wikiHow to Teach a Cat to Recognize Its Name

Two Parts:Getting Ready to Train Your CatTeaching Your Cat its Name

It’s no secret that cats can be obstinate creatures, but despite what you may have heard, cats can be trained. By learning a bit about what motivates cats and how they behave, and then implementing some simple training techniques, you can quickly teach your cat or kitten to come to you when she is called.

Part 1
Getting Ready to Train Your Cat

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    Choose a name that is easy for your cat to recognize. Cat’s generally respond better to shorter, pleasant-sounding names. While you might have your heart set on “Princess FluffyBottom McPhee,” you should probably shorten it to “Fluffy” for training purposes.[1] If you are adamant that your cat’s moniker “Sir William the Vicious of Belvedere” cannot be shortened, you could just train him to come to “kitty.”
    • Don’t change your cat’s name once it has become used to it. This will just confuse the cat.
    • The introduction of new nicknames can also confuse your cat. Consistency is key.
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    Begin training your cat as early as possible. You can start training your cat when it is still a kitten, and the younger the cat is, the more receptive it will be to learning its name. An older cat can still learn new tricks, of course, but perhaps not as quickly.
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    Choose rewards that your cat will appreciate. Remember that verbal praise is not going to impress or motivate your cat. Instead, you need to provide immediate, tangible rewards that your cat enjoys. A cat will always appreciate a tasty food treat like a bit of tuna or cheese, a spoonful of wet food, or a commercial cat treat. Cats will also respond to nonfood rewards if it’s something they really enjoy, like a bout of laser pointer tag, or a hearty scratch behind the ears.[2]
    • The kind of reward that works best will depend on the cat, so prepare to do some experimentation.
    • Make sure you have enough kitty treats on hand to get through the training process.
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    Learn a bit about what motivates a cat. Dogs are easy to train because they are social creatures that want to please humans, and feel rewarded by a simple “Good dog!” or other verbal praise. Most cats, on the other hand, are less concerned about what you think of them, and more interested in what you are going to do for them.[3] Cats respond well to rewards and can readily learn new tricks if you are patient with them and offer them something they really want when they do well.

Part 2
Teaching Your Cat its Name

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    Create a positive association with your cat’s name. Only use your cat’s name when you are calling or speaking pleasantly to it. You should never use a cat’s name to scold or reprimand it; for that a simple but firm “No” will suffice.[4]
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    Begin actively training the cat. The best way to get your cat interested in training is to feed the cat a bit less than usual so it is slightly hungry and more eager to earn food treats. Then simply approach the cat and say its name, and then present it with a small food treat. Repeat this two or three times. Then walk a few feet away from the cat, and repeat the process but add the word “come” or “here” to the cat’s name. (For example “Charlie, come” or “Here, Sneakers.” Either works, just be consistent.) When the cat approaches you, pet her and offer her a treat. Then move a bit further away and repeat.[5]
    • Make sure the cat links her name to the pleasant reward. This means saying her name, then immediately giving the reward.
    • Repeat this activity, calling the cat 10 to 20 times per session, once or twice a day until the cat reliably responds to its name.
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    Expand the range of your training. After about a week, you can begin calling your cat from longer distances. Start by calling your cat from another room. Eventually try calling her from every room in your house. Once she is reliable about coming when called inside the house, you can also try calling her outside (assuming she is an outside cat). [6]
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    Involve the whole family in training your cat. If there are other members of your household, get them involved with teaching your cat its name. Make sure everyone uses the same phrase to call the cat. Eventually, you can teach the cat to run back and forth between two people, alternately calling her and offering a treat.
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    Get help with a cat that won’t respond to its name. If your cat refuses to respond to her name, she may have a hearing problem. White cats, in particular, are far more likely to be deaf.[7] Your vet can screen your cat’s hearing so you will know for sure.
    • Some cats are simply more difficult to train than others. If the cat’s lack of response or general behavior is troubling, consult with an animal behaviorist to get help identifying and rectifying the problem. Ask your vet or look online for a recommendation.[8]

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Categories: Cat Training