Can a Cat Be Trained to Come When Called?

Can a Cat Be Trained to Come When Called? - OutdoorBengal

When I got my first cat, Mia, I wanted to make sure that she knew her name but I did not even know if cats could learn their name and they could if they would come on command. I found the answer and it surprised me!

Cats can learn to know their name and come on command. Contrary to popular belief, cats are very smart.

A recent study shows that cats not only can learn their name and call when called, but they also get to know the names of other people in the household. This process can take a while but I would like to share with you all I've learned about teaching your cat their name and to come to you when you call their name.

This article is sponsored by the Click Crusade, the first-ever clicker training cards game for cats!

The Click Crusade


Do Cats Understand Their Name?

According to a recent study, cats have been shown to distinguish their name from another familiar house cat’s name. The study also proved that they also distinguished those names from other nouns we speak daily.

Interestingly, cats living in multi-cat households habituated less to their companion cats’ names than to other nouns. 

Graphic Showing Cats Learning Their Names

This study provides evidence that cats link a companion's name and corresponding face without explicit training. Without training a cat this process can take up to 6 months, while when using clicker training, you can achieve it in a few weeks or even days.

How Long Does it Take For a Cat to Learn Their Name?

Some cats learn their names within days when using clicker training, but it could take up to 6 months without training.

Kittens are more open to absorbing new information than senior cats. The key learning window for a kitten is the first 12 to 16 weeks of its life. During that period it's going to be particularly easy to teach a cat new things.

Socialization (habituating a cat to new things like people, other pets, or the outdoors) is very important during the first weeks of age, and it's the ideal period for teaching your cat their name.

However, you also can teach an adult cat to come when called, because a cat learns all its life. So, never is too late to begin training sessions!

What Names are Best for Cats

Cats will learn their names faster when they are short, ideally one syllable. Just think about the first words babies learn, "mom" "pa" and "dad". Shorter names are also easier to call out.

Another important consideration when naming your cat is that their name should not be similar to any of the following:

  • Commands that you want to teach them later on (Sit, Up, Come, Down, Leave, Stop, No, Spin...)

  • Other Pet on People Names in the house (If the dog is called Luna, don't call your cat Puma)

Try to make everyone at home participate in the naming of the newcomer, getting inspiration from books, movies, their personality, or their looks usually helps.

Note that this name will stick with your cat for the next 15 to 20 years, so make it count! :)

The most popular cat names are:

  • Ginger
  • Kitty
  • Misty
  • Missy
  • Max
  • Oscar
  • Puma
  • Smokey
  • Tiger / Tigger

How To Teach a Cat Their Name

The best method to teach a cat its name is using clicker training. Once your cat knows their name, the next step is to teach them to come when called.

The process of teaching their name is divided into 3 parts:

The best method to teach a cat its name is using clicker training. Once your cat knows their name, the next step is to teach them to come when called.

The process of teaching their name is divided into 3 parts:

1. Charging their name using clicker training

Here's a short video showing how to charge the clicker:

The step #1 to teaching your cat their name is to charge their name. What this means exactly is that you need to help your cat link their name with a reward, a food treat.

  • Start by shaking a treat bag and when your kitty comes running following the sound, throw a treat a short distance (Repeat 5 times)

  • After a few times, start calling your cat name at the time you shake the bag (Repeat 10 times)

  • Let's make it more difficult, as your kitty gets closer, click, then throw the treat away (Repeat 10 times)

You can repite the training session calling from different rooms to reinforce this important skill.

If you don't have a clicker yet, consider getting one! It makes training much easier!

Clicker Training Kit

    2. Rewarding for looking at you

    After a bit, you will create a strong association in the mind of your cat: call your cat name comes with food reward.

    Call your cat and don't deliver a treat. They are going to be expecting the treat and when it doesn't happen, they will look at you to understand why.

    When your cat looks at you, click then reward. This time, don't throw the treat away, leave it near them (Repeat 10 times)

    3. Phasing out the treats 

    You are going to see how your cat starts internalizing looking at you when it hears you say their name. When that happens, start phasing out the treats.

    You don't need to food reward your cat every time they look at you, but it's good to reward the behavior every now and then to keep the expectation of the tasty treat strong, at least for a few months.

    How To Teach a Cat to Come When Called

    To training your cat to come when she's called I like separating the "name" command (Look at You) from the "come here" command (Come to You).

    Start the training session by call your cat's name to get their attention and once they look at you, you say the verbal cue: "Come Here" (or "here kitty" you alway can decide your verbal cue) and tap two times on the floor. Right after tapping, drop a treat in the area where you double tapped.

    After a bit, after tapping two times, your cat will understand that after that noise-gesture, a treat magically falls in front of them. This knowledge will keep your cat immediately coming to you when you double tap a surface.

    As your cat gets comfortable with the come command, you can phase out the food rewards.

    Take into account that many cats have special conditions and you have to adapt the training techniques to them. A characteristic situation become when we are working, for example, with a deaf cat. In that case, we will procced in the same way, but we should to subtityte all the sound and voice commands by visual cues.

    What treats do cats really love?

    When it comes to treats that cat loves, there are a few popular options that often garner feline enthusiasm. Make sure you continue reading if you believe your cat doesn't like treats.

    One classic favorite is freeze-dried treats, which retain the natural flavors and aromas of meat or fish. These lightweight, crunchy bites are often irresistible to cats. Additionally, treats made with real meat, such as chicken, turkey, or tuna, tend to be highly appealing due to their strong scent and protein-rich nature.

    Some cats also have a fondness for creamy treats, like lickable purees or squeeze tubes, which provide a different texture and indulgent experience.

    Ultimately, discovering your cat's preferred treats may involve some trial and error, as each cat has unique tastes and preferences. Observing their reactions and experimenting with different options will help you find the reward that make your cat's tail wag with delight.

    Selecting which is the right treat bag to buy is a key point for train your cat throught food positive reward. However, the desire that kittens shows to their food reward is related to the cat food they consume as basal diet.

    Animals that normally eat dry cat food or canned food, eventually, shows less pasion for healthy food reward than pets that eat a more natural diet.

    Make sure to check this article if you want to learn more about how to choose the best treats for your cat.

    Why Do Cats Choose to Not Come When Called

    They Don't Know What You Are Asking For

    Make sure that you take enough time to teach your cat their name and to come when called. If your cat doesn't respond or fully understand what you are asking, it's going to be frustrating for you as well as for them.

    It should not take longer than a few sessions to train your cat to come when called. 

    If you are struggling to teach your cat their name, feel free to schedule a 1o1 coaching session with one of our cat trainers.

    Free Feeding

    Free feeding is the enemy of clicker training. Because we are going to use food as a reinforcer during the training process, if your cat has free access to food, most cats will not be willing to work for a treat.

    Consider scheduling your cat meals so that you can control the intake and when it happens. This practice will not only improve their health, but it will also increase your bond with them and their willingness to work for food.

    Competing Stimuli

    Cats are both predators and prey. When a cat is in hunting/playing mode or scared/alert, their ability to learn stops, and they will be focused on what they are programmed to do best: Eat and not get eaten.

    Perform training sessions in a room in a quiet environment, where there are no competing stimuli.

    If you want to take your cat outdoors and you want to get your cat to listen to you when you are outside, begin training indoors first and little by little add the competing stimuli to increase the difficulty.

    How To Make Sure a Cat Comes On Command

    There is no good way to ensure that your cat will come on command but there's something that will certainly make the command lose its value.

    When you ask your cat to come to you, make sure you have the ability to enforce it if they don't listen. You can enforce it by using a special treat as a lure or by using the leash if they are wearing it.

    If you don't enforce the command, your cat will learn that nothing happens if they ignore you and they will start ignoring you more often, every time their other interests are stronger than what they would get by coming on command.

    How to Encourage a Feral Cat to Come To You

    Getting a feral cat to come to you is more complex than just teaching their name. It's about gaining their trust. 

    If you want to learn all about gaining a cat's trust, watch the video below:

    Stay Wild, Stay Safe, See You Outdoors!

    Albert & Mia

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