When I started training cats, I never taught “focus”. I thought that if a cat had enough motivation, he would focus. If not, he’d pretend you didn’t exist. It wasn’t until I started working with dogs that I realize how important “focus” is, and that it should be taught before anything else. If you don’t have your cat’s focus, you won’t have a chance of training (especially if there are distractions)!
To focus, you are just looking for eye contact. When you’re outside adventuring or trick training in a new area, kitty may be too distracted to pay attention. Teach “focus” in your home initially, then use it as the first trick you as k for whenever going to a new place.
Click and treat when your cat looks at you- it’s that easy! Your kitty should check in with you periodically without his name being called, so encourage him with a treat. You also want him to make eye contact with you every time you call his name- it’s your way of saying “pay attention, I’m about to ask something of you!”. Remember: if your cat isn’t focused on you, then chances are he will not perform any tricks.
Do I have to treat every time he looks at me or I say his name? To start, yes. But once kitty understands “focus”, you can gradually fade out the treats, or just use them in more stressful situations that are harder to focus. Always have kitty’s focus before asking for a command!