Superstar Cats

25 Easy Tricks to Make Your Cat Shine in the Spotlight


By Julie Tottman

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A fun, illustrated how-to guide to help kids teach their cats tricks, written by the expert animal trainer who has worked on the Harry Potter movies, Game of Thrones, and more!

Superstar Cats is a how-to guide for kids to teach their cats a wide range of easy and fun tricks, catering to all shapes, sizes, and personalities. Julie Tottman is the animal trainer behind a whole host of major Hollywood blockbusters–from the Harry Potter franchise to Lassie, The Dark Knight, 102 Dalmatians and, most recently, Game of Thrones. Each trick is broken down into easy step-by-step instructions, with helpful tips and advice accompanied by fun black and white illustrations. There is space to record your cat’s progress, and Tottman even shares some of her Hollywood memories along the way.



I’ve filled this book with tricks I’ve been teaching cat “actors” for the last two decades—some cute, some funny, but all impressive. All the tricks here can be taught by anyone, ranging from the easy—such as teaching your cat to rub (here)—to ones that require a little more patience and practice—such as “Bring an object” (here). All of them are worth the effort!

Something I’m often asked is if cats are too free-spirited to be trained. Well, there are certainly some who prefer to be trained more than others (see here), but I can tell you I’ve trained cats for a whole bunch of films and commercials. From Harry Potter and Skyfall to Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, I’ve had cats stretching, waving, jumping up, and even massaging!

In my experience, the majority of cats are very trainable, but in order for it to work, your cat needs to be domesticated, like being pet, and be very motivated by treats. So long as they’re friendly and playful, and you as their trainer have enthusiasm, rewards, and patience in abundance, then I promise he or she will rival the movie stars in no time—and you’ll be building a beautiful bond with your cat while you’re at it. Good luck!


I’ve been an animal trainer for film and television for more than twenty years, something I still pinch myself about. Animals have always been my absolute passion; at thirteen, I started working in a poodle parlor on Saturdays, and I did my apprenticeship there when I left school, becoming a doggy hairdresser soon after. It hadn’t crossed my mind to look into animal training as a career until a friend’s father—an art director in the film industry—told me the job existed. I couldn’t believe it: getting paid to play with animals all day and go on film sets? It was too good to be true.

I felt sure I didn’t stand a chance of breaking into it, but I managed to find the names of some agencies through a friend in the industry, and I eagerly contacted all of them. I did a lot of work for free before I finally landed a full-time job, and a few years later I was given an amazing opportunity when I was asked to work for an internationally acclaimed training company, Birds and Animals. I’ve now run the U.K. branch for eighteen years.

One of the things I love about my job is how different each day is. At any one time, I might be working on anything between one and eight feature films, as well as commercials and TV shows, and over the years I’ve trained reindeer, monkeys, mongooses, and bats, to name just a few. But, after dogs, cats are the animal I’m asked to train most often—not surprising, as they are one of the most popular pets in the world. (Fish are the most popular—but luckily I’ve never been asked to train them!)

I love cats, but they can be stubborn little so-and-so’s: they’re all clever enough to be trained, but it takes the right sort of nature to get success—just like humans, not all cats want to be actors. This means casting the right cat is very important. The main thing I look for is confidence. Some cats get very stressed by being moved around, which is really unfair for them, so I’m always on the lookout for brave cats who I know will enjoy the limelight. The second thing I look for is greediness! I’m always after a cat who likes to be pet and picked up, but if they’re really motivated by treats then that makes trick training much easier.

I try to rescommand as many animals as I can when it comes to casting. Once I have the description of the particular type of animal needed, I contact rescommand centers to see if they have any that fit the bill and are in need of a home. My favorite cat I’ve cast was Crookshanks for the Harry Potter series. The casting team wanted a grumpy-looking cat, so I right away thought of a Persian. I love them; they have such characterful faces. I found the perfect candidate—a cat named Crackerjack who was just the best cat to work with; he’d trot along beside me almost like a dog. We were real partners for many years, and he continued living with me after the films ended. I sadly lost him to old age in 2016, but I still have Max, who played Mrs. Norris!


Hopefully you’ve bought (or been given) this book because you already have a cat; so long as you have one, the rest is very simple!

Read the “Top tips for success” (here), which offers lots of advice on how to get started and teach tricks successfully.

Start with the tricks in “The Essentials” chapter—your cat needs to know these before you move on to any others.

Before you begin each trick, take a look at the key at the top for the following information:

the average length of time it will take for your cat to be performing the trick perfectly on command

what you’ll need to successfully teach the trick

the tricks your cat needs to know already before you attempt the trick you’re looking at

Each time you finish a trick, sign the box at the bottom of the page. Then, when your cat has successfully completed all the tricks in the book, award him or her the coveted certificate at the very back, and let your cat do a smug lap of honor around your living room.


The below FAQs provide some useful advice on how to approach trick training and to give you and your cat the best chance of success. Read through these before you get started on the tricks.

Q: Where is the best place to teach my cat tricks?

A: It’s important to do your sessions somewhere your cat is very familiar with. Make sure it’s quiet and that there’s nothing to distract your cat while you train together.

Q:When is the best time to teach my cat a trick?

A: Before a meal—that way they will be much more motivated by the treat reward. When cats are full, all they want to think about is sleeping—not that we can blame them!

Q:How long should the training sessions be?

A: Cats generally need shorter training sessions than dogs, as they can get frustrated quickly if they don’t understand what you are asking for (and they’re generally much more free-spirited!). Practice little and often, instead of doing long, frustrating training sessions. I’d recommend bursts of 15–20 minutes and no more than four sessions a day.

Q: How many tricks can I teach my cat at once?



On Sale
Nov 13, 2018
Page Count
112 pages
Running Press Kids

Julie Tottman

About the Author

Julie Tottman began her working career as a doggy hairdresser in a poodle parlor before landing a dream job as an animal trainer for film and television. Over the last twenty years she has worked on an incredible range of well known movies and TV shows, including the Harry Potter franchise, Lassie, The Dark Knight, 102 Dalmations, and, most recently, Game of Thrones, working with animals of all shapes and sizes. She lives in Hertfordshire, England.

Learn more about this author