Certified dog trainer Hanna Fushihara has adapted ‘nosework’ training for cats.
Like people, cats living the pampered indoor life can get bored with the same daily routine. Their wild instincts remain – they want to hunt and search for prey. Although there’s generally none to be had indoors, aside from a bug or two. Humans can travel to places like a game or escape room to spice things up. But cats depend on us to provide similar entertainment possibilities indoors.
Recently, an idea that entertains people and cats has received attention in the news. It’s Nosework Cats by CPDT-KA certified trainer Hanna Fushihara. Affordable Online classes explain how to do nosework with cats, including special needs cats.
That certification stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed. In this case, the training generally associated with dogs is changed up to accommodate “cat-ness,” but the concept is the same. It’s “scent based enrichment and training for cats.”
“Nosework Cats is an enrichment and training activity in which your cat is seeking, sniffing, and hunting for their treats or food. It’s a game that has been tweaked specifically for cats from the model of nosework for dogs,” the website explains.
Noswork for cats also takes advantage of a cat’s natural climbing abilities. For example, you can see how much fun it could be for the cat to jump to a higher shelf for a reward.
You can also use everyday things like boxes, crumpled paper, or, in the case below, a skateboard with a treat on top. The classes outline specific ways to train your kitty, step by step.
Nosework for Cats
Our cat-loving fans probably already do things similar to nosework at home. That reminds us, do you remember when Marmalade and Cat Man Chris played “Pie Face” together? Was this nosework? Well, maybe not exactly…
A Scavenger Hunt With Your Kitty
Nosework does mean creating a sort of scavenger hunt for your cat and placing a favorite treat they can smell in an accessible hiding place. Then, the cat begins the hunt, and you cheer them on. It’s similar to puzzle feeders, with the same idea in mind.
As the games advance, you can gradually make it more challenging (but not discouragingly difficult). Advanced cats can play throughout a large home, while beginners can start in their immediate surroundings.
Will Your Cat Know You’re Behind the Game?
With nosework for dogs, Fushihara says the game is usually a matter of finding a target object and rewarding the dog with a treat. But with cats, the food reward is the target object found using their senses. The cat has their cake and eats it too, but still; the cats still associate their human with the game.
Felid enthusiast and advocate Claire Stares tells Yahoo! that after trying it herself, her cats even know she’s the game organizer:
“I loved watching the cats grow in confidence as they tackled each new set-up, and the experience strengthened our bond, as although I was hands-off during their searches, they recognized that I facilitated the sessions and associated me with the rewarding experience of successfully locating treats,” Stares wrote.
Stares explains how she geared nosework for her cats and played individually. Each cat had different skills and abilities, so she designed the game for them. Former feral cats, a young cat, a deaf cat, and a cat with mile cerebellar hypoplasia all enjoyed nosework. Interestingly, her deaf cat Teddy was a pro at finding treats the fastest.
Below, blind cat Shadow enjoys nosework with two “hides” boxes with a curtain of paper in front.
Benefits For You and Your Cat
At first, playing these hide-and-seek games with your cat might seem a little silly. But there are real benefits to keeping cats engaged in an activity. As with other play and clicker training, it can help curb undesirable behavior and maintain their overall health.
“With new opportunities to engage in predatory-seeking behavior and the increased mental stimulation nosework has provided, there have been very few incidences of undesirable behaviors from any of the cats. Nosework has also significantly boosted their daily physical activity, helping them to maintain a healthy weight and improve their overall fitness,” Stares says.
Besides, entertaining the cats is a bonding experience and fun for people, too. Fushihara says it’s an opportunity to “see” the world through your cat’s experiences as they problem solve in real time.
Below is an example from Nosework Cats of Minnie the cat searching a “mystery box.” Veiling the food with paper flaps makes the game a little more challenging.