Cat Training A-to-Z: Brief Glossary of Terms


Target: Teaching a cat to touch a certain part of herself (her nose or paw) to an object or area (a person's hand or a target stick). Targeting can be used to get a cat to move willingly from one place to another (into and out of a crate or carrier, for example) or to teach a new behavior, such as a spin. Targeting can also help cats to overcome fear of certain objects; a cat can be taught to target a pair of nail clippers as a way of reducing the stress associated with nail trims.

Threshold: A way of describing a cat’s emotional state in a certain situation. A cat who is under threshold is tolerant and relaxed. A cat who is at threshold is mildly stressed, while a cat who is over threshold is anxious and reactive.


Cat Hissing
Cats use warning signals like hissing or growling to communicate discomfort.

Variable schedule of reinforcement: A variance in the amount of time or number of behaviors required for a cat to earn a reward. A variable schedule helps keep the cat excited about and invested in the training.


Warning signals: Behaviors used by a cat to communicate discomfort with a situation. These can include growling, hissing and tail swishing. These signals are used to warn a person or another cat to slow down and back off. It is important not to punish or disregard warning signals, because they are indicators of the cat’s discomfort; instead, the situation needs to be addressed in order to prevent a bite or a fight.

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