How is it possible?
Cats just as many other animals react to one of the simplest forms of learning: classical conditioning. But what is that?
Classical conditioning was accidentally discovered by Ivan Pavlov. This is how the story went: Whenever Ivan prepared the food for his dog he noticed that his dog is salivating more than usual. This is because he was anticipating the food. Ivan not thinking much about it started to use a bell. He rang it every time before his dog got food. Over time he noticed that by only ringing the bell his dog salivated. Ivan realized that his dog learned to associate the bell with the food. This is how classical conditioning was discovered.
How does this help?
Classical conditioning is the foundation that leads to the research of operant conditioning. The difference is that classical conditioning creates associations like the bell and the food. Operant conditioning uses reward and the absence of it to change behavior. The idea is that you will repeat behavior that is more likely of reward.
Operant conditioning is all around us. It does not only affect animal behavior but ours too. Imagine you are doing great work and your boss gives you a raise. You are more likely to keep on doing good work for a chance of another raise. That is simple operant conditioning.
Put it all together, how to train your cat
So how does all this information help now with training your cat? See, cats are intelligent animals that can easily learn associations. The form of operant condition training is known as clicker training. This is more popular for dogs but works just as good for cats.
The clicker itself is first associated with reward. This is be done by giving a click and then the reward. That’s simple standard classical conditioning. Now we use the click and reward to train tricks like sit. As soon as your cat does sit, give the click, followed by reward.
You might wonder what the click is good for because reward is coming anyway. Shouldn’t that be signal enough? In essence it should be, but the click has advantages in communication. It gives a better signal to your cat that what it did right in that very moment will be rewarded. If you don’t use the click it makes training a bit more difficult.
There are many more things you can train your cat to do as you saw in the video. To make training better and easier for your cat don’t forget to use a clicker. If you want to continue with this have a look at www.mrjinx.tv for a full training scheme and see what your cat is capable of.
During the summer we republish some of our best blogs that have only been published in Dutch. This is a translation of the formerly published Donders Wonders blog post: Katten kunstjes leren kan echt!
Original author: Adjmal Sarwary