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  • A game of tricks

    For the last five weeks, Cuppie has been enrolled in a "cat tricks" class. Sometimes, I'm not sure if I've managed to teach her anything, or if I've just given three cats a way to sneak more treats out of me. 

    Unless I'm exceptionally lucky, I can't just train one cat. Most of the time, there are three, though sometimes I can get away with just two. The cool thing is that if you station train your cats, you can kind of get them to sit in one place while you work with one at a time. You just have to reward the cats you aren't working with for sitting where they're supposed to. I feel like I have some exceptionally cooperative cats, but then again, if someone were to tell me that *I* could have cookies just for sitting in this one spot while someone else had to earn their cookies, I'd see that I had the better deal. 

    The important part is that it feels like a game to them, and that you make it as clear as possible what the game is. They'll test it out - do I get a treat for just getting near your hand, or do I really have to touch your finger? Do I have to step over the bar, or can I just walk around it and we call it good? 

    Make your changes incremental. If your cat starts to succeed at one stage of the game, don't be afraid to make it more challenging - but also, understand that you may have to dial it back down.

    Also, the weirdest things can affect whether the cat knows what's going on. I had the chance to work with some humane society cats - and one would get very good at doing high fives through the bars of the cage. But as soon as that door was opened, it was like everything he'd learned flew out the door. I had to walk him back through his queues to get back to the high fives - even then, he was super distracted at now having visual access to his neighbors. 

    It's been a lot of fun. So far, Cuppie's most impressive trick is a high five. Considering that Mikenna never reliably mastered sitting on command, I feel pretty proud. 

    With any luck, I'll catch Vizzi up to Cuppie with the high fives, and then we'll start working on spins more and introducing the concept of going through a hoop. 

    Now, if I can only train them to wash the dishes.