We wanted to expose Hazel to some basic training early on- not that there would be any extensive training as such afterwards. No written exam or anything- she can’t even get her paws around a pen.
No, we simply wanted to train her to come when called and as Bengal cats are in many ways, similar to dogs (see 6 Reasons Why a Bengal Cat and Dog Can Get Along) this should be a (fairly) straightforward process.
We’d seen a using a clicker can help speed up this process, so we purchased a couple like those below:
The idea was we’d call her, click the clicker when she obyeyed, reward her for coming to us with a treat, then repeat the process (Treat and Repeat, I labelled it, just now…)
So that’s: ‘Hazel!’- Click- Treat
The theory was that she’d associate her name with the clicker and coming to us with a treat
In time, we could ditch the clicker and she’d just respond to her name.
It actually worked really well. Almost too well.
It didn’t take many ‘Hazel-Click-Treat’ repetitions for her to cotton on that some food would come after the same human word and a clicking noise.
One of us sat at one end of the room, the other at the other… end.
She even seemed to work out that after going to Person 1, Person 2 (sat at the other end of the room) was going to be the next person providing the treat, so would start running to them before name or click.
I guess this highlighted in a practical sense just how bright Bengals are.
In light of this, training didn’t last that long, so we decided to try again in future to see how much had sunk in…
We have since gone back to this now and again, and it’s clear she understands her name, often giving us a ‘miaow’ in recognition, or at least gawping for a few seconds.
In the book ‘What Cats Want‘ by Dr Yuki Hattori, it says cats recognise vowel sounds more clearly than consonants- and that seems to be true as Hazel would equally react to ‘Basil’ (pronounced the American way) and ‘Phaser’.
Having said that, calling her ‘Derek’ achieved a similar result.
Although she understands she’s called Hazel, it doesn’t mean she’ll come when called. She does this when she wants to, which can be really annoying, although strangely, somewhat admirable.
Calling her name and tapping the food bowl or some kind of food based bribe still achieves better results, as does the use of a toy or toy stand in- essentially something she can chase.
The clickers are still on stand-by though.
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Featured image by Element5 Digital