Why cat training is harder than dog training?

Cat training in circus
Is it possible to train a cat to perform circus tricks?
Photo: © Verzh

When someone says that it’s not possible to train a cat, it’s a lie. We’ve seen plenty of examples of cats being trained to both behave well and do tricks. Our home country even has a circus cat named Bingo, who climbs ladders and jumps through hoops.

However, it’s quite obvious that it takes greater effort to train a cat, when compared to training a dog. Why is this so? There must be an explanation for why cats are not as easily trained as dogs, right? Right!

The reason why it’s hard to train a cat lies in how cats, dogs, and other animals perform their tasks assigned to them by nature. What are those tasks? Gathering food.

Cats and dogs gather food differently

You probably know that most, but not all, animals are best motivated by treats, which is food. Food is something in the real world that, in the wild, an animal would work his head off just to receive because he needs it for survival.

But did you know there’s a great difference in how dogs and cats hunt? And did you know this difference creates the gap between easy training of dogs and not so easy training of cats?

How dogs hunt: Dogs, with exceptions owing to the variety of breeds, track their prey for miles, up to levels of exhaustion. This causes them to do ANYTHING, including performing tricks, running courses, sitting in one spot, and pleasing their owners, as long as it leads to the desired goal.

This, however, does not mean dogs are dumb or that they are exploited by humans. Dogs derive their own pleasure from doing these things. After all, it’s in their nature to work for their food.

How cats hunt: Cats, on the other hand, are not so insistent. Mother Nature has created a cat that preserves its energy as much as possible. This is also why cats can sleep all day and then release their energy in short play sessions in the evening. But that is not all.

Additionally, cats usually hunt small animals, like mice, that do not provide much energy in the form of calories. What does this lead to?

This leads to cats being extremely wise about not spending more energy than the food received will provide.

Have you ever returned after a long day and felt like the hard work is not worth the wage? Did you compare this state to working like a dog? This is how a dog would feel after chasing a rabbit for several miles.

Cats, on the other hand, are smarter in avoiding this when compared to us or to dogs.  As a result, cats will not respond to training very well if you are demanding too much. 

That is, if you demand more than the cat thinks the return will be, you are likely to fail. But, if you plan the training wisely and provide a reward that, in combination with an outcome of the task itself, is extremely beneficial to the cat, you may realize that training a cat is not hard at all. 

For example, a cat can be easily taught to sit on a command; it’s the best thing to start with if you want to train your cat cool things.