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You Can Teach Your Cat To Do These 5 Things, But Your Dog... Not So Much

Dogs are trainable, obedient pupils, while cats are wily, stubborn, intractable curmudgeons, hellbent on finding out what you don’t want them to do (so they can do that exact thing). At least, that’s the common conception. While it’s true that dogs are easier to train (their wolf-ancestor’s highly sociable nature made them good candidates for domestication) cats can also be trained, though they sometimes require a different approach than dogs. In fact, if you’re patient and stick with it, there are certain things you can teach a cat to do that a dog can't do, like use the toilet (the pros and cons of which will be discussed below).

Whether or not you agree with letting your feline use the human toilet, there are other tricks you can exclusively teach cats that are a little less gross. Cats are generally more agile than dogs, and can manage feats of balance that pups can only dream of. I spoke to Julie Posluns, a cat trainer and animal behaviorist who runs Cat School, an online training resource for cat owners. She started out as a certified dog trainer, and found she was also able to successfully train cats. The graceful agility of cats makes them uniquely adept at certain tricks, Posluns explains: “Based on their size and agility, cats are well-suited to an abundance of tricks I call ‘body agility,’” she says. Here are more fancy feline feats that dogs have a ruff time with.


Using The Toilet


One of the most popular and well-known tricks unique to cats is using the toilet. That is, the human toilet. And if you do a little DIY rigging, you can even get your cat to flush once it’s done: a kitty on YouTube named Marmalade mastered this trick (be forewarned: this video of Marmalade the cat using the toilet does feature uncensored cat pooping and fully visible doodies). And while you can teach your cat to use the human toilet (something dogs haven’t shown proficiency in), some vets think you shouldn’t. An article on Preventive Vet bemoaned this kitty on the privy trend, warning that it can increase your chance of coming into contact with toxoplasma gondii, a tiny parasite found in cat poop that can cause complications for pregnant women. The flushed poops can also wind up spreading toxoplasma gondii to local bodies of waters and spread the parasites there. Instead, they suggest sticking to training your cat to using the litter box.


Using Your Body As A Parkour Course

While dogs can also be trained to jump over and around your body, cats are uniquely adept at doing parkour off your body, says Julie.

“This includes jumping on your shoulder, on your back, on your lap, and through hoops that you create with your arms or legs (think yoga tree pose). It's also easy to set up an agility course in your house with cats, for example, by getting them to jump on a cat tree, and from the cat tree to your shoulder.”

You can even get fancy and create whole routines. Julie says, “One of my favorite tricks is to extend my arms (shoulder-width apart) towards the wall and get my cat to jump over one arm at a time. I call this the double arm jump. If you extend your arms wider (airplane arms), your cat can jump over each arm as they circle you. It's lots of fun and great exercise for a kitty.”


Upside Down Tightrope Walking

When a feline performance act called The Savitsky Cats showed their stuff on America’s Got Talent, cat-owners everywhere got big ideas. This team of fluffy cats and their trainers showed that cats can be trained to walk on a tightrope, and also walk on that tightrope upside down. While dogs may be athletic, they lack the claws and balance that cats have to achieve this spectacular stunt.


Pole Climbing


Cats love to climb, and if you’re a skilled enough trainer, you can teach them to climb up a pole on command, as seen on that act by the aforementioned Savitsky Cats. In the act, the cat was even trained to jump back down onto a soft pillow. Anecdotally, my childhood cat learned how to climb up a tree (no training required there) and got stuck. We managed to bribe her with treats to jump down into a blanket we held taut, which she did with circus-like grace. However, I wouldn’t try this trick at home (at least from tree heights).


(Very) High Jumps

Dogs can be trained to jump, but cats will ask you, “how high?” Cats can jump around six times their length (over eight feet), according to cat expert Layla Morgan Wilde on her website, Cat Wisdom 101. Anatomically, cats are uniquely suited to high jumps, and soft landings. In contrast, the Guinness Book of World Records calls Feather the greyhound the highest jumping dog, at about six feet, only three times her length (a very good girl, but unfortunately she can’t beat the verticals cats are getting). A YouTube video of a trained jumping cat (Jasper) shows off the full spectacle of this talent, where he manages to repeatedly clear high obstacles with ease.