Cat School’s Julie Posluns explains how to teach your cat to high five.
It’s not hard to understand why teaching your cat to high five is one of the most popular Cat School tricks. After all, it’s not too tricky to learn and it looks super cute — who wouldn’t want to get a high five from their favourite feline?
You’ll need your cat to have mastered the fist bump from Julie’s first tutorial (July issue) before teaching the high five. It’s an important prerequisite as your cat will need to be already comfortable using their paw to target a container.
“Cats use their paws all the time, so our goal is to use a marker, a clicker or a verbal marker such as ‘Yes’, to let them know that the paw lift is the behaviour that earns a reward,” explains Julie. “The idea here is to encourage your cat to use their paw to target the sticky note — then you can gradually fade it out until your cat is targeting your hand.”
Before you start
This trick has three clearly defined stages, which progress to a high five:
Prerequisite: teach the fist bump.
1. Teach your cat to target a sticky note with their paw.
2. Use this behaviour to teach a ‘low five.’ (A great trick on its own)
3. If you want to, progress the ‘low five’ to a ‘high five.’
When teaching this trick, a clicker is useful but not essential. Instead of clicking, you can use a verbal command like ‘Yes’ to signal to your cat the behaviour you’re looking for. It’s best to work with a container that’s small, so it’s easy to hide it behind the sticky note.
Step one: Sticky note
Attach a sticky note to a small container. When your cat touches the container and note with his paw, click or say ‘Yes’ and give him a reward.
Step two: Sticky note
The goal of this step is to teach the cat to respond to the note without the container. We present the note first and wait one second before helping the cat out by presenting the container behind the note. Click or say ‘Yes’ and reward him when he touches the note with his paw. Repeat over several repetitions until the cat responds to the note without needing the assistance of the container.
Step three: Low five
To teach your cat to low five, place the sticky note on your palm. Click or say ‘Yes’ and reward your cat when he targets the note with his paw.
Step four: Low five
Cut the note to 75 per cent of its original size and repeat the previous step — clicking or saying ‘Yes’ and rewarding him for targeting the note with his paw.
Step five: Low five
Repeat the exercise until you can fade the note out and your cat confidently targets your hand.
Step six: High five
To teach the high five, have a sticky note on your hand in the low five position. As before, reward your cat for touching the note, then gradually raise your hand over several repetitions.
Step seven: High five
Cut the note to 75 per cent of its previous size and repeat the previous step. Gradually fade the note out so that your cat will regularly target your hand on cue when it is in a high five position.
Congratulations, you’ve done such a great job that even your cat wants to give you a high five!