There’s something both cute and frustrating about that look your cat gives you when you command it to “stay”, and it promptly does the exact opposite.
It’s as if their sense of defiance is wired directly into their DNA, a nonchalant rebellion that leaves you exasperated.
That furry little soul of independence that we all adore can, however, become a problem when you’re trying to get your cat to stay put for its safety or your peace of mind. Well, let me tell you, it’s not as impossible as you think.
In this post, we’re going to show you how you can teach your cat to ‘stay’, easily. With a little understanding, a pinch of patience, and the right steps, you can indeed teach an old, or young, cat new tricks.
Why “Stay” Matters: The Importance of This Command
Training your cat to ‘stay’ isn’t just a party trick or a play for dominance. It’s about safety and wellbeing.
You see, in the midst of their exploration and natural curiosity, our feline friends can end up in precarious situations. Be it near an open window, a hot stove, or just about to launch an attack on your favorite vase, a timely ‘stay’ command can save the day.
This simple command also comes in handy during vet visits or grooming sessions when you need your cat to hold still. It’s a useful tool in your cat-parenting toolkit, empowering you to maintain a secure environment for your feisty feline.
Understanding Your Cat’s Natural Instincts
First things first: learning why your cat behaves the way it does is key to successful training.
You see, unlike dogs, cats are solitary hunters in the wild. They’re wired to be independent and are used to having their way. But that doesn’t mean they’re untrainable.
It just means we need to approach training differently. The key is to make it worth their while. Cats are driven by incentives. Find what motivates your kitty—it could be treats, toys, or your affection—and use that as a positive reinforcement in your training sessions.
Remember, it’s not about forcing them to obey, but encouraging them to understand that obeying the ‘stay’ command is in their best interest. But before we do that, you’ll need some tools.
Recommended Tools for Training
Before we get into the steps, it’s helpful to have the right tools at hand that can make the training process more effective an enjoyable:
- PetSafe Clik-R Trainer. A clicker that helps your cat associate commands with rewards. This simple device can make your training sessions a lot more effective.
- Temptations Classic Crunchy and Soft Cat Treats. An irresistible and nutritious treat that can act as a great motivator during training sessions. They’re also nutritionally balanced, meaning they’re a treat for your cat’s taste buds and their health.
- SmartCat Peek-and-Prize Toy Box. While treats are an effective reward, toys can also be a great motivator, especially for cats on a diet. This is an engaging interactive toy that can double up as a reward.
Now that we have the right tools at hand, let’s jump into the practical steps of training your cat to ‘stay’.
Practical Steps to Teaching Your Cat “Stay”
Teaching a cat any new command, especially ‘stay’, is a process that involves patience, practice, and positive reinforcement. Here are the practical steps you can take to achieve this:
Step 1: Pick the Right Time
Cats are notorious for their love of sleep and their specific active hours, usually during dawn and dusk. It’s best to plan your training sessions during these times when they are alert and responsive.
Step 2: Create a Calm Environment
Cats get easily distracted by noise and movement. Choose a quiet, comfortable space for your training sessions. Keep any other pets or family members away from this area to minimize distractions.
Step 3: Use Positive Reinforcement
As mentioned earlier, cats are driven by incentives. Reward your cat with a treat, a toy, or some quality petting every time they respond correctly to your command. This will encourage them to associate obeying the command with a positive experience.
But remember, timing is key. Give the reward immediately after the correct behavior to create a strong connection between the command and the reward.
Step 4: Start with a Sit
Before you jump into teaching ‘stay’, try to teach your cat the ‘sit’ command first. Once your cat is sitting, you can start incorporating ‘stay’ into your training. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it can certainly help you and your training easier.
Step 5: Teach “Stay”
Hold a treat in front of your cat and say: ‘stay’. If your cat stays in place, reward them with the treat and praise. If they move, say a firm ‘no’, and return them to their original position. Repeat this exercise a few times during each session.
Note: If you’re using a clicker for training, click it the moment your cat stays successfully after you say ‘stay’, then provide the treat immediately. This ‘click’ sound will further reinforce the connection between the ‘stay’ command and the reward.
Step 6: Increase the Distance and Time Gradually
Start with asking your cat to stay for a few seconds, and gradually increase the time. Similarly, increase the distance between you and your cat over time. This will help your cat understand that ‘stay’ means to remain in place even if you move away.
Step 7: Practice Regularly and Be Patient
Consistency is crucial when it comes to training a cat. Practice daily for best results, but also remember that each cat is unique and will learn at their own pace. Be patient, and celebrate small victories along the way.
Keep your training sessions short – 10 to 15 minutes at most – to ensure your cat stays engaged.
These practical steps should provide a strong foundation for you to successfully train your cat to stay. Keep your cat’s comfort in mind, which is more important than speed of your training. As with any training, this will take time, patience, and plenty of love and treats!
Suggested reading: Cat Training – Train Your Cat To “Sit”
When Things Don’t Go as Planned: Handling Setbacks
No training journey is without its hurdles. Here are some pointers to help you manage when things don’t seem to be progressing as planned while teaching a cat to stay:
- Avoid Negative Reinforcement. Cats don’t respond well to punishment, which is what negative reinforcement is. It could backfire and lead to more unwanted behavior. Instead, maintain your calm and patience, and continue with positive reinforcement.
- Invest in Understanding Your Cat. If you’re facing consistent resistance, it could be due to some underlying issue. Be observant. Is your cat uncomfortable? Are they ill, or dealing with anxiety? Understanding your cat better will help in resolving these issues.
- Mix Up the Rewards. Sometimes, your cat may just get bored with the same old treat. Try switching up the rewards – from treats to toys, or even belly rubs.
- Seek Professional Help. If setbacks continue, you might consider seeking help from a professional cat trainer. They can provide personalized training plans tailored to your cat’s temperament and behavior.
UNIQUE TIP: Be Mindful of Your Energy
Cats are incredibly sensitive to the emotions and energy of their humans. If you’re anxious, frustrated, or impatient, your cat will sense it, and it can affect their learning. Ensure you’re calm and composed during training sessions. Your positive energy can encourage your cat to respond better.
Suggested reading: Cat Training – Train Your Cat To “Come”
Here’s a begginer-friendly video in teaching a cat to stay from Cat School Clicker Training:
Making “Stay” Work in Different Environments
Once your cat is responding well to the ‘stay’ command in the training area, the next step is to prepare them for the distractions of the real world.
Introduce New Scenarios Gradually. Start by moving the training sessions to different parts of your home or even outdoors. This will help your cat understand that the ‘stay’ command applies everywhere, not just in the training area.
Incorporate Real-Life Distractions. Slowly bring in elements of the real world. Have a family member walk by during training, or play the sound of a doorbell. This gradual exposure will help your cat learn to stay despite distractions.
Pro Tip: Make Use of ‘Stay’ in Real-Life Situations
Once your cat is comfortable with the command, start incorporating ‘stay’ in everyday scenarios. For example, you could use it when you’re opening the front door, preparing their food, or even during playtime. This not only reinforces the command but also adds practical value to the training.
Improve your cat behavior by teaching your cat:
What if my cat keeps moving even after I say ‘stay’?
If your cat keeps moving even after you say ‘stay’, don’t get frustrated. Instead, return them to their original position, repeat the command, and reward them once they obey. Persistence and patience are key.
How long should a training session for ‘stay’ last?
A training session for ‘stay’ should last about 10-15 minutes. Cats have a short attention span, so keeping sessions short and engaging is more beneficial.
Can I use the ‘stay’ to prevent my cat from running out the door?
Yes, the ‘stay’ command can be a useful tool to prevent your cat from running out the door. Start practicing near the door when it’s closed, gradually progress to when it’s slightly open, and finally, when it’s fully open.