He’ll teach you how to train your cat

The really important thing, according to this professional, is to ‘get inside a cat’s mind’


He'll teach you how to train your catTraining a cat to walk a tightrope sounds preposterous to the average cat owner who can’t get their cat to come when called. Yet getting cats to jump through hoops and push dogs in buggies in front of thousands of people has earned Ukrainian-born juggler Gregory Popovich a fortune in North America and fame on Letterman and Leno.

Popovich admits that at first the notion of training house cats seemed nearly impossible “given their famously independent streak that knows no rival in the world of domestic animals.” But now, having trained dozens of stray cats to perform in six circus shows a week in Vegas, Popovich is able to share for the first time his techniques for teaching a cat everything from circus stunts to how to stop pooping outside the litter box.

In his new book You CAN Train Your Cat, Popovich writes that it was important to figure out “how to get inside a cat’s mind.” While a dog “will go through all sorts of contortions in order to gain a doggy treat . . . most cats prefer a loving pat or a little kiss on its cheek from its master, accompanied by an exclamation of praise, such as, ‘What a good kitty you are!’ The human voice, when used correctly, can have a hypnotizing effect on a cat.”

If you’re adopting a cat to train for tricks, Popovich advises, search the shelter for a cat that’s less than a year old, with an outgoing personality. After studying a cat to understand its personality, writes Popovich, “I set about playing with it. If it was a jumper prone to tracking and tackling a piece of yarn, that was our trick, and I slowly trained the cat to hop from one stool to another, then through a hoop.” He claims two five-minute rehearsals a day are all a cat can take.

To teach a cat to jump from chair to chair, then through a hoop, begin with a feather on a stick. “Waving it will attract the cat’s attention. You lead with the feather (waving the feather in the spot you want the cat to jump to) as you say, in an even tone, ‘C’mon, c’mon, c’mon.’ At this point, the cat is thinking about jumping. Now you change your tone of voice into one that is firm, and louder (though not so loud that it will startle or frighten the cat). ‘Jump!’ you say. This final command is a prompt the cat will readily respond to, and remember for the next time.”

The “greatest secret” Popovich learned “was to reward my performing cats with grand gestures of affection only after they performed their tricks. When rehearsing at home, if a cat hopped through a hoop, that’s when I’d give it generous adoration.”

Cats love affection, but be careful, he advises. “If you stroke your cat for too lengthy a period, such as for more than a minute, it may grow irritated and angry. It may suddenly, unexpectedly, turn and sink its teeth into your hand. Here is a tip for extricating yourself from having your arm or leg mauled by your otherwise loving pet. Remain absolutely passive. Just freeze, not making a sound. This is a sign of subordination to your cat. Most of them, having subdued the moving limb, will release the grip of their mouth and forepaws.”

Cats love a game of chase, he writes. “If your cat is staring at you, then goes and hides behind a curtain, it wants you to go find it there. Or if the cat tears like a bullet through the entire room and ends up in an opened closet, then peeks out at you, that’s your prompt to pursue it.” But again, be careful, he cautions. “If it then lies on its belly, seemingly inviting you to stroke its stomach, it will likely seize your hand by its front paws, bite your wrist and kick and dig its rear claws into your arm.”

Sometimes an angry adult cat will poop outside its litter box. “Perhaps even in quite a vengeful manner, leaving droppings in the living room or bedroom.” If this happens, never scold the cat by its name. “Bring the cat to the scene of the crime, and say in a strong voice something along the lines of ‘Why did you do that?!’ Then confine the cat with a litter box in a small area, such as a bathroom with a closed door for a half-day or overnight. This incarceration is corrective punishment that should prove effective.”

Finally, “What if your cat proves to be very trainable, and you become a skilled duo performing tricks together, then one day it simply won’t respond to your cues?” There’s only one solution, explains Popovich. “You’ll have to try another day. Even a cat that’s always been eager to play along may, for whatever mysterious reason, not be in the right frame of mind one day and simply look away from you with complete lack of interest.”


He’ll teach you how to train your cat

  1. Someone should say it: training cats is utter nonsense. If you want to train a pet, you should choose a mammal that is much more intelligent than Felis catus domesticus, and has been selectively bred for thousands of years to respond to human training.

    In other words, get a dog. Preferably a working breed, like border collies.

    • well… i can see that youre completey stupid, know nothing about cats, and are likely one of those heathens that runs cats over for fun, i hope you dont neglect your children the same way that you negelct to notice that all animals have intelligence when that intelligence is stimulated. training cats only takes a little patience. and this guys article is total nonsense.

      • "heathen" is the wrong word here. I'm a heathen and an ailurophile (cat lover). :)

    • Sounds to me like you've never had much experience with animals. Probably never been kicked off a horse, or been charged by a killer bull. There is much to learn Grasshopper.

    • Well you are so stupid! You have no idea how cats have different personalities and inteligence.
      Only insecure people don't like cats! You don't own the cat. You are cat's possesion.They like or don't.

      I love dogs.But if you bribe the dog he is friend with you, even if you are stranger.Some breeds are very inteligent
      (more then some people)but it is realy stupidity and insecurity of people call cat's not inteligent

    • Crit_Reasoning… you talk tough, but I bet you are a closet kitty lover……

  2. What is the source for that illustration?

  3. My cats have asked (ordered) me to note that humans do not train cats. Cats train humans. And they're quite good at it.

  4. My daughter has 2 cats, both dominant, extremely independent, and #@%&* crazy like a fox. They run her household, and will treat her badly if she doesn't love/serve them enough. I didn't believe it when she told me "not to mess with Cedric", and I got chased around her apartment — really chased, NOT in fun!. This is no joke. My daughter has the deep scratches to prove it. Cedric is one bad-assed cat. But then, he is so smart that you have to respect him. The things he can do, if I told you, would make you say "That's impossible", so I won't go there. He doesn't ask for respect, he demands it. I absolutely LOVE pets that insist on respect, dog, cat, reptile or whatever. They're sometimes better "levelers" than most humans are. I'm keenly looking forward to reading this book, "You CAN Train Your Cat", by Popovich! I especially like the part about "getting into your cat's head".

  5. I beg to differ, my cat Ryland sits for his treats on command. He also rolls over, loves the water, and loves to have his tummy rubbed. Most of my friends call him the Einstein of cats. His personality is more like a dog as he follows me everywhere….so much for the theory of cats being independant.

    • oh yeah Ryland's favorite game is fetch as well (albeit they are toy mice) but he retrieves better than any dog I've ever met…

  6. I have 2 cats trained to wait for alarm clock in mornring before trying to get me out of bed,summer time couple days in remembering my alarm not the next doors or when coffee alarm going off.i snozze they wait, if way past get up time they wake me up.same for supper its not 5 oclock they wait. They play catch treats in mid air. by both paws or the mouth. I love my cats >They even do kitty dutties.cuddles for me

    • Our cat has developed his own routine in the past six or eight months…shortly after the morning alarm clock sounds, he will come into our bedroom,hop on the bed and walk up and stand on my chest (or the wifes ) and stare at you..when he gets no response, he comes in nose to nose and lets out a Gawd awful meow ( like a cow giving birth) then off he goes and sits by fridge, this is repeated until we hit the deck. Also when my wife brings out the vacume cleaner, he will plunk himself in my recliner and wait to be vacumed (groomed?) if she neglects to meet his demands he will proceed to shred my chair…so I would say he has us pretty much trained …Whats next ??

  7. Maybe some of the tips werent exactly perfect but it was a very enjoyable article.Thanks.Please exclude the rude comments,I think that saying you dont like something is good enough.,

  8. my cat nods her head (by pushing her nose in an upward motion) when i talk to her (but only about things she had previously learned about ) ex: "this is fred", "do you want treats?", "mama washed your bed", "here's your blanket", etc… my daughter comming home from college, upon seeing these types of gestures, stated that she would not have otherwise believed that a cat could "understand".

  9. I was able to train my kitten when he was a couple of months old to open from either side (pushing it open was, of course, the easier part).
    He is also trained to know when he does something wrong. Just the TONE of my voice will give away how I feel and onto him. When he does something bad and I have an angry tone, without yelling, he will actually have a guilty face.

    Training cats DOES work. If you have the cat with you since it's born, even better.

  10. what is the thesis of this article? and whats the key points support the thesis?

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