We don’t usually associate cats with training the way we do with dogs. Being the aloof and independent creatures that they are, it’s kind of difficult to persuade our feline friends to do things that do not interest them.
Cats are like teenagers, they just want to be locked up somewhere and left alone to do their own thing. But even though cats can be quite a handful, to say that it’s impossible to teach them tricks would be wrong.
There are actually a number of cat breeds that can be easily taught a trick or two—one of them is the Maine Coon cat. Maine Coons are highly intelligent cats, which make them quite easy to train and housebreak. But although they are fast learners, training them still require time and a lot of patience.
Training a Maine Coon can be done in various ways. But among all the training methods, the clicker technique seems to work best for them.
Pioneered by behavioral scientist Karen Pryor, this training method is now used worldwide not only for cats, but for all kinds of animals—your pet fish included, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
What to Expect When Training a Maine Coon
With their above-average intelligence (here is what makes them incredibly smart) and love for socialization, Maine Coons are considered as one of the easiest cat breeds to train.
They are fast learners and have a tendency to be creatures of habit, which make them respond well to reward-based training, such as the clicker technique that will be discussed shortly.
How long does it take to train a Maine Coon?
Each cat is unique, regardless of whether they belong to the same breed or not. It’s difficult to gauge how long it would take to train them as there are a lot of factors that need to be considered.
Your frequency of training, the difficulty of the tricks, and your cat’s responsiveness all have to be taken into account. Cat training is all about repetition and rewards. As with us humans, the more frequent the training and the more motivated the trainee is, the faster the progress will be.
What could make cat training easier?
The concept of training a cat is similar to training a dog, only a bit harder. Cats are driven by positive reinforcement, so reward your cat consistently every time he or she responds and follows you—even by accident.
This way, you’re encouraging your cat to be participative in your training.
When to Start Training Your Maine Coon
Every cat is trainable, but some learn faster and respond better than others. Maine Coons, for example, are easier to train compared to other breeds of cat. Training kittens is also much easier as they are at an age where they are naturally learning things quickly.
The only problem with training kittens is that they have notoriously short attention spans, so training them can be quite a test of patience.
Generally speaking, the sooner you train a cat, the faster it will learn. However, this doesn’t mean that adult cats cannot be trained. Even old cats can be taught new tricks.
With frequent training and lots of patience, your cat—regardless of its age—can still learn a trick or two. Or three, if you’re lucky.
Training Senior Maine Coons
Contrary to popular belief, senior cats can still be trained. As long as your cat has an intense motivator—say, his or her favorite treat—then the possibility is definitely there.
Senior cats may not be as nimble compared to kittens, but as long as they can put their paws up, you can still teach them classic tricks such as high fives and handshakes.
Senior cats can also benefit mentally and emotionally from training. Frequent training can help prevent your cat’s cognitive decline, as it keeps your cat’s focus and concentration constantly tested.
It also helps strengthen your bond with your cat, which is important as your cat ages.
When training a senior cat, you must learn how to respect your cat’s physical limitations. Never punish your cat if you see him or her dilly-dallying around. You wouldn’t want to put too much stress on your cat during training.
Keep your training short and always give your cat ample time to rest in between sessions.
What is the clicker training method?
The clicker technique is a reward-based training method in which the trainer uses a handheld clicker gadget to create a distinct “click” sound every time the animal does something correctly.
This clicking sound identifies the behavior and is immediately followed by a special treat as a reward for performing the task correctly.
Simply put, it is basically training your Maine Coon to do things in exchange for a treat. Maine Coons love food, so using food as an incentive makes this method much more effective in teaching them tricks.
How to Clicker Train Your Maine Coon
1. Gather your training materials.
First of all, you will need a clicker. You can find this nifty little gadget at any pet supply store near you, or online. Next, you need to choose a special reward for your cat, and by special means something new to their taste.
Edible treats work well for Maine Coons since they are natural foodies—the stronger the aroma, the better. However, if you give your cat something that’s accessible to him all the time, then your cat won’t even bother doing whatever you’re asking him to do.
It is also important to reserve that treat exclusively for clicker training only.
2. Introduce the clicker to your cat.
Before you use the clicker to train your Coon, you must first associate the clicking sound to something positive. In this case, you need to associate the sound with the reward.
To do this, sit down with your pet with a couple of smelly treats on your hand and begin to click, then toss a treat.
Repeat this process over and over again until your cat shows interest. However, it is important to keep your training sessions brief because, unlike dogs, cats have very short interest spans.
3. Associate a behavior to the clicks and rewards.
Once you have established the connection between the click and the reward, you can now associate a specific behavior with that action. Let us take these classic pet tricks as an example.
How to Teach Your Maine Coon to Sit
First, introduce the clicker to your cat by clicking it and giving him a treat. Once you got his full attention, take a treat and hold it next to your Coon’s nose, but don’t give it to him just yet.
Now, hold the treat over his head and move your hand further back and say “sit”.
Most likely, he will sit on his back end to be able to keep track of the treat. Once he sits, press the clicker and give the treat. Do this a couple of times until your cat gets the hang of it.
Remember, never force your cat to sit by pushing down his butt.
Forcing your cat to do something against his will, will just result in a negative association with that particular action. Also, do not hold the treat too far over your cat’s head as he might just jump at it.
If he jumps after it, then don’t use the clicker. Only use the clicker when your cat does the action correctly.
How to Teach Your Maine Coon to Paw-Shake
Once you’ve successfully trained your cat to sit, teaching more complex tricks such as paw-shakes and high-fives would be much easier.
To teach your Coon to paw-shake, gently lift one of your cat’s front paws and press your clicker as you shake his paw.
Don’t forget to say the word “shake”—or any short and catchy verbal cue you desire—as you perform the action.
Give your cat a treat right after performing the action. Again, repeat the process as many times as possible for around five minutes or until your cat shows disinterest to what you’re doing.
How to Teach Your Maine Coon to Come Near You
To teach your cat to come on command, call your cat using a verbal cue and wait for it to come near you. Using your cat’s name as a verbal cue is not really recommended because it might just confuse your cat.
You’re likely to mention your cat’s name even if you don’t want him to come near you, so it is best to use a unique command for tricks such as this. You can use a made-up sound or even a random word for that matter.
Once you’ve said your verbal cue and your cat comes near you, press the clicker and give your cat a treat.
Don’t get frustrated if your cat takes a while to come near you. Just keep on calling your cat until he figures out that he needs to come near you. Do it in short distances first, then increase the distance gradually over time.
Teach Your Maine Coon To Walk On A Leash
We explain how you can do that step-by-step in this article. It opens a whole new world for you and your Maine Coon. We highly recommend you read it.
Giving Your Cat Verbal Commands
Training your cat to do tricks purely by verbal command is possible, but it will definitely take more time, patience, and effort.
However, there are cats that do not respond to verbal commands alone, so hand gestures are still necessary in such cases. Pay attention to how your cat learns best and stick to it.
Knowing When to Stop Training
Unlike dogs, cats have very limited patience and interest spans.
It’s difficult to figure out how long you can expect your Coon to focus on your training as they can be quite unpredictable.
If you keep on pushing with the training even though your cat has already lost interest, then your subsequent training might be even harder to do. If you notice your cat grooming himself, then this is a surefire sign that you need to stop whatever you’re doing.
More than teaching your cat new tricks, clicker training is all about having fun and spending quality time with your cat. Don’t get mad or frustrated if your cat seems disinterested or uncooperative.
Training a cat takes time and a whole lot of patience, so make sure you’re up to the task.
Maine Coon Training Tips
- If using the clicker method, always start every training with a click and a treat. This enables you to get your cat’s full attention, making it easier to train.
- Keep your training sessions short. Cats have a very limited attention span, so try to do your training for around five minutes at a time. Having three five-minute sessions a day is better than having a straight fifteen-minute training without any breaks.
- Don’t do the call-on-command trick just so you can give your cat medicine or a bath. This just makes your cat associate the action with something negative.
- Always end a training session on a positive note. Once you’re done with your training, give your cat a treat or a cuddle. This instills a positive memory for your cat, making it more responsive to your future training.
- Never punish your cat for not following you. Doing so can cause your cat to become less receptive to your future training.
Do Maine Coon cats make good family pets? Maine Coons thrive in families with children. They even get along well with other pets—dogs included. Often called the “dogs of the cat world” due to their gentle demeanor, Maine Coons are highly affectionate and loyal cats which makes them good family pets.
Are cats hard to train? Cats are independent and can be difficult to persuade into doing things. Training them is not impossible, but it definitely requires more time and patience than say, training a dog.
Should you punish your cat? You should not punish your cat. Cats are more receptive to positive reinforcement than they are to punishment, so as much as possible, reward your cat for behaving properly. Over time, your cat will eventually learn the difference between what’s good and what’s bad.