One of the nice things about spending more time at home is that I get to spend more time with Gwen and Sophie. Other people in my line of work might be training machine learning models, but I am training a cat.

I’d tried training Sophie years ago. I started with big plans: I was going to train her to shake hands. This would be a very impressive trick for a cat. The real problem here is that Sophie hates to have her feet touched, and it was pretty clear that no amount of positive reinforcement would convince her otherwise. There is a little bit of that earlier training that remains. When she wants something, she’ll pick up her foot (and then put it back down before you can touch it).

More recently I tried training her again, this time with more modest goals. I decided that I was going to train her to sit. Since sitting in a thing that she does, this seemed eminently possible.

I’m clicker training her. If you haven’t heard of clicker training, the main idea is that you start by teaching the cat that when she hears the click that she is going to get a treat (Sophie picked that part up pretty quickly) and then you up your standards for what deserves a click.

I’ve tried to attach a four-second video here of Sophie sitting on command. I wasn’t about to open a YouTube account to upload a four-second video of my cat sitting just so that I could embed the video here, so I’ve tried including it using HTML5 video, which apparently only works for some people and some browsers only some of the time. Thus, I shall give a second-by-second description of the entire video.

0:00 Sophie is standing on the floor, facing away from me.

0:01 I say “Sophie,” and she turns to look at me.

0:02 I say “Sit.”

0:03 Sophie sits!!!!!!!!!!

0:04 I click the clicker and then turn off the phone video and grab a treat off my desk for her.