Friday, June 23, 2017

Mue Mue, A Talent for the Ages

I have a ferocious little friend, my gray kitty Mue Mue.

My cat Mue Mue is a feisty, playful, funny, quirky and an extremely talented cat. He is almost 14 years old, which  means he is a senior kitty, although you'd never guess by his confidence, which more resembles the confidence of the fancy-free youth. His energetic charisma also gives him the illusion of youth. One thing you should never tell Mue Mue is that you can't teach old cats new tricks because he will quickly dispel this notion. My genius kitty is learning new tricks left and right! Here he is preforming his latest trick.....Stand:

While it is quite evident that my little monster Mue Mue is extremely talented and brilliant, most cats really can learn tricks. The main quality that the cat must possess in order to learn such amazing skills is that he be food motivated. My other little goofball Wendel, is not at all food motivated. So I have not worked with him on learning tricks. A delicious treat is not enough to convince him to shake or stand. He is a little bit of a free spirit and prefers to daydream and be cute.

If you have a treat motivated cat yourself, here is how you can train your own little darling to do amazing feats of trickery and talent.

What you need: A cat, a clicker, a bag of treats.
  1. First, teach your cat that a click gets a treat. While hanging out with your cat, click! and give a treat. Click! and treat. He will quickly make the appropriate associations and know that that happy click will get him what he wants. 
  2. Decide what trick you want to teach your cat. I recommend starting with shake. Gently pick up your cats paw and immediately click and give a treat right away. The power of the clicker is that it marks the exact moment of when the cat does something that you want. Cats, unlike dogs, are less evolutionary conditioned to respond to praise or changes in human voice or expression. So if you say "oh what a good kitty!" this will not be as effective as the click. The click is a distinct noise, associated with them doing a behavior that you find good.
  3. Make sure you clearly communicate to your cat what you want from him. When I ask my cat to shake, I say "Mue Mue, shake" while simultaneously placing my hand palm up in front of him. This way, he can associate both the word and the hand gesture to what I want. For stand, I say "Mue Mue, stand" and move my hands in an upward motion. I really think Mue Mue pays more attention to what I am doing with my hands then the words I am saying, so I do think it is quite important to have a helpful hand motion. 
  4. Spend about five minutes a day doing this with your cat. Spending too much time working on tricks is exhausting, frustrating and irritating to your furry feline friend. Devoting a solid five minutes a day is a good way to spend quality time with your kitty, enrich their mind through something new and novel and help them progress without making them dread trick practice time by overdoing it.
  5. Be cautious with the treats. You don't want training time to lead to an unhealthy and overweight cat. Read the back and count out how many you can use. A lot of treats you can break up into smaller pieces. 
  6. If your cat is unhappy and hates training time, STOP. While I do think cat's learning power is underestimated, not all cats are the same and if learning tricks makes your little feline unhappy, no reason to worry about teaching him tricks as I am sure he has a whole barrage of cute quirks, mannerisms and habits that delight the heart. With Mue Mue, he got a little irritated with me when I first started training, but the irritation rapidly dissipated when he realized treats were involved. If he had continued to behave as if he was irritated, we would have retired his training. Now, whenever he sees me pull the clicker out, he gets really excited!
  7. If you cat does seem to enjoy training, still make sure you are paying attention to what he may be communicating to you. Mue Mue sometimes has grumpy days and we will stop training time early if he seems extra frustrated or disinterested. While cat training is super fun for the humans, it should be something fun for your kitty too. It is a chance for enrichment and a way to use their brain power in an interesting way. If training ever becomes something that isn't fun for your cat, it is not worth it!
If you and your cat keep up with practice, before long, your own little guy or gal will be preforming amazing tricks! You will be glowing with pride!

Standing isn't Mue Mue's first trick, here he is shaking: Mue Mue, Shake!

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