How to train a kitten—basic obedience exercises and advanced tricks!
Kittenhood is the best period for training. Kittens are super inquisitive and impressionable, and anything you teach them, good or bad, stays with them for life.
Learning how to train a kitten shouldn’t be challenging with the right advice. Training is a process of establishing a respectful line of communication between you and your kitty. Well-trained kittens grow up to be emotionally balanced and cooperative adults.
In this kitten training guide, we’ll present what felines-in-training typically respond to. We’ll also tackle the three levels of training (based on progression):
Kitten obedience training
Teaching your kitten tricks
Kitten behaviour training—what to expect
It’s a common misconception that cats are not easily trainable because they don’t have the enthusiastic and excitable demeanour of dogs. The truth is that felines are highly intelligent and perceptive, which makes them highly trainable. Their predatory instincts entail a winning attitude, while centuries of domestication imprinted on them the drive to impress the humans they’ve bonded with.
Cats respond well to most cognitive training exercises when reasoned with appropriately. Still, you cannot expect them to do intensive acrobatic tricks like dogs because of their physical limitations and personality traits.
How do you train a kitten? The basic strategy
Like dogs, cats also react to the principles of classical conditioning, a learning method developed in the 1900s by Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. It aims to provoke automatic or reflex behaviour in a pet in response to an external stimulus like the ringing of a bell or the use of a particular word.
So whatever you’re training your kitten for, your job is to help them to associate the desired action with external stimuli like:
- A command
- The sound of a clicker
- A hand gesture
Every time your kitten obeys, reward them with motivating positive reinforcements like treats, praises, pats, and cheering gestures. Repeat the exercise several times till they spontaneously complete the action in response to the external stimulus (because the positive reinforcement has conditioned them).
Never use negative reinforcements to train your cat or kitten, as it can have undesired, even adverse results. Hitting, rough-handling, and a harsh tone are inappropriate kitten-parenting tolls and will cause your kitty to fear you. They’ll shut down and may even develop stress-induced behavioural patterns like biting, over-grooming, and urinating outside the litter box.
Training shouldn’t be a stressor—always prioritise your kitten’s well-being.
Beginners—kitten obedience training 101
A kitten’s basic obedience training should begin at an early developmental stage, preferably when they:
- Are weaning or weaned off
- Start to walk and explore their surroundings
- Stop sleeping all the time
- Are ready to spend time away from their mother
If you’ve adopted a new kitten—no matter their age—it’s best to start training them once they’re comfortable and secure in their new home. Forcing the training would overwhelm them because they’re mentally fragile and still processing the unknown environment.
There are two aspects of obedience training:
- Learning acceptable behaviour
- Developing healthy eating habits
General kitten training tips for beginners—how to start
Behaviour training exercises should enable your kitty to communicate in a disciplined manner and differentiate between good and bad behaviour.
Here are five essential elements of behavioural obedience training:
- House-training—House-trained kittens don’t litter in the house but use their tray or go outside to do their business. Take them to the tray (or the garden) after meals and naps because that’s when they usually need to go
- Responding to their name—Call your kitten by their name at scheduled meal times. Take the food bowl in your hands and place them on the floor only when they respond to their name
- Learning basic commands—Train your kitten to follow basic commands like “sit”, “stand”, “stay”, and “lie down” with the help of treats. Hover the treat over your kitten and use simple hand gestures to guide them. Don’t forget to pat your cat and show appreciation every time they follow a command. You can use the same technique if you want your kitty to sit in a:
- Cat carrier (for trips to the vet)
- Playpen (it keeps them safe in case you have to leave them alone for a few hours)
- Avoiding scratching or chewing—Scratching and chewing are common feline urges to alleviate growing pains (like teething). Don’t be angry if your kitten targets household stuff. Redirect their attention to suitable items like:
- Chewing toys
- Scratching posts
- Playing nice—Kittens are playfully combative, but you should never validate or tolerate their attacks and antics because they can hurt humans or other pets when they grow older and bigger. Every time your kitten plays dirty, don’t yell but walk away. They’ll register the loss of human interaction and stop repeating the unwanted actions
The kitty privilege—I always behave, and when I don’t, I get away with it because I’m cute.
Source: Rébecca Noël
Teaching a kitten to eat
Food is vital for your kitten’s well-being, but cats can be overenthusiastic eaters, especially if they are feral or come from depravity. Gorging and spilling food should be prevented or corrected with training. To develop good eating habits in your kitten, you should:
- Feed them a wet-food diet—Wet food is typically healthier for cats than over-processed and carb-loaded dry food. Wet meals should satisfy your kitten’s dietary needs and keep them full. A complete dry-food meal plan is not recommended as it can lead to dehydration, odd cravings (like eating litter or wool), or overeating to the point of obesity
- Follow a strict feeding schedule—Train your kitten to consume wet food at preset times. If your kitty begs for snacks at odd hours, fix the behaviour by:
- Control serving sizes—Kittens have a ravenous appetite till they turn adults and even later because they need more calories to develop and grow. Feed your kitten small portions throughout the day (according to their body weight and activity levels). Big meals can cause retching and regurgitation, and the discomfort can make your kitten avoid the particular wet or dry food
You should also train your kitten not to eat anything besides their regular food and treats to prevent them from nibbling on kitty-toxic items like grapes, onions, and uncooked meat, which carry a high risk of contamination.
Intermediate—teaching a kitten to mingle
Once your kitty aces their obedience training, move to various socialisation exercises to help them get along with people or other animals. Some activities you can try teaching them include:
- Cuddling and sitting on your lap
- Making paw gestures (shaking hands or giving a fist-bump)
- Spending time with other humans and pets
When your favourite hooman can’t function without cuddles.
Getting a cat to enjoy human affection
Certain breeds like Ragdolls, Siamese, Persians, and Maine Coons are natural lickers and snugglers. British Shorthairs and Bengals are not as touchy-feely and may require training to tolerate or enjoy human touch. The training is crucial to warm up your kitten to grooming sessions and vet visits. Here’s how to do it:
- Get them used to your proximity and scent (over a few days)
- When your kitty appears relaxed, gently rub their chin or the back of their ears
- If your kitten accepts your gesture, try picking them up or rubbing their belly—offer them a treat if they oblige
- In case they don’t, try another time
Keep in mind that petting can induce stress in some cats. If your kitten constantly resists touching, it’s smarter to respect their boundaries and leave them be.
Now try remembering all of that, hooman!
Training a cat to make paw gestures
Paw gestures are mentally stimulating and help kittens build a natural bond with humans. You can get your kitten to shake hands, do fist-bumps, or wave—here’s how:
- Sit face-to-face with your kitten—your eyes should be at the same level as theirs
- Extend your hand to their paw and use a command of your choice, such as:
- Use positive reinforcement when your kitten completes the gesture
Repeat the exercise several times each day, although most kittens pick up paw gestures within a day or two.
Paw-fives for all the secret jokes me and my hooman share!
Source: Linda Robert
Introducing cats to other humans and animals
Refer to the table below for tips on introducing your kitten to other humans and animals:
Most kittens are initially comfortable with only one or two members of the household. Here’s how you can expand the list:
Be mindful when you let your kitten interact with other pets. If you notice any hissing or violent behaviour, distract them with treats, toys, or loud noises
Advanced—how to teach a kitten tricks
Advanced training is not a necessity but helps a kitten stay mentally or physically stimulated. If your kitten is a pro at intermediate training, help them explore new activities like walking to the park or mastering a challenging task. Here are some tricks you can try:
Kittens are likely to roll over when they are hungry, tired, or sleepy. Here’s what you can do:
Cats love the sense of accomplishment they get from games like fetch and hide and seek. Since they have a sharp sense of smell, you can also set up a scavenger hunt with the help of treats
Jumping through a hoop
Here’s how to make your kitten jump through a hoop:
Common mistakes new cat parents make while training a kitten
Kitten training requires tact and patience. It will probably fail if you:
- Impose long training hours—Don’t exhaust your kitten by being painfully demanding with their training. They’ll be too tired to process anything. According to feline behaviourists, a training session should not last longer than 15 minutes because cats have a short attention span
- Don’t let your kitty enjoy the sessions—Regular training and no playtime will increase your kitten’s stress levels. Let your kitty unwind, whether through bird-watching by the window or making biscuits before going to bed
- Ignore their body language—A kitten will express discomfort when you’re pushing too hard. Learn the feline body language to make the sessions comfortable for your kitty
- Serve poor-quality cat food—Many kittens struggle to focus on their training because of poor nutrition and stunted growth. Kitties are at their best when they eat food with more than 50% animal protein, which is necessary for brain development, muscular growth, and optimal flexibility. Average cat food products often fail to provide adequate nutrition because they contain useless fillers like:
I’m tired. Let’s give it a rest, hooman. Or maybe I need better food to get my groove back?
Source: Amiya Nanda
Nurture your kitty-in-training with balanced food—try Untamed
The wrong cat food will not only crash your kitten’s training but make them sick often and reduce their overall quality of life. Go for Untamed’s high-protein, grain-free wet food to help your kitten grow up like a champ! We offer gravy and jelly dishes:
- Made with 60%–63% whole meat—With Untamed, your kitten is powered by human-grade whole meat and fish. We don’t use animal by-products, vegan and milk proteins, sugar, chemical colourants, and artificial taste boosters
- Formulated by vets—Our recipes are created by vets to deliver all essential micronutrients like taurine, calcium, and vitamins in the correct ratios. Regular Untamed meals help kittens:
- Gain optimal muscle tone
- Tap into their natural intelligence
- Stay active and alert, picking up on commands quickly
- Steamed gently—We simmer the ingredients because excessive heat can destroy their nutritional value. Your kitten will enjoy excellent gastrointestinal health without vomiting and diarrhoea
- Allergen-free—We use natural and hypoallergenic ingredients ideal for kittens with food allergies. Kitties with a sensitive tummy can try our single-protein-source dishes:
- Tuck-in Tuna in Jelly
- Chocka Chicken in Jelly
- Tested by fussy kittens—Cat parents all over the country are impressed by how Untamed charms the pickiest of kitties!
Training and good health go hand in hand—power up your kitty with Untamed!
Image (c) Untamed
Untamed enhances natural strength and flexibility in felines
- Overweight felines lose weight
- Control blood sugar in diabetic cats (along with prescription meds)
- Prevent common feline conditions related to dry food, such as:
Cat parents who have switched their kitties to the Untamed diet report the following benefits:
The Untamed Effect
The whole-meat magic—Untamed kitties stay adventure-ready for life!
Image (c) Untamed
See the benefits for yourself—order the Untamed trial pack
Here’s how you order the Untamed trial pack from our online cat food store:
- Take our TRY NOW quiz to tell us about your kitten
- Select products tailored to their preferences and needs
- Place the order
You’ll receive the goods in a day. Once your kitty samples our dishes, you can go for our monthly cat food subscription service. You’ll receive a customised meal selection on the same day each month with free shipping. Use your Untamed account to modify or cancel an order at your convenience.
We love nature and aim to preserve it, so our:
- Packaging is recyclable
- Operations are carbon-footprint neutral
- Meat is obtained from ethical farmers
- Seafood comes from dolphin-safe suppliers