When it comes to greeting houseguests teach, dogs don’t have a monopoly on shaking paws to say hello. If you have a social cat, you can train him to be an official feline greeter to all who enter your home. He can learn to lightly raise one of his front paws and touch it against the extended palm of the guest.
For cats who love interacting with people – like my orange tabby named Casey – this paw-to-palm exchange does the trick. Casey is known as the Pet Safety Cat and he teams up with me and Chipper, my Husky-golden retriever mix, each time we give pet behavior talks to classrooms filled with kids and when we conduct hands-on, veterinarian-approved pet first aid classes.
I started training Casey when I adopted him from the San Diego Humane Society. He was four months old. Today, he is 15 months old and has perfected the art of sitting on cue and raising a front paw to touch when greeting people of all ages during our pet talks.
Let me share with you the six steps to follow to get your friendly feline to meet and greet:
1. Bring out the cat currency. Start with a handful of treats that your cat craves. Sit on the floor with your cat in a quiet room, free of distractions. Hold the treats in one hand.
2. Reinforce the “sit, please” cue. Ask your cat to sit (do this by moving a treat over his head to get him to plop his butt on the ground). As soon as his rump touches the ground, say, “Good, sit!” and immediately reward him with a treat.
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3. Shake things up. Hold your treat hand just slightly in front of your cat’s eyes and wait. When he lifts a front paw off the floor, immediately say, “Shake” and give him a treat.
4. Repeat and repeat. Repeat Step 3 until your cat raises his front paw whenever your hand s at eye level. Say, “Good shake!” and treat each time.
5. Elevate to eye level. Once your cat puts his front paw up whenever your hand is raised to his eye level, say, “High five” or “Gimme five” and treat when he complies.
6. Conduct mini-sessions. Repeat these steps four or five times per training session. Stop once your cat delivers a couple of paw shakes or gets bored. End on a high note!