How to Teach a Cat its Name – 1 Great Simple Technique
by Jessi Larson
You’ve just picked out the perfect name for your kitty and can’t wait to start using it. There’s just one problem: the cat doesn’t know it yet. Follow this simple guide to learn how to teach a cat its name!
Do Cats Understand Their Names?
Yes, they really do understand when you’re using their name (once they’re properly trained). Whether they decide to listen to you is an entirely different matter!
A group of researchers from the University of Tokyo tested the recognition skills of 78 cats using similar words, including their own names, and found they did react to their names even when used by a stranger. This may not mean they understand the concept of a name as much as they’ve associated the sound with something positive coming their way.
Using Positive Reinforcement
Unlike dogs, who are pack animals – looking to please, cats need some additional motivation to respond to training. Positive reinforcement with food & treats is the key to cat name recognition.
Follow this simple routine to teach your cat its name:
- To start, get some treats that you cat loves.
- Then go an environment without distractions so it’s easier for your cat to concentrate.
- Say your cat’s name clearly, in a happy tone and when they look at you hand out a treat. (You can also take a step back and get them to step toward you after saying their name.)
- Repeat this process several times and soon your cat will associate their name with a positive experience.
- Follow this same routine for 2-3 weeks to ensure your cat learns to respond to their name consistently.
Once you have this routine down you can start to vary the location and distance from you cat while using their name to see if they continue the behavior. If they haven’t quite mastered it yet, go back to your initial training.
You’ll want to avoid over using their name and only use it in a positive way. If you need to scold your cat try just saying a strong “No” and don’t use their name. You should only use their name for good things like giving out treats or giving them affectionate petting when they come to you.
Don’t Overuse Their Name
Keep in mind, you shouldn’t use your cat’s name so casually that it becomes background noise. Always make sure you have a reason to say it.
Use a Short, Simple Name
Even if you picked a fun long name for your cat, like one of these punny cat names, you’ll want to use a short version of that name when training. Your cat is going to have a tough time learning to respond to Leopardo DiCatrio, so it’s best to stick with Leo for now. =)
If you live with family or roommates have them do these same steps. It’s helpful if everyone is using the same name and structure for teaching it to your cat.
For training to be super effective you’ll want to find something your cat loves. You’ll also want to make sure they’re hungry, this may be less effective after a big meal. Every cat has different favorites such as cheese, tuna, or some cat treats you can buy online or at the pet store.
Eventually you can also move away from only using food and instead offer some play with a toy like a feather or laser pointer, or just a good petting/scratching if they enjoy that.
What If My Cat Won’t Listen?
Some cats are more stubborn than others, you may find that your cat just isn’t very interested until you find something they love. Training can sometimes just take extra patience, especially if you don’t have a young cat. It’s also possible that your cat is deaf if they don’t seem to be responding to any noise. You can have your vet check them out.
So in summary, remember to continually repeat your cat’s name and always provide positive reinforcement. This is the best method how to teach a cat its name. Follow these simple tips and before you know it, your cat will be responding to their name on a regular basis!
Picking a Great Cat Name
Like we mentioned above, you can pick a longer fun name for your cat but ultimately you’ll want to stick with something shorter for everyday use. Also, it’s a good idea to pick a name that your ready to use for years, rather than a name that will get old (avoid naming them after something currently trendy that won’t last). Here are some ideas for picking a good cat name.
To find all the best cat names, try our easy-to-use cat name finder.