Anyone out there who has a cat is probably reading the title of this and laughing. Go ahead, laugh, but fact of the matter is, cats are highly intelligent creatures and very trainable!
I acquired my first cat in 2008. Kali was adopted from the Pasadena Humane Society in Southern California when she was about 2.5 years old. Given that I had never had a cat or dog in my life prior to her, I had no idea what to expect with her. The one thing I was worried about when I got her home was scratching! I wanted to make sure she didn’t ever get in the habit of scratching carpet, furniture or anything of the sort. As an attempt to prevent this behavior, I bought her a scratch post and upon getting her home and comfortable in her new surroundings, I encouraged her to scratch the post by using a string that she loved to chase and wrapping the string around the post. She would scratch at it, trying to get it and I would provide positive reinforcement for that scratching behavior by giving her treats and by lovingly petting her. She learned this behavior in no time and would keep going to her post to scratch and get her treat. Now, years later, she still goes to that same post to scratch and looks over at me while doing so as if to say, “I know you like when I do this, so where’s my treat?!” but I don’t reward that behavior anymore. It’s not necessary, she’s already learned it. Now all I need to do is occasionally reward her with love and attention when she scratches her post.
From the scratching post I moved on to other tricks: sit, down, roll over, spin, jump up, jump down, kisses, etc. All of these tricks she learned easily with positive reinforcement and hand signals. Though I don’t keep her doing these tricks much anymore, she can go months without doing the lay down and roll over command and she will still remember it.
After learning these tricks so easily, I decided to attempt what I considered to be a huge task: getting Kali, my cat, to use the toilet. With a little online research, I gradually got her accustomed to jumping up to the toilet to use her litterbox, then got her used to using a modified litter box that was inserted under the toilet seat, eventually weaned her off of kitty litter and then on to water. In less than 2 months, she was completely toilet trained. Now that I have a second cat, who I never trained, there are litter boxes in the house, but Kali will still use the toilet! See for yourself: