How to Teach Your Cat To Shake Hands, Bust a Move, and Pick a Treat in Less Than An Hour

Geek!This is Krystyn’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

What could possibly motivate a cat to shake your hand or bust a move? If not hindered by ADD, food is the key here. I’ll have your cat picking the treat from your hand if you can pay close attention to my directions and focus in on the force by which your cat lives by. Think like a cat. Be agile, patient and soft on your feet.

First, gather my suggestions along with a little bag of cat treats or dry cat food. Allow them (the suggestions) to marinate in your mind as you find your cat. Now, take a deep breath. Exhale slowly – letting out all the stress, annoyances and weirdness you’ve been carrying in your shoulders over the years. This is important. I’m not saying you can do it overnight, but for the next hour just let it go, helping the chi to flow. Chi = positive energy. As a side note, if your cat acts or reacts weird it’s actually a reflection of your own behavior.

First Trick: Shake Hands

I’m assuming your cat is in front of you, watching intently. Put the treat on the floor and cover it with your hand. Your cat is probably wondering what you’re doing, but after a couple of seconds, curiosity will get the best of her. She should tap your hand as if saying “move it, man!” If your cat doesn’t tap your hand, coax her a bit by letting them get a peek of the treat. Once she taps your hand, lift it up and praise her. “Good Kitty, smart Kitty…” Now, do it again. But this time say, “Shake hands.” Be patient and don’t move around, focus on her paw. Once she taps your hand, she’s got it down. The last move is not to put food down on ground. Let Kitty see the treat in your hand and say “Shake hands” once again. Kitty will probably need coaxing here. Tap paw gently, leaving your hand in front of Kitty. Repeat phase. “Shake hands.” If Kitty is smart, Kitty will lift paw. You gently shake in return. Yay! Repeat. Repeat. Kitty has learned her first trick!

Second Trick: Pick A Treat

Easy, because it’s right after “shake hands” – she just has to pick the proper hand first. Put treat in hand, close to a fist, and stretch both arms in front of you, giving Kitty a choice. Say: “Which hand, Kitty?” Kitty is staring at you. “Which hand, Kitty?” If Kitty doesn’t tap a hand, shake the hand the treats in until Kitty taps. Praise. Repeat task. Now when Kitty picks the wrong hand, you open empty fist and say “Nope!” and offer her a choice again. Until Kitty picks right hand, repeat the same phase. Kitty will eventually pick other hand and once Kitty understands the game, Kitty will play. Remember to praise when Kitty chooses correctly. This is a killer trick when showing off to friends. “That cat is smart!” “Wow!” are just some of the accolades now being tossed your way.

Third Trick: Bust A Move

You’re going to act like a b-boy does when being challenged in a dance–off. The cat phrase is: “Wassup?!” The b-boy reaction when a person is dancing in front of them is to punch their chest out, stick their chin up and throw their arms out – almost as though you’re in a fight but not fighting. Your cat should feel the same feelings of being challenged. Kitty should start eyeballing you and leaning back some. Keep up the posturing without being overly aggressive. Stay in cat mode, and reward Kitty with a treat as soon as she makes any reaction towards your “Wassup?” posturing. Cats react in different ways. Should your cat do any funky move, that’s her “busting you.” Like: “dude, you’re weird!” My cat, Jiggy, does a really funny move: she gets up on her hind legs as if she’s a meercat mocking me in my B-boy stance, revs up like she’s saying: “You want some?” and then gallops about quickly. She does this Bust-a-Move dance in front of the mirror as well.

And your cat might, too.

34 thoughts on “How to Teach Your Cat To Shake Hands, Bust a Move, and Pick a Treat in Less Than An Hour”

  1. I have to say, you have inspired me to bond with my cat. You’re right that we need to think like a cat sometimes, and they need more then just passive petting… they need encouragement and praise too. I’m going to try to shake hands tonight and I’m looking forward to some quality time with my cat Papa.

    I was wondering if you had a specific treat you recommend? I don’t think Papa will respond to just the dry cat food. Thanks for the post, Krystyn!

  2. What I like about this article is the relationship that can be built with your cat. Too often we accept that cats are aloof and therefore don’t respond to the human condition as do their tongue lolling canine counterparts. Dogs are easy. They’ve been bread over thousands of years to accept the word of humans and do their bidding. Cats, on the other hand, still wild at heart for the most part. An abandoned dog may not survive in today’s world where as cat that decides to trade a warm place on their “owner’s” lap for freedom will most likely do just fine on their own. So Krys has figured out how to use the natural curiosity of the feline to encourage them to behave a certain way. Wouldn’t this work with humans too? Wouldn’t it be better to persuade two-leggers with engagement and reward rather than fear and consequence? Just my two cents…. opinions may vary!

  3. What a great way to get cat owners and non-cat owners thinking about the ways to allow a cat’s personaility to shine through. Personally, I have a cat who fetches it’s toy and brings back to the person’s hand to throw again. Cats are willing to please and will. Treats don’t hurt either. ;)

  4. That’s a great article…I can’t wait to go home and try some of these tips with my cat. Any tips for overly lazy cats??? I have a friend who has a cat that is so fat nothing motivates him, not even food.

  5. Hi, Krystyn~

    I like the positive reinforcement that you have to do with the cats and figuring out what they are thinking too. Great tricks, I really like the bust a move one.

  6. This is a very unique and zen like teaching of a cat to do tricks. It is like being in the same zone and frame of reference as the cat. Very clever and obviously shows a close relationship between the cat and owner. As we all know, cats are independent creatures and have their own mind. Cats choose their own owners and friends unlike dogs. And before cats do tricks for you, they require an established relationship with you. Otherwise, they will just ignore you like you don’t exist.

  7. trick #1 – Cat looked at treat, cat looked at hand covering treat, cat looked at me. Cat turned and walked away. (‘I don’t have to put up with this shit, I’m THE cat!’)

  8. I never knew you could train a cat to do anything! Shows what I know. Are there any upper age limits or is training a kitten just as easy as training a mature cat?

  9. I’m working on getting my cats to go to the bathroom in the toilet, has anyone else tried that who’d be willing to share some advice?

  10. My cat, who is ardently loving the computer on my lap at the moment, says, “Try to train me fool, and I’ll smoother you in your sleep with my large, hairy body .” However, thanks for the clever tips. If I didn’t believe he could (and would) do it, I would have my plans for the evening.

  11. That’s awesome! My cat’s too catish, though. She just sits there staring at you until you give her the treat.

  12. What do you do if your cat isn’t motivated by treats? Most cats have their own mind and only do things when they want to. The only trick my cat does is grab socks out of the hamper and drop them at my feet. I always praise her “good kitty… you are such a great hunter… killed another sock” I cannot make her do it at will, only when she wants to.

    Great job Krys… will try the shaking hands tonight.

  13. My cats use their noses to open doors and so used their noses to try to lift my hand. Then they licked my other hand holding the other treats. It didn’t work out, but they got paid.

  14. Great way to play and bond with your kitty or cat. This takes patience, trust and love on both sides. This is the cat’s meow.

  15. Nice article! Communicating with cats is loads of fun. Wink at them and they’ll wink back…a sign of contentment and peacefulness. Try it thru a window to a strange cat…they’ll respond.

    We’re getting a kitten after Christmas for the kids and we’ll try these tricks on them as they grow. From a socio/psychological point of view (or would that be catological?), it will be interesting to find out at what point cognitive thought (or some semblance of critical thinking) starts to develop. My guess would be fairly early on. Will see.

    Oh…if I have to release all my weirdness, it will take a bit more than an hour or an overnight. Good thing my cats have always tended to be ok with that :-)

  16. I have played the cat treat game far too often…and have ended up with a 23lb ball of fur (Hefty? perhaps. Obese? Never!)
    I am LOVING trick number 3. Now, if I can do trick number 3 enough, can I bring back trick number 2? The scale is coming back out my furry friend!

  17. Great tips and I can tell you love your cats. I will certainly forward your article to all my friends that have cats.

  18. Wow, who would have thunk it? A cat that shakes hands? I used the force and tried out “shake hands” with my cat, Yuki. I’m more than a little shocked but happy to report – Yuki shakes! Thanks for the tips, I’m definitely impressed with my cat’s abilities but unsure about the dance moves. If it’s true that my cat mirrors my own behavior then I’ve got the answer on why Yuki looks like he’s having convulsions when busting a move… Ouch!

  19. How do you convince your cat to let you touch her feet? Whenever I touch my cat’s feet she bites me…

  20. this is awesome! i will definitely try this with my own cat! the closest i got my cat to doing a “trick” was putting funny sunglasses on her while she was sleeping and taking a picture!

    i will send all my friends that own a cat over here!

  21. Krys, the article was awesome and inspired me to take immediate action. I went over to Kimosabe, my six year old Siberian Tiger cat, and she really got into it when I hid her treat (a Snickers bar) under my hand. She started to smile (I think).
    But after one point two seconds, she got impatient and tore off my arms and legs. I relented and gave her the treat.
    I am in a hospital recovering nicely.
    I can hardly wait to teach her how to bust a move.

  22. Hi Krys, I’m impressed with your cat’s talents! I never had a cat, but my shih tzu does not respond to these suggestions at at.. She is just a bit prissy though. I can almost see your kitty with an I-pod getting jiggy. :) Was your first attempt to train a cat successful or a total failure? Just curious about your own determination.

  23. I’m not a very big cat fan, but this is totally cool. I’m tempted to go out there and get a kitty and follow your steps and advice to see if I can do the same. Maybe it will work on my little Sheena?? Hmmm….I think I’m going to head over to the animal shelter and resuce a cat now.

  24. Very interesting. Its note-worthy how treats are a gateway to access your cat, when it seems that the bond formed with your car during the course of the trick teaching process is in reality what ultimately gets the cat doing the tricks. For example even if I were armed with a treat I doubt I’d be able to coax a trick out of jiggy, simply because i lack the rapport and bond that you do. Very clever. good post

  25. It all depends on the cat and its temperaments. I have experience handling male and female cats from different owners and I noticed a huge trend in learning curve with executing trick maneuvers and shaking hands (at least paws). As far as picking treats, my cat eats whatever he can reach out of his milk and dry food bowl.
    Good insights K! Keep on keeping on with the cat show!

  26. i like this…in fact, i taught my cat to do some tricks using treats. He knows how to sit and beg. Im gunna try the handshake thing. On a side note, my cat will now beg for anything i am eating, not only cat treats. i kinda wish i HADNT taught him that begging is cute. im dying to see what his “bust a move” is…good article.

  27. I taught 2 of my 3 cats tricks. It depends largeley on the personality of the cat. One lays down on command and will turn around if I ask. The laying down was taught by pushing the cat down and voicing the command, repeatedly. The turn around was taught by leading with a treat. The treat is no longer required.
    The other cat had a tendency to reach out to me with a paw for attention, so I simply took advantage of this and taught him to ‘shake’. All he ever wanted as a reward is some petting. So I pet, then ask to shake, and he does. SO COOL!

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