How to Train Your Cat, or, How Your Cat Trains You

Tubbs strikes again!

I’ve gotten into a few arguments recently over a very unexpected topic. It’s not politics, not work related, not about who’s smooching who on the soap of the day. It’s about… well, let’s call it a hobby.

I am training my cat.

I’m guessing that you just had one of two reactions:

  1. Okay…? Shrug.
  2. Uh, no. You are not training a cat. I have met cats. Cats do not get trained.

I’m also guessing that most of the people in Category One are dog people, and most of the folks in Category Two are cat people.

Look, I love cats. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a cat person in opposition to a dog person, or any other kind of person, because animals in general are totally my jam. But, cat person or not, anybody who loves cats knows one thing for sure:

Cats are assholes.

It’s okay. We love them anyway.

It’s part of their charm. They’re obstinate, independent, and unpredictable. Of course, each cat has its own personality and quirks, but in general? They’re not nearly as eager to please as dogs are.

My cat is a little bit of a dog-cat, I’ll admit. But let me clear this up right here:

She is not eager to please.

She is eager to get what she wants—invariably, food—and I have what she wants.

When I say that I’ve trained my cat, what I really mean—what she would tell you, if mere humans could understand the divine tongue of our feline overlords—is that she has trained me to dispense food in response to her commands.

Our simple human minds call these commands “tricks.”

One of her “tricks” is to come when she’s called, which she only sometimes does. This is because her human has become unreliable. Too often, I call her without a treat in hand, so she will come over if and when she damn well pleases. Mostly, she sits there and watches me make a fool of myself for her amusement.

Her second trick is to stand up on her back legs.

Yes–like a human.

This one is simple to understand. When I hold a treat above her head, she stands up to get it. She is not obeying a command, of course. She’s just collecting the food that this incompetent simpleton is holding up too high.

Her most impressive trick?

The mighty hi-five.

I’m pretty proud of this one. Of course, that’s my human hubris talking. If I’m being really honest, the idea was all hers.

It came about because I was holding the treat so high up that even when she stood on her back legs, she couldn’t reach with her mouth. What’s a cat to do? She reached up with her paw.

If there’s something she wants that’s out of reach, her general response is to bat it with her paw. But, I’m sure that if we could understand her words, this is what she would say:

“Here, you idiot. Yes, that thing. Bring it down to me.”

From there, it was simple for her to train me to dispense treats. She soon learned that even if I didn’t have a treat in my hand, she could press her paw against my palm and still get food.

What an obedient human!

So, fellow cat lover, you see that it’s not so hard after all. Follow those guiding principles, and before you know it your cat will have you well-trained.


Yes you are! Yes you are!

Good human.

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