shelters across the country are teaching cats
tricks that will make the kitties more appealing
for adoption. Last year, Stephen Holdeman, manager
of feline behavior at KC Pet Project, worked with
a cat named Wesley. The kitty has since been
are photos and videos of cats high-fiving suddenly
popping up on Facebook and Instagram?
Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet’s "My Cat
year, Galaxy launched Cat Pawsitive, a program that
encourages animal shelters to teach cats how to do
tricks, like giving high-fives, to make them more
attractive for adoption. Shelters across the country,
including KC Pet Project, have been participating.
premise is simple. A kitty who can sit on command, jump
through a hoop, give a paw bump or a high five
demonstrates to a prospective owner that it can listen
to instructions and connect with others.
high five can make a shy cat open up and more aggressive
cats play nice, Galaxy preaches.
benefit: Shelters can be a scary place for animals, and
activities like learning tricks are a good stress
life changes can lead to cats losing their mojo, their
confidence, their "raw cat essence," Christie
Rogero, program manager for Cat Pawsitive, tells Mother
can withdraw and shut down in a shelter setting.
they arrive in a shelter, they may have lost the only
family they’ve ever known, or they may have come from
a difficult life as a stray on the street," Rogero
help those cats to feel more confident, to feel safe
interacting with new people, to even spend more time at
the front of their cages actively soliciting attention
than hiding in the corner with their face to the wall.
get the kind of enrichment that cats need to be
themselves and show their true personalities to
potential adopters. This helps them to make connections
and to get adopted more quickly."
of National High Five Day on April 19 — who knew that
existed? — Galaxy is having a contest, inviting animal
shelters and pet owners to post online photos and videos
of cats giving high fives, using the hashtag #CatPawsitive
and the tags @TheJacksonGalaxyProject and @HaloPets.
are rolling in.
a cat to do tricks is not as hard as we would
think," said Stephen Holdeman, manager of feline
behavior and training at KC Pet Project. "All we
need is the right amount of patience, timing and
explained how he does it.
he finds out what kind of food the cat likes, Holdeman
uses a technique called "operant
conditioning," which associates a cat’s action
with the prediction of getting a reward such as a
favorite food or treat.
also uses a clicker, a popular training device that
makes a clicking noise.
the initial stages, we get the cat used to the idea that
when it hears the sound of the clicker, one of its
favorite treats appears," Holdeman said.
we have bridged these two ideas together, we can use the
clicker to reinforce different actions the cat does to
let them know that if they repeat it, they will get a
he tries to get the cat to "target" something
with its paws, usually getting them to play with a wand
or toy. He "clicks" the clicker when the cat
touches the object with its paw.
sure the timing of the click is lined up with the action
we want is important, so the cat doesn’t start to
ignore its relevancy," he said.
several repetitions, the cat starts to link everything
together, and learn that when they touch the specific
object, they get a treat, and they’re happy to repeat
it. Now all you need to do is let your extended hand be
the target, and we’ve got a high five."
far, about 30 shelters across the country have worked
with the Cat Pawsitive program, with another 50 expected
to participate this year, according to Mother Nature
than 400 cats who participated were adopted during the
first two semesters of the program, created by The
Jackson Galaxy Project, a charitable program of
a free program for shelters and rescues, with sponsors
including the Petco Foundation and Halo Pets picking up
the tab for training materials, online classes and other
things such as training treats.
what about all those high five photos and videos?
April 19, Galaxy will judge them, and five finalists
will receive cash and prizes for the animal shelter or
rescue of their choice. Grand prize is a $5,000 cash
grant and 10,000 bowls of Halo pet food. More info is at