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How to Teach a Cat to Fetch
You have probably tried at some point to get your cat to play fetch. And it has probably ended up with your cat acting blissfully ignorant as you try to call them back to with their toy. Eventually, they’ll get bored and you walk up to the toy to throw it again for them.
Teaching your cat to play fetch (actual fetch, unlike the above exercise) is a great way to tire them out without you having to move around very much. It can also be a great help in getting an overweight cat to shed a few pounds and have fun at the same time.
But, it’s not always an easy process to teach a cat to fetch their toy. Luckily, we’ve got all the info you need to get started teaching your cat the fun game of fetch. Read on to learn all you need to know!
Steps to Teach a Cat to Fetch
You’ll want to bring your cat, their favorite toy, and a treat to a quiet place with no distractions. Make sure the toy is something that your feline can carry easily, most soft toys are great for playing fetch. Get your cat’s attention by showing them the toy and let’s get started!
Throw the toy a short distance away from you and wait for your cat to pick it up. Once they do, start to call them over to you and maybe show them a treat to encourage them to walk towards you. If they walk even part of the way towards you with the toy in their mouth, give them the treat and lots of praise. If they leave the toy where it landed, don’t give them the treat. Just pick the toy up and throw it a short distance again.
But what if your cat won’t pick up the toy? This is the biggest problem you’ll run into when teaching your furry friend to fetch. If your cat starts clawing at the toy instead, you will have to specifically teach them to carry the toy before teaching them to fetch.
To do this all you have to do is encourage them to take the toy in their mouth. You can hold it in front of their face and wave it around until they try to grab onto the toy. Once they do, immediately give them a treat and lots of love. Repeat this process several times until they are consistently picking up the toy.
Now that you have taught your cat to hold the toy, you can go back to the first step of teaching them to bring it to you. Over time, you can throw the toy further and further away until your cat is fetching it consistently.
If your cat will bring the toy to you but won’t drop it, just show them the treat until they do. Give them the treat and praise when they leave the toy on the ground next to you. If they try to grab the toy as you pick it up, firmly say, “no” and end the play session for a little while. Eventually, your cat will learn that trying to take the toy off you will bring playtime to a halt and will restrain themselves from doing so.
Now it’s time to add a voice command to this trick. All you have to do is say the word “fetch” as your cat is bringing the toy back to you. As always, give them a treat and lots of love when they comply. They will start to associate the word “fetch” with carrying the toy over to you.
If you’ve read all that, but need a quick refresher on how to teach your cat to fetch, check out this handy step-by-step guide.
Teaching a Cat to Fetch: Quick Step-by-Step Guide
- (Optional) Teach your cat to pick up their toy if they don’t already.
- Throw the toy a short distance.
- Encourage your cat to come back to you by calling them and/or showing them a treat.
- Reward them if they carry the toy towards you.
- If they don’t drop the toy, show them the treat until they do.
- Gradually increase the distance you throw the toy.
- Add the voice cue “fetch”.
How Long Does It Take to Teach a Cat to Fetch?
The length of time it will take for your kitty to figure out this trick entirely depends on them. Cats that are old and/or lazy won’t be too inclined to chase after their toy, much less pick it up and bring it back to you. Wait until your couch potato kitty is feeling a little active and playful to try out this trick. However, this will mean that it’ll take longer to perfect their fetch.
On the other hand, young and active cats will learn to play fetch much quicker. If your kitty is naturally curious and loves to play, they might even figure this trick out in one training session! But make sure to keep their lessons short, hyperactive kitties get bored easily and will want to move onto the next game before you know it.
If your cat doesn’t normally like to pick up their toys, it may take some time to convince them to play fetch. A lot of felines prefer to play with their toys by clawing at them or biting them while lying down. It could take several days of training to get such a cat to just hold a toy in their mouth.
Another problem you might run into is your cat ignoring you when you call them. They aren’t trying to be bold; they’re just so distracted by the toy! Teaching your cat to come when called without the toy will help speed up the process of training fetch.
Can All Cats Be Taught to Fetch?
As long as your cat can pick up a toy, they can learn to play fetch! This might exclude some kitties with dental issues, as carrying a toy may be sore for them. But, don’t worry, if your cat can’t carry a toy for whatever reason, there are plenty of other tricks you can teach them.
Outside of this, there is no reason your cat can’t learn to play fetch. Of course, some cats might find it difficult to learn this trick at first. We’ve already addressed the issue of kitties that don’t naturally pick up their toys.
Your feline may also become protective or even aggressive when you try to take their toy off them. This habit is commonly known as ‘resource guarding’ among dog trainers, but it exists in cats also. If this sounds like your cat, learning fetch might actually be a great way to help them get over this behavior.
Playing fetch will teach your protective cat that willfully giving their toy over to you results in a fun game and that they will always get their toy back when you take it off them. However, you will have to spend more time focusing on rewarding them for dropping their toy in front of you. Consider adding the voice cue “drop it” when you ask your cat to give you the toy.
Now that you have everything you need to start teaching your cat to play fetch, what are you waiting for? Find your kitty and begin learning this wonderful game together!