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How To Train Your Cat To Talk With Speech Buttons - Their First Four Words

By Woof Meow Hello Staff June 20, 2021

If you recently made the decision to teach your cat to communicate using recordable speech buttons, congratulations! Teaching a cat to talk with buttons may sound difficult or even impossible, but with the right amount of patience, you'll find that it's actually quite straightforward. Learn how you can teach your cat their first four word buttons as they develop an understanding of what they are are for, and how they can be used to both of your advantages.

Pink pets speech button for cats to the left of a cat being pet. To the left of the button are the following instructions. First, ask your cat using your voice if they want to be pet. If they're receptive to your touch, begin petting them. Next, press you cat's pets button a few times while petting them. Make sure they see! Finally, keep modeling your cat's PETS button each time they come to you for pets. After several days, your cat might begin requesting pets from you with their button!

Pets

When you first start using speech buttons to communicate with your cat, PETS is a very fine word to begin with. At this stage, you are not only training them to associate their PETS button with the sensation of being pet by their favorite human — you are also teaching them that, more generally, the speech buttons mean something. Soon after, you'll also be teaching them that each of their speech buttons mean something different.

When teaching any word button, among the most important things to do straight from the beginning is to model use of the buttons in appropriate situations. So, to begin training word association for PETS, simply press their PETS button whenever you take the time to give your cat a little love. As you're petting them, press the button repeatedly, and reinforce association verbally by saying the word out loud. You might put the word in context with a very simple sentence, like "you're getting pets!"

Your cat will quickly learn what their PETS button means, and will very likely begin requesting to be pet with their new device!

To teach your cat to use their YARN speech button, first ask them using your voice if they want to play with some yarn. Show your cat the yarn in your hands, but don't give them the yarn just yet. Have them watch you press their YARN button before throwing them their yarn. Repeat over several days, and your cat might begin requesting their beloved yarn with their new device!

Yarn

To get cats excited about their new speech buttons, it is important that their first words represent things that they care about. One thing every cat has in common is their love for objects that spark their curiosity, as well as objects they can manipulate. Yarn is a tried and true favorite.

To begin training your cat to use their communication buttons to say YARN, first ask them using your voice if they want to play with some. If this doesn't get their attention, showing them the yarn in your hands surely will. Make sure they can see it, but don't give them the yarn just yet.

Before tossing them their yarn, press their YARN button. While they're playing with their yarn, it is a good idea to press the button several times, and also to give verbal reinforcement with your voice.

Repeat this process over several days, and your cat will likely start using their communication buttons to request a ball of yarn! 

Tip: The key to successful word button training with your cat is patience. Requiring a button press before they get their yarn might very well be a good training technique for some cats, but many others will not be interested in playing that game. Unlike most dogs, most cats have no desire to perform for us. Whereas a dog might begin with their buttons thinking they're just performing another trick to make their human(s) happy, assume your cat to be thinking, "what's in it for me?"

Image of a speech button for cats with an ALL DONE sticker label. Below is a cat with an empty food bowl looking up at you. Before training your cat to say ALL DONE, first ensure they have learned at least one of these words: PETS, YARN, and COUCH. To begin, start pressing ALL DONE then PETS whenever you finish petting your cat. You can also do this with any other word they're familiar with. Use their ALL DONE button when your cat requests something you too recently provided or no longer can.

All Done

Their first concept of time! Your cat might at first interpret ALL DONE to mean "no," and they likely will treat it as such until more context is provided via the introduction of additional words and phrases. This is okay for the time being.

First, make sure your cat is familiar with at least one or two other words like PETS, YARN, and COUCH. ALL DONE is an abstract concept, and can only be taught in context with other more tangible concepts.

For example, you might begin teaching ALL DONE by pressing the button every time you finish petting your cat. When your petting session ends, simply press ALL DONE PETS. You can also do this with other words they're familiar with. For instance, you can press ALL DONE YARN when they stop playing with it.

ALL DONE is a very useful word for you to use when your cat asks for something you provided too recently, or no longer can. For example, when you first start teaching PETS, it's very important that you reward every button press you can with some love touches. However, your cat must understand that they sometimes won't get what they ask for — especially when you just gave it to them! So if you can't provide them with something anymore, just use your cat's ALL DONE button. 

To reinforce the meaning of the word for them, it can also be a good idea to model use of their ALL DONE button when they finish a meal. This is especially appropriate if they indicate to you that they want more food when they have already had enough.

Your cat is likely to use their ALL DONE button if they no longer want to be touched, but for now this button will be used more by you than your cat. In time, your cat will find themselves in more situations where they'll be able to make practical use of their ALL DONE button.

To train your cat to say COUCH, start by inviting them to sit on the couch using your voice or gestures. Press your cat's COUCH button once they've settled themselves on the couch. Reinforce word association by pressing their COUCH button whenever you see your cat on the couch, or whenever you and your cat sit on the couch together. To the right of these instructions is a green speech button for cats with the COUCH sticker label. To the right of the button is a cat lounging on a blue couch with yellow pillows.

Couch

Finally, the fourth word to teach your cat when they're just starting out with speech buttons is COUCH. COUCH is the easiest of these four buttons to teach, but we recommend that it be taught last. This is because unlike the other words in this article, there is less "cause and effect" involved. For one thing, cats don't ask permission to sit on the couch — they just do it.

However, COUCH is very easy to train, and your cat will certainly find uses for it from time to time. For example, they might invite you to cuddle up on the couch with them!

To introduce COUCH, start by inviting your cat to sit on the couch using your voice, gestures, or a combination of the two. Once your cat has settled themself down on the couch, press their COUCH button. While lounging on the couch together, periodically press the button to reinforce word association. 

Additionally, press your cat's COUCH button whenever you see them on the couch by themselves. After several days of modeling button use, a press of your cat's COUCH button might prompt them to make their way toward it — or not. Remember, if your cat is not responding to button presses or not taking interest in certain words, it is not necessarily because they don't understand. Anyone with a cat knows that they kind of do what they want, when they want to. What is more likely is your cat inviting you to lounge on the couch with them, perhaps even combining COUCH with PETS in order to request that you pet them while cuddling up on the couch.


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