Hi, I'm a recent convert to both buttons and clicker training, with two grown cats. Belle the female is very shy. Dempsey the male is very active and chatty. He really needed a more active playmate and he was too boisterous for Belle's tastes, although she was raised with a brother cat. I got Fluent Pet buttons and cat training clickers for Christmas and after doing my reading got started just before the New Year. Within a day, I discovered that Dempsey is smarter than I ever thought and he became a clicker monster! I'm modelling "Let's Play" on a button whenever we have a training session and now whenever I get up for a cup of tea, he races over and sits next to the "Let's Play" button. If he doesn't get trained 2 or 3 times a day he get's mad.Β 

We started with the Outside button idea - but the cats have a cat door so they weren't that motivated. I introduced "Play" and "All Done" next as recommended.

I'd never found a treat that motivated either cat before but the Temptations pods motivate both of them really well. (We've also stopped free range feeding. I measure out the right amount of daily food each morning and it's doled out at intervals. With an extra allowance if they're training or 'hunting' for it over night.) In the past we'd tried all sorts of cat toys and feeders and the cats have never played with anything more than once or twice. Now they both work at simple cardboard puzzle boxes and I'm teaching them (with the clicker and rewards) to roll a puzzle ball around. We're working up to the Doc and Phoebe hide'n'seek food mice.

But just the fact that Dempsey worked out that if he went where the green ball at the end of the clicker training stick was, I'd click and give him a treat. Well after two days he was jumping up and down, coming to me where-ever I was, sitting up and begging. It was amazing, but also kind of backfired. I've also spent a lot of time working on button pushing to get him to bat at it with his paw and he started batting at the button when I had the target on it. But then he started just going for the target wherever it was, without any queue behavior. If he sees the clicker stick now he follows it every where batting his paw at it. The button, not so much.Β 

He sits there after each session just staring at the buttons trying to work out what I want him to do. He keeps experimenting for a few minutes after each session, so I know he's thinking about it hard. I'm now focusing on getting him to play chase or hiden'seek with the clicker stick for a couple of minutes, then putting it away and just trying voice prompts and modelling and pushing the button myself. Two days ago he twitched his tail and whirled around and pushed "All Done" and walked off. I swear he meant it. However, since then just lots of ineffective batting at it and a frustrated cat.

I put out a catnip button and a brush button because he loves both those things and I'm hoping that gives him the idea button = something. It's slow slow going but I can't believe how much more our cat is trying to communicate with us. I thought we were teaching him tricks but it's something much bigger. Last night, I wasn't expecting much from the button so I didn't bother sitting down for training. I pushed the Let's Play button with my foot instead but then Dempsey straight away pushed it with his foot and it worked! Clicks and treats!Β 

And then straight back to batting weakly at the buttons and chasing the green target stick all over the house. So that was a long intro but it's been a big couple of weeks. How do other people manage training in a two cat household? Do you need total quiet or does one cat learn from watching?Β 
Β  The pet door should have a lock on it so you can close it when you don't want it open.Β  You could close the door with the "outside" button next to it and model it that way.Β  When a cat pushing the "outside" button open the door again.
Β  I would train whichever cat was interested at the time.Β  They should let you know when they want to train.
I like the idea - one of them prefers help using the door, so I'm starting to open it after pushing the button. They are certainly good at letting us know who is interested - as in one eager learner and then one other one who hovers trying to get to the reward first.
I am just starting in a two cat household as well!Β  I have a 17 year old and a 12 year old.Β  I have started with just two buttons, one for each cat, or a common request that they don't share, I should say: "up" for the 17 year old who needs lifted up onto the bed and "balcony time" for the 12 year old who likes to nap out there and watch the world go by.
We haven't had our first press yet, but I'm excited!Β  I'm not doing clicker training at the same time though.
Hi everyone! I'm an AAC/AT specialist and SLP, and have recently decided to try using a couple of extra buttons that I had with my cat, Allie. Even before seeing Christina Hunger I was curious about this, but after seeing Billi Speaks and FluentPet, I decided it was time to join in!

Allie currently has three buttons: treat, dinner, breakfast. It's a lot of effort for her to activate them (we are using Learning Resources recordable ones) because she's small (<10 lbs). I'm considering ordering the FluentPet ones and would be interested to hear if anyone has compared the two with cats and/or small dogs?

I've seen the suggestions to start with just one word, and not to use "treat". But for Allie, I'm going a different direction, and thought I would share my thought process with everyone...
1. Receptively, I think she already knows the three words I'm introducing, because she will reliably perk her ears up, stare, etc. if she hears us say them.Β 
2. I could have chosen to use a core word like "eat" instead of specific words (like I would with many of my human students) however, I've been using these three fringe words daily, her whole life, whereas I don't think I've said "eat" to her very often. I also know I use my SLP strategy of emphasizing and repeating key words, even when I don't mean to... I'm sure other SLPs will relate... ("I know, you want dinner. Yes, dinner. Mhm, time for dinner.").
3. I want her to have multiple opportunities throughout the day to make requests. If I only started with one word, she might only have one opportunity per day with that word. (This is key with human learners - many opportunities!)
4. Allie seems to know a few other words receptively (bedtime, nap time, play), but I think food is probably the only thing that is motivating enough for her that she might go to the effort to learn to push a button (which as I mentioned, takes a fair amount of force for her).
5. She does make requests for other things with body language (snuggles, pets, scratches, play) BUT I don't think my husband or I could reliably withhold those things long enough to wait her out for the time it would take to get to understand that we want her to make that request with a button. Whereas we are very used to ignoring her "feed me" meows until it's actually time for her to be fed :).
6. I'm experienced with teaching humans to use AAC, so I'm not afraid to introduce multiple words at once, and don't find it overwhelming. Plus, I'm a big believer in robust vocabularies for human AAC users :).

Currently Allie is at Stage 0, but appears curious about the buttons. My husband and I are using modeling and shaping as teaching strategies. Modeling is well explained on the getting started page, but I thought I'd give a description of how we're adding shaping:
- We model the word first ("e.g. dinner") then wait. If nothing happens after 5 seconds we might model and wait again.
- If Allie approaches the button, sniffs it, or touches it with a paw, we'll immediately honor it as a request and model again (say "yes!" while pouring the food, then push the button)Β 
- I've also added in playing with a favorite toy near her "treat" button, which creates the opportunity for accidental activation (she hits the button or sits on it without meaning to). Then, I use my "act as if" (or "attribute meaning") strategy like I would with my human students: I act as if she meant to do that and immediately honor the request ("yes! Here's a treat!").Β 

I have seen shaping described as a teaching strategy when working with human students, dogs, horses, and other animals such as dolphins. I haven't seen it used with cats but then I honestly don't know a whole lot about research into teaching/training cats! We chose to use shaping with Allie because we think in her case, modeling alone is probably not enough to get her to realize that she is allowed/encouraged to push the buttons, and we don't want to use any physical prompting ("hand over paw"... lol :)) because (just like my human students) that would take away her opportunity to use spontaneous communication.Β 

So, you might wonder - what is the plan once she learns the word "treat", if she starts to overuse it? I don't take words away from human AAC users as a matter of ethics, and I'd prefer not to take them away from Allie either. If she starts to over-request things,Β we'll introduce additional words (probably "later," and alternative reinforcers she's allowed to have any time such as "pet me", "play"). I expect by that point we might be able to more reliably wait her out for things like "play" since it probably won't take as much wait time for additional buttons as it's going to for the first few. Will let you know how that goes!Β 
Thanks for this breakdown. I’m always interested in what the language specialists have to add to this convo. I agree with you re: taking away buttons.Β 
Welcome, Brianna and Allie.Β  I'm also a cat mom teaching feline furbabies.Β  Thanks for the detailed explanation and your take on food buttons.Β  I have two furbabies just turning a year old (the are known as The Twins in the neighborhood).Β  Jelly is about 14 lbs and Wisssp is about 8.5 lbs, so she has issues getting the LR buttons to trigger just like Allie.Β  I have the FP buttons on order and expecting them in a couple of weeks, so hopefully they will be an improvement.Β  I'll keep you posted with the comparison. Β 

Buttons: play, all done, Mama
Welcome Brianna and Allie! I can't wait to hear more about your journey!
I just got my buttons in the mail for my kitty today and I’m so excited to use them!Β 

I’ve started to introduce β€œplay” to him, but there’s so many things I want to teach him I’m trying not to overwhelm him or me.Β 

With cats, is it better to start with one word and hope it catches on or start with a few and see which takes hold?Β 
I would still start with one. The first button should be something motivating because they’re learning how to use buttons at the same time as learning the concept that they have a way to get you to do stuff. But you don’t have to wait until your cat is regularly pushing the button before you introduce more. If your cat has hit the button a couple times even accidentally and definitely knows that something happens when you push it then you’re good to move forward. I think most people have gotten tripped up by trying to go to fast.Β 
Got it!! Slow and steady wins the race!Β 
I'm in this same situation, so I'm eager to hear how others are getting started with their cats.
I was thinking food, because man mine are food motivated.πŸ˜‚
But I’ve seen people say that’s a bad idea. Play is what I’ve seen a lot of people do, but I was curious what everyone else started with.
πŸ₯‰ πŸ₯ˆ πŸ—¨οΈ 🐈
Bachelors in Biological Sciences with a focus in veterinary science. Aspiring veterinary pathologists
I had a few buttons out to begin with (food, love you, outside, etc) to strike an interest with the buttons. Todderson (my cat) was not interested in them at all until I made a button for β€œbrush”. My cat LOVES being brushed and he clicks it over 20 times a day now. He actually clicks it more than food and treat!
Sarah replied
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I started with treat! A big no no ! IΒ΄ve seen outside or play as great alternatives. We have 5 buttons and he still struggles with outside as I introduced it pretty late. But Play with no problem! It changed his whole personality!Β 
I started with treat because I knew it would be the easiest for her to understand... but I immediately created a treat monster! Once she figured out how to push the button she constantly pressed it. I then added the word "no" but it was meaningless and just a battle of "treat" "no" "treat" "no" and she also would push the "no" button and expect a treat (she didn't understand at that point that different buttons meant different things). I ended up taking away all the buttons and started from scratch. My second attempt I used "outside" because she goes outside multiple times a day and loves being outside so that was quite easy to learn. I also used "play" which she would press and expect a treat, and then was still pretty happy when it turned into a play session. It took a little bit of time but now she knows that "play" means to play and not get a treat. She would press the button when she was bored and wanted stimulation, so instead of giving a treat at that time she got playtime with me.

I've purchased the generic buttons from amazon that everyone seems to get started on.Β  I've been modelling the four buttons for things that the cat gets excited about.Β  He's showing a lot of interest in the buttons, he even touches one (the treat button).Β  The buttons take quite a bit of pressure for a cat of his size to push.Β  I notice that BilliSpeaks has to put her entire body weight onto a button to push it.Β  Does anyone have any recommendations for buttons that are easier to push for a small cat?Β  Or do you think I should just keep on going with the current buttons?
The FluentPet buttons are pretty small and easy to activate. You can check out my instagram @Scouts.Journey.Home for an unboxing of the hex buttons, and more visuals of a dog using them. My pup is 40 lbs and alternates between very gentle touches and very intense touches lol.
You might also try a targeting exercise to get him to focus on the dead center of the buttons. There are several different examples floating around the board but Take something like a piece of colored tape and teach him to touch that with his paw. Then you can stick that on your button’s sweet spot.

My dog is 6lbs and the difficulty of setting off our Ali express buttons has caused frustration on all sides. We are very excited for out fluent pet buttons to arrive.
I understand that the later batches of FluentPet buttons are supposed to be much easier to activate.
Anyone else working with a cat?Β 

I'd love to connect!Β 
I'm starting 6 with my dog and i was going to try 6 with my cat (who is pretty smart).Β 
My cat Bentley is 7 years old and very smart, he knows how to sit, "pretty" makes him pull his paws up, he can "spin" and lay down so i thought it'd be fun to try with him.Β 
I have both my cats on 4 buttons now. One is proficient, and demonstrates a pretty good understanding of all of them. It only took her maybe like 2 weeks to go from touching the side of the button, to the top, to me shifting her weight to make it go off, to her finally pressing it herself.Β 

The other seems to understand them, but just lays next to the one he wants. If I place his paw on the button, he presses himself, but he refuses to lift his pay himself to press πŸ˜‚Β  πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈΒ  πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ VERY rarely, when we aren't paying attention to him, he'll press it. I can tell that he gets it...he just doesn't seem to want to do it (?)
I’m teaching my cat, Kyo he’s 5 months.

It was a bit rough at first he wasn’t getting them and then we changed the voice and he got it almost immediately. We’re up to 5 buttons now and I just added a 6th. He’s doing really well. He knows exactly how to press the buttons to make them go off and if he’s lazy he’ll just bread loaf his whole weight on it which is kind of funny when he does that on the mad button because it just repeats until he gets up πŸ˜‚Β 

We haven’t moved the buttons into a board yet tho... I know we should but I’m very nervous to since he’s doing so well
Aeternit_TizianaG replied
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I’m also starting with cats! Just wanted to touch base with the kitty community!