Our founder, Laurisa Osheski had worked primarily with dogs for almost 25 years when a little orange feral cat moved in under her back deck. Laurisa had always loved all animals but was never able to have a cat because of her severe allergies. Efforts to find a home for the little guy were unsuccessful. The local humane society was full to capacity and no one was beating down the door to adopt an animal who did not want to be touched. When Laurisa watched the kitten chase a butterfly into the road and nearly get hit by a city bus, she opened her door and let the little guy into the house. Never having had a cat before, she didn’t have any preconceived notions of what cats can or cannot be taught to do, so she started to train him using clicker training the same way she did with her dogs.
Within days, the wild little cat who didn’t want anything to do with people was following her around like a dog. She would call his name and he would come flying down the hallway at top speed and sit in front of her and look up at her face. She taught him to walk on a leash so he could go hiking with the dogs. So that he wouldn’t accidentally run out the door, she actually convinced him that the only way to get outside was to run to his crate and sit in there to be carried out and then walked on a leash. He learned to retrieve, to play the chorus of Jingle Bells on a toy piano and all kinds of fun tricks. To make sure he had a chance to run and climb even though he was now an indoor cat, she also took him to the dog club late at night when no one else was there and taught him to run a dog agility course.
One day, a friend came over and said that “Saber” was the most friendly cat she had ever seen. When she came to the door he immediately greeted her purring loudly and proceeded to roll over, sit up, wave, bring a toy, sit, down, spin and then sat there looking up at her. First of all, she said, her cats usually run and hide when people come over and secondly, she commented that cats don’t do the things Saber was doing. When Laurisa told her that the cat used to be wild, her friend was amazed, remarking that Saber must be a one in a million cat.
Since that day, Laurisa has worked with dozens of other cats and has yet to find one who does not enjoy clicker training. “I wish I could do something to help more people realize that cats are not worthless and disposable. If you communicate with them in a way that they understand and enjoy, they are every bit as interactive as dogs. Clicker training can help ensure that indoor cats receive the exercise and mental stimulation they crave. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clue how to get the word out…”