Touch the target – Enrichment game for cats
Does your cat ever get the “zoomies”? Although this behaviour is quite normal, it can also be an indicator that your furry friend is looking for some additional activity and enrichment. In today’s blog, we’re going to walk you through the “Touch the target” game and why your cat will enjoy it!
Why the Touch the target game?
The targeting game can be played in very short sessions, with one cat or several. It can also be played frequently or just occasionally, and by one person or several people.
Keep training sessions short, 1-2 minutes, and take many breaks to set the cat up for success. For cats who aren’t as interested in the target, stick add a very small amount of high-value spreadable food at the end.
You will need:
- A highly preferred food treat, such as canned tuna or tuna in a pouch
- A pencil, chopstick, popsicle stick, or dowel, to serve as a target
- Clicker (optional)
Teaching your cat to touch the target
- Hold the target item within an inch of your cat’s head to introduce the target.
- The cat should naturally put their head out to sniff the target item.
- As soon as the cat touches the target with their nose, mark (click or say “yes”) and reward with a high-value treat. Read more about clicker training on our blog.
- Continue steps 1-3 a few times in several different sessions, taking breaks before the cat becomes disinterested and until the cat is consistently touching the target.
- Once the cat is reliably touching the target, add the verbal cue “Touch” as the cat touches the target stick, then mark (click or say “yes”) and reward.
- As the cat is successfully touching the target, increase difficulty by moving the target away by 1-2inches and eventually in different areas around the cat so the cat must move to get to the target.
In later sessions, try placing the target further away from your cat so he must take a step or two towards it, offering the target when your cat is in motion, or seeing if you can get your cat to follow it.
Targeting can simply be a fun activity (you can get creative with how you use it) – or it can be used to help redirect behaviours you don’t like, such as pouncing, scratching or biting.
We hope you have fun teaching your cat this enrichment technique!
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