training session right after bath time. Consider training your cat after mealtime or when the cat is playing with toys and in an excited mood.

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The 4 Steps To Train Your Cat to High-Five

cat sits on the table and gives her owner a high five paw
Image Credit: rossiaa33, Shutterstock

1. Show Your Hand

Like humans and dogs, cats use their hands to communicate and show affection. To start things off, place your palm in front of the cat right above its head. Your cat will instinctively try to reach your hand, as long as it’s not too far. Ideally, the hand should be only about three to four inches away from your cat’s head, giving it enough space to reach it with its paw.

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2. Wait

Stand there for a few seconds with your palm reached out and simply wait for your cat to touch it. Keep in mind that you may need to do this a few times before your cat reacts–but patience is key.

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3. Use A Marker

As soon as your cat taps your hand, even slightly, use your marker. This will immediately let your cat know that it’s performed a good job. Immediately after, offer your cat a reward, such as a head rub or a treat. Remember, the reinforcers will help your cat associate this activity with “good” things.

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4. Repeat It Again

After rewarding your cat, place your hand back above its head and wait for a few seconds again. Complete this step anywhere from 5 to 10 times, or until your cat loses interest.

If your cat suddenly runs away to go take a nap or partake in another activity, let it. You don’t want to force the training on the cat, as it can lead to negative associations. And of course, there is always tomorrow.

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How to Teach Your Cat to Go to the Toilet

cat outside the litter box
Image Credit: Jennifer McCallum, Shutterstock

Choose Your Phrases

Just like you can teach your cat to high-five you can also teach it to learn new commands and phrases. It helps to first make a list of things that you want your cat to learn. It’s best to use sentences that are short and important. This can include simple phrases such as “potty time” or “let’s go pot”.

Always Follow Up

Outcomes are super important when it comes to your cat’s training. And it’s just as important to have a consistent practice schedule. So if you say, “potty time” and you don’t follow up with taking your cat to the toilet, your feline friend may quickly lose interest and you may find it ignoring you the next time you use the phrase.

Create a Practice Schedule

It’s best to stick to some sort of training schedule each day or at certain times each day. The more your cat associates certain times of the day with the phrase, the more it will remember it.

For example, if it hears the phrase “potty time” right after you feed it, it won’t take long before it begins to instinctively head right to the toilet after eating. Be sure to use the phrase at the same time each day and after each activity. practice this for 1 to 2 weeks and be sure to stay consistent.

Test Your Cat

After a week or two, be sure to test the cat’s knowledge of the phrases that you’ve practiced. Say the phrase around the same time of day and wait to see if the cat goes straight to the toilet on its own, or if it stares at you as if you have two heads. If it’s the latter, you’ll need to keep practicing.

Reward the Cat Quickly

And as with any type of training be sure to reward your cat with a treat, pat on the head, or verbal affirmation. This is where you can help reinforce the connection between the words and the cat performing the action. Afterward, repeat the phrase to your cat and then provide the reward.

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Practices to Avoid When Training Your Cat

cat looking up
Image Credit: victoriyasmail, Shutterstock

Physical Punishment

There is never any reason not to physically abuse or punish your cat in any way. Remember that cats never misbehave to spite you, they simply act on instinct and for a specific purpose. Their natural inclination is to simply try to solve a problem in the best way they know how to do.

So, if you punish your kitten by striking it, rubbing its nose in its messes, putting it on the time out, or yelling, you’ll find that you’ll just make the cat fear you–and this is never good.  Punishing animals is not only counter-productive, but it’s completely inhumane.

Not Providing an Enriching Environment

Remember that cats are natural hunters, and their animal instincts are always on. So, when training your cat, remember that they all need stimulation and opportunities for discovery. If you find that they can’t stay focused on the training, it’s probably because they are simply bored. So, try to find ways to get your cat more engaged so they can be more interactive when it’s time for training or play.

Avoid Negative Reinforcement

What exactly is negative reinforcement? Negative reinforcement is punishing your cat in any way to elicit the behaviors that you’re looking to establish. A good example of this is placing a shock caller on the cat and shocking it when it gets something wrong. It could also be pressing your palm on the cat’s butt until it sits down and rewarding it by removing your hand.

Note that many negative reinforcement techniques, such as these are abusive and should never be used to train your cat. Always lead with positive reinforcement as it will help build your cat’s confidence and strengthen your relationship.

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Wrapping Things Up

To wrap things up, yes, you can teach your cat to perform high-fives, verbalize, and even use the toilet. The key to success with these behaviors is simple consistency and follow-up with rewards and reinforcers. Also, keep in mind that every cat is different.

And older cats may not be as inclined or eager to practice as a young kitten or adolescent cat, so just be patient. Remember to practice when your cat is more susceptible and open to training, such as after mealtime or when they’re already engaging in other activities.

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Featured Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

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