How To Teach Your Cat Her Name
The other day I was chatting with a friend who is considering adopting a cat. I sent him a few links of cats available at my local shelter, and after commenting one of them, he asked, “Could I change his name?”
It was a question I hadn’t expected, and told him of course – that both Ellie and CG had different names when I adopted them, and I don’t think it’s uncommon for adopters to change their pets’ names.
But, if you do decide to change it, there’s always that one big question: Will your cat learn it?
I’ve met some folks who say it doesn’t matter. I even heard a story of one woman who never named her cat, because she said that cats don’t answer to their names.
Well, that may be true that some won’t always answer you when you call, but cats are quite intelligent and can quickly learn.
Some suggest teaching your cat his name much like you’d train a dog a treat. Here are a few tips:
Keep treats in your pocket so you can give them out each time your cat responds to his name – like if he comes when he’s called. Eventually you can scale back the treats and simply praise and pet your cat when he arrives.
But how do you get to that point? Make an effort to use your cat’s name as much, and as naturally, as possible around him. If he’s on the other side of the room, for example, hold out a treat to him, and say his name. He should smell the treat, which will be the reason why he comes over, but repeating his name may help him make the connection.
Similarly, call your cat’s name as you prepare his food. Two sounds can almost guarantee your cat to come your way: The sound of kibble filling a bowl and the pop of a can’s top being snapped off. OK, make that three: The sound of treats shaking in their container. Make that noise, call your name, and repeat if possible.
The idea behind all of these suggestions is to establish a positive connection between you and your cat. When you say his name, you want him to come not because he’ll get a treat or food, but because his reward is spending time with you and receiving affection.
You can reinforce his knowing his name by saying his name at other times throughout the day too. For example, if I walk into a room and see CG, I’ll say “Hi, CG!” You can also say your pet’s name while you’re playing with him to get his attention. Perhaps also say your cat’s name soothingly when he’s sitting on your lap.
But, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your cat simply may not care about his name. Cats can be tremendously independent, so don’t take it too personally.
You may also be unknowingly doing something that may make it more difficult for your cat to learn his name. For example:
Does your cat’s name rhyme with something you say often? This may discourage your pet as he can’t figure out exactly what you’re saying.
- Don’t shout your cat’s name if he misbehaves, as he’ll start to associate his name with negative attention.
- I know this is a hard one, but try to say your cat’s name in the same tone of voice if possible. Cats have great hearing and respond to variations in tones.
- Nicknames may confuse your cat.
That said, some cats, especially older ones, may know their names better than young ones. Of course if that is the case, then you may want to keep your cat’s original name (especially if it was a house cat who likely knew his name, vs. a former stray who may have never learned his name).
Another thing to keep in mind: Younger cats may be easier to teach since they’ll be more inclined to receive a reward. An older cat may not be as interested.
If you’re at a loss trying to come up for a name for your feline friend, check out some of the most popular names for adoptable CH kitties. You’ll never know when one will stick!
Does your cat know his name? Did you intentionally try to teach him his name? Please share your stories in the comments!