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How to Teach a Cat its Name – 1 Great Simple Technique

Published: Last updated: 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!

how to teach a cat its name - white cat with blue eyes

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 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 additional motivation to respond to training. Positive reinforcement with food & treats is the key to cat name recognition.

cat getting a treat

Follow this simple routine to teach your cat its name:

  1. To start, get some treats that you cat loves.
  2. Then go an environment without distractions so it’s easier for your cat to concentrate.
  3. 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.)
  4. Repeat this process several times and soon your cat will associate their name with a positive experience.
  5. Follow this same routine for 2-3 weeks to ensure your cat learns to respond to their name consistently.

Bonus Tips

Next Steps

Once you have this routine down, you can start to vary the location and distance from your cat while using their name to see if they continue the behavior. If they haven’t mastered it yet, go back to your initial training.

Stay Positive

You’ll want to avoid overusing their name and only use it positively. If you need to scold your cat, try just saying a strong “No” and don’t use their name. It would be best if you only used 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’d want to use a short version of that name when training. Your cat will have a tough time learning to respond to Leopardo DiCatrio, so it’s best to stick with Leo for now. =)

Involve Others

If you live with family or roommates, have them do these same steps. Again, it’s helpful if everyone uses the same name and structure for teaching it to your cat.

Treat Ideas

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 move away from only using food and instead offer some play with a toy like a feather or a 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, and you may find that your cat isn’t very interested until you find something they love. Training can sometimes 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 repeat your cat’s name continually 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 regularly!

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 you’re ready to use for years, rather than a name that will get old (avoid naming them after something currently trendy that won’t last). So here are some ideas for picking a good cat name.

Try our easy-to-use cat name finder to find all the best cat names.

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