Hollywood Cat Training Tips Revealed

Learn training tips and secrets from cat trainer Mark Harden of Boone?s Animals for Hollywood, who has trained more than 100 cats for TV commercials and movies such as "Stuart Little," "Catwoman" and "Horrible Bosses."

By Kristina Lotz

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Tabby cat looking up -- Hollywood Cat Training Secrets
Train your cat through clicker training with these simple tips.
Ask any cat owner if their cat is “trained.” See if they laugh and say, “My cat has trained me.” True, cats tend to train their people on feeding schedules, scratching spots and to always have a lap available, but we humans can also train cats to do tricks.

Hollywood's Cat Training Secrets Revealed!
Mark Harden, one of the senior trainers at Boone's Animals for Hollywood, has trained more than 100 cats for movies and commercials. His cat actors include Snowball, from "Stuart Little" and "Stuart Little 2," and Midnight, the exotic Egyptian Mau appearing in the 2004 film "Catwoman."

"There is a lot of finesse in training a cat," Harden says. His accomplishments prove that not only can you train your cat, but with a little work, you can train a cat to do some pretty amazing tricks.

Clicker Training for Cats
Mixed-breed cat doing tricks -- Hollywood Cat Training Secrets
Encourage your cat to perform typical behaviors that you can turn into tricks.
Mixed-breed cat doing tricks -- Hollywood Cat Training Secrets
Reward your cat or use clicker training for tricks your cat performs on cue.
The cat training method Harden uses is very similar to what you would use to train a dog: Clicker training. When your cat learns that a click from a clicker means a reward for behavior, you can start “catching” behaviors your cat does naturally and turn them into tricks.
  • Teach your cat to respond to a clicker by pairing food with a click: food/click, food/click, etc.
  • Switch this, and click and pay: click/food, click/food. 
  • Start to delay the time between the click and the reward, so the cat gets the idea the click means food. The clicker becomes a down payment for the treat and helps you with proper timing of your reward. Harden calls this a bridge.
Turn Typical Cat Behavior into Tricks
Your cat can learn tricks by channeling its natural behavior. For example, if your cat naturally stretches up your leg in the morning when it wants breakfast, turn this into a high-five.
  • Let your cat stretch up your leg.
  • Put your hand in the cat's path.
  • When its paw touches your hand, click and reward.
Harden also teaches cats to come when called by pairing their food with a sound like a buzzer.
  • Like the clicker, sound a buzzer while the cat is eating.
  • Gradually move the food dish, and sound the buzzer and set down the food when the cats come.
  • Success comes when you can release the cat out of view and have the cat come running to the sound of the buzzer. It's very much like the crinkling sound of the cat food bag or the pop of the cat food can.
Hear Harden explain his cat training tips and share information on his fascinating experience preparing cats for tricks onscreen by reading his full interview here.

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Hollywood Cat Training Tips Revealed

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Reader Comments

Stacey    Leduc, AB

5/24/2012 6:06:29 PM

Not sure if I could train my cats.....they have ME trained though!!

Amanda    Phoenix, AZ

5/23/2012 10:50:12 AM

I totally trained my cat to do the “high-five”. I got him to stretch on my leg, and as he stretched is right paw, I would hold out a Natural Balance chicken treat and he lifts his paw and taps my hand! It took us awhile to get this down, mostly because he didn’t like the first treats I used for rewards, but he’ll do anything for a Perfect Bites!

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

5/19/2012 11:15:04 PM

I've trained some of my cats and it really wasn't that hard. You just have to learn to go with the flow!

Samantha    Mission, BC

5/19/2012 9:25:39 PM

Interesting. I've never tried that.

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