❗Warning: Risk of scratches! Wear dense clothing! We're talking about getting a cat to climb up your body. Sturdy old jeans and a hoody with thick fabric will do. Put the hood up to protect your neck.
Your cat might initially get trigger happy with this trick, so tell the people you're living with about this. You don't want your cat to try climbing on someone who isn't expecting it... trust me.. 😱
The clicker is used to mark behavior. The click is like saying "good boy! Whatever you just did earned you a treat!" Only it's shorter and clearer, much less ambiguous for an animal to interpret.
Clickers are easy to find online & in pet stores, or you can simulate the noise with your mouth. If you do this consistently (don't use the noise for anything else!) you won't need to buy a clicker.
Here's an example of both types of click. The clicker is more distinctive, but you don't necessarily need to buy one. (He's learning to rock the banana chair)
Click ALWAYS means a treat is coming. Even if you clicked by accident. There is no exception to this rule, ever. Also no negativity, scolding, etc.
During clicker sessions, keep petting/speaking to a minimum. Let your cat make his own choices, let the gears in his head turn without distraction. Do not stop him from leaving, either.
Break this guide up into several sessions. It's better to wrap up for the day on a high rather than in frustration. End with a jackpot of treats and maybe a fav toy play session for the last click
But don't give him treats for free when you notice him getting tired. If you do that, he'll be forever testing you. No treats without a click, and no click without a little work!
Start with a happy, eager cat, and delicious treats. For instance tiny (think pea-sized) bits of plain cooked chicken or chunks of premium cat food, or any cat-appropriate treats your cat loves.
First we need to lay groundwork: teach and practice finger targeting a lot. Climbing a human is asking a lot, so we need finger targeting to be a solidly established behavior.
Most cats will instinctively sniff at your finger- click! Then it's just a matter of repetition and slowly building up the distance untill he's jumping up in the air, on furniture, etc. to get to it.
He needs to be able to trust that when you ask him to follow, there will be a reward in it for him.
Once that part is solid, we can start! First, get him up on a chair. You can also give the treat away from the chair so that you can repeat this a few times.
Next, put you leg up on the chair and use finger targeting to get him to put his paws on your leg, sorta leaning on you.
Repeat a few times and always reward. Next up is the tricky part, so you want this step to be as solid as possible.
Now try to get him to balance on the top of your leg. He might be confused about what the heck it is that you want at first..
Surprise him by sometimes clicking early; just for jumping on the chair or leaning on your knee. That way he doesn't lose motivation & knows he's still on the right track.
You have find a balance between holding out for the jump you want, but still rewarding him for attempts now and then so he keeps trying.
Note there can be a delay between click and treat delivery. It doesn't need to be instant, that's the point. You can support him a bit to help balance, but never hold him.
Next get him to lean on your shoulder, and finally climb up further. (Video explains it better than words)
With practice his movement will become more confident and fluid, and you won't always need the hoody up.
You can help by making a ledge for him to stand on with your arm...
...though he will also get better at climbing.
Start gradually putting your leg at a lower angle. We also need to work on generalizing the behavior: switch chairs, switch rooms, etc.
You guessed it, next you'll be able to try it from the floor.
Keep using the finger-over-shoulder cue and don't reward him for jumping without a cue. We don't want him to start jumping up on people in hopes of getting food. Let's not create a monster 😇
Walk around, get him comfy with human-surfing :) always let him down if he wants, otherwise he won't want to jump up anymore in the first place.
You can also do the reverse. Start with a more angled leg (maybe foot on sofa at first) and soon he'll be running down your leg to get to the floor :)
Or, pick him up from a shoulder high perch. Patience! You may think this is the same trick, but Kenko took a while to learn this even after he had mastered the floor to shoulder jump.
Clicker training is voluntary, and some cats may simply not like this particular task. There are plenty of other tricks you can both have fun with (see my other guides)
Q: Do I always have to click now? A: No. Click tells the cat what it's getting rewarded for. Once a trick is well learned, you don't necessarily need it... But it is helpful to reinforce the click :)
Q: Do I always have to give treats? A: it depends how reliable you want the trick to be. Reduce the probability of getting a treat by too much and your cat might decide it's not worth it.
Above all, enjoy being able to communicate with your cat! Don't be surprised if he finds ways to speak back sometimes.