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How to Train a Cat to Touch Your Hand

Learn how to train a cat to touch your hand from board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. E'Lise Christensen, DVM in this Howcast video.


When you're thinking about basic training for cats, the two most common things that people train their cats to do, if they're going to do other work with their cat, are to teach their cat to come when called and teach their cat to touch. Touch is an excellent tool when you're using behavior modification with a cat. It can help you get a cat out of a stressful situation and move your cat to an appropriate situation. It can also help you shape new tricks. Tricks can be great even if you don't need them as a way to enrich your cat's environment.

So, I'm going to see if I can get Frya interested in working with us today even though she's pretty snoozy. Hi little miss. So, I have some treats that Frya usually likes, and she knows they're right here so I'm going to see if I can reinforce or reward her for touching her nose to my finger. Frya! So, I'm going to stick my finger out close to where she is, and I don't know if you caught that but there was a tiny little nose touch to my finger and I gave her a treat. Now, these treats are much larger than I would normally use. Normally I would use about half this size but she really likes these treats and they're difficult to break up.

So, I'm giving her big ones today. So again, if we're going to teach her to touch, to start out I'm going to get her attention a little bit so she doesn't fall asleep on me again. I'm going to put my finger out close to her, I'm going to wait and see if she gets interested. With cats sometimes you have to wait longer than you think. Now, I've waited a while so I'm going to take my finger away and I'm going to re-present it closer.

Then, she touched and I'm going to give her the treat. Now, it might seem kind of silly to teach your cat to touch your finger, after all most of them do that naturally, but that's the reason we start work on that as a basic tool. Because if you try to teach your cat something that's not normal for them it's going to take you longer and be confusing for the cat whereas this one is a normal queue that many cats can learn relatively quickly and that you can use for behavior modification and training later. That's how you teach your cat to touch.

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