Positive reinforcement training for cats

While some might say that training a cat is an impossible task, positive reinforcement can be a highly effective way of shaping them into the perfect feline friend. We explore the benefits and techniques of positive reinforcement in your cat training plan, helping you strengthen the bond you share with your feline companion.

What is positive reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is when you reward desired behaviours to encourage them to happen again in the future. So, with cat training, this method focuses on rewarding cats when they behave in a way that we want. These behaviours are then rewarded with anything from treats and praise to playtime and affection – whatever works best for you and your feline!

Remember: Try not to accidentally reward an unwanted behaviour, as this will only cause confusion for your cat.

Benefits of positive reinforcement in cats

Strengthening your bond

Positive reinforcement helps foster a trusting and positive relationship between you and your cat. This is because, our feline companions quickly come to associate us humans with happy moments, bettering the bond between us over time.

Reducing stress and anxiety

When training your cat, punishment should never be an option as this can lead to stress and anxiety in your feline friend. Positive reinforcement helps create a low-stress environment, making it easier for cats to understand and respond to training cues without fear.

Remember: Never punish your cat. Cats as a species react to being punished either by running away or through defensive confrontation, which can lead to stress or even distrust or fear in you.  

Encouraging mental stimulation

As we all know, cats are highly intelligent creatures that require plenty of mental stimulation to keep them happy, healthy, and entertained. Both training and positive reinforcement engage their brains, creating an enriching experience that prevents boredom and unwanted behaviours.

Adaptable to your individual cat

Every cat is different, and positive reinforcement allows you to choose a method that suits your feline’s individual personality. This ensures they get the best out of training while you get the best out of them.

Positive reinforcement training techniques

Here are just some options that could work for you and your cat:

Clicker training

Clicker training involves using a small clicker device to make a distinct sound when your cat exhibits the desired behaviour. This sound should then be followed by your chosen reward, helping create the association needed for your cat to repeat their behaviour.

Treats and food rewards

Many cats are motivated by food. Using high value treats or their favourite food as a reward can be a great way to encourage good behaviour. You can even use a portion of your cat’s daily meals to help avoid overfeeding.

Remember: Always make sure that treats are given immediately after the desired behaviour.

Playtime and affection

Some cats prefer playtime or affection as a reward. Engaging in interactive play (like feather toys) or getting cuddly with your cat can be an effective way to reinforce positive behaviours if that’s more their thing!

How to use positive reinforcement  

Consistency is the key to success for all types of cat training, though it’s especially important when using positive reinforcement.

An example of the effectiveness of consistent positive reinforcement can be seen when teaching your cat to use a litter tray.

Step 1 – When your cat uses the litter tray as you want, give them a treat once they’ve stepped out of it, so they associate the act with your positive reinforcement. If your cat doesn’t end up using the litter tray, then do not provide them with a treat.

Step 2 – Once your cat is consistently using the litter tray, start reducing the amount of reward they are being provided. For example, giving them a reward every other time they use the litter tray correctly.

Step 3 – Over time, reduce the amount of treats you give them. For example, providing a reward for every five correct uses of the litter tray.

Step 4 – Then, eventually you’ll need to stop giving a treat altogether, because the new and improved behaviour will have become part of your cat’s normal routine.

If you consistently reward your feline friend for doing what you ask or expect of them, the training journey will be easier for both of you!

Remember: Any form of positive reinforcement training will take time and patience, so it is often best that this is started in small increments.

Make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram for more cat content and training tips. 

Looking for more cat advice?

We’ve written some handy cat advice guides, to help you unlock the secrets of your mysterious moggy.


Need cat insurance?

Cat insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your cat gets injured or falls ill.


We know pets

Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.

Free vet video calls for your cat

24/7/365 with the Joii app.

Our partnership with Joii Pet Care gives Animal Friends policyholders free online veterinary help, whenever and wherever they need it. Download the Joii app today.

The vets and nurses at Joii can provide you with veterinary advice, preventative care and diet plans. Free and exclusive to Animal Friends customers. T&C's apply