How to Teach a Cat to Fetch: Five Simple Steps

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Yes, you read the title right! While it seems like a dog’s thing, some felines may have already proven to you that cats, too, can play fetch! Perhaps, you’ve heard about it or have seen a cat do it. If you’re interested in learning how to teach a cat to fetch, we’ve got you covered in this article.

Aside from earning you bragging rights about how great your cat is, the training makes for a great bonding experience with your pet. And once your furry baby finally gets the drill, the fetch session will give it the exercise it needs.

Preparations You Need to Make Before the Training Session

Before you start the training session, here are a few things you need to do:

  • Find a conducive place to teach your cat this trick.

The fewer distractions, the better. As you would have noticed, cats can easily get distracted. To keep your cat focused on the task, find a place that’s quiet and with very little to nothing going on.

You would also want to choose a small room with few obstacles, which will make going back and forth easier. Once your cat gets the drill, you can move to a bigger area.

  • Pick a good time to train.

Choose a time when your pet is the most active. That would usually be before a meal. Exercising during nap time is, of course, a bad idea.

  • Choose your cat’s favorite toy for the task.

This toy must be small and can be easily carried by your pet’s mouth. If your buddy already has a favorite toy that fits the criteria, you can use that as a dedicated toy for your fetch training. If there’s none, then find one that will pique its interest. You can take a cue from its favorite plaything. Does it make a sound? Perhaps a rolled up plastic bag or a piece of paper?

  • Prepare some treats.

A reward is an important element in training. Keep some treats on hand as an incentive. Be generous with your praise or pats as well.

  • Get a clicker (optional). 

A clicker works hand in hand with a treat. It’s especially helpful when training pets, and it works on the principle of learning by association. When your pet does something that you want it to do, click the device and give it a treat. This forces your pet to pay close attention to what it was doing right to get the click and earn the reward.

  • Pack-up loads of patience and make the training fun.

See the activity as bonding time and as a team challenge for you and your pet to accomplish. You can allow three to five minutes per day for the training. Spending hours at a time for the trick can be too much—if not futile—for cats since they have a short attention span.

So, be realistic about it. Don’t expect your pet cat to get the entire task in one session. You may want to divide the task into mini-lessons, celebrating the small steps or progress you’re both making each day. In other words, don’t get so worked up about the results and just enjoy the process.

The Steps on How to Teach a Cat to Fetch

Once you have determined the perfect place, time, and tool for your training, it’s time to set out to the task:

  • Have your cat focus on your dedicated fetch toy.

Hold the toy just a little above your cat’s head and let it sniff the object. You can use a training clicker to help you. Every time your pet looks at the toy, press the clicker, and offer it a treat. Repeat the process until touching the toy becomes automatic for your pet.

  • Wait for your pet to pick up the toy from your hand using its mouth.

Once touching the toy becomes automatic for your pet, do not click your clicker or give it a treat. Your pet will instinctively put the toy in its mouth in an attempt to guess what will get a click and a reward. When your cat does this, give a click and a treat. Repeat and reinforce.

  • Direct your cat to pick the toy up from the floor.

Put the toy on the ground. Your cat should approach it and pick it up by its mouth. Once this happens, perform the click and treat drill. Repeat the process, moving the object to different parts of the room.

  • Have your pet bring the toy to you.

Put the toy behind your cat. When your pet picks it up and turns to you with the item, click and give it a treat. Repeat the drill, placing the toy farther from your cat each time.

Once your cat realizes that what you want it to do is to fetch the toy, give the throw-and-fetch trick a try. Reward successful fetches with a treat. This will also teach it to drop the toy to get the treat.

If you’re not into the clicker training, you can try other methods. Some pets will readily respond to praising and petting. Other cats have also learned this trick by merely observing what their humans want them to do. They demonstrate this by throwing the ball across the room, crossing the floor on all fours towards the toy, picking it up with their mouth, and traveling back to the starting point.

When you opt for this method, make sure your cat is observing you do it again and again. When your pet finally understands what you want it to do, remember to reinforce with a treat and some affection.

  • Separate the fetch toy from other playthings.

After every training or play session, store the toy separately from its regular stuff. This should give it special value. Your cat will also come to associate it with a fetch session with you.

  • Up the fetch game.

Add another player to the game. Have a friend stand on the other end. Your cat should be in the middle. Pass the toy between you and your friend. Involve your cat by having it fetch the toy once in a while.

Curious if these steps on how to teach a cat to fetch works? Give it a try!

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