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Piano playing and grief counseling: A day in the life of clicker training cats

Filed in - Press - Training - Cats

Being partial to cats myself, I love this piece on a journalist who discovers that - gasp! - not only can you clicker train a cat, but it can open new doors never before imagined:

At one outdoor concert, a 10-year-old boy with Down's syndrome walked by. He was enthralled by the piano-playing feline. He stared at Ricky for several minutes, then spontaneously began to laugh. We're not talking little giggles here. I mean full-blown belly laughter. His mother was stunned. She told me quietly, "Billy's father passed on two weeks ago. Everyone tried to get him to talk, to react, but he wouldn't."

Billy, who was still in stitches, began to pet Ricky. Then Billy sat down and snuggled with Ricky, now purring in his lap. I don't know what secrets Billy shared, but he whispered to Ricky for several minutes. Just before he and his mom departed, Billy looked at Ricky and said, "I love you," then he kissed Ricky. Ricky just had this extraordinary ability to reach people.

Read the whole story here: The Herald Democrat

alternative start to clicker training a cat to play the piano

Teaching a cat to shake hands is very simple and a helpful first step to teaching him/her to play the piano. My cat, Minou, knowing the raising of one paw earned a click and a treat, tried this when I first summoned her to the piano bench. I next waited until her paw was a tiny bit closer to the keys, otherwise ignoring the paw-lifting and it didn't take long for her paw to end up touching a key. The next requirement, depressing the key, followed quickly, since she sometimes used the keys to rest her paw. I reckon it took around five sessions of five minutes each before she was making a dozen or so notes on various keys before gaining her click and treat. Eventually, we became a double act, with me playing the base. Great party trick! (My announcement, during a dinner party, that I had been taking piano lessons and would like to perform for the assembled company was met with the expected falling of faces but this was quickly followed by howls of delight when Minou, whom I'd made sure was near to hand, jumped up beside me and joined me in a duet.)