We all know cats have minds of their own. They’re independent thinkers that can be a touch stubborn, and they usually don’t care about what you have to say. They’re going to do what they want when they want. It’s all part of their charm, but did you know it’s completely possible to train your cat to come when called? It’s definitely not a natural behavior, like how it seems to be with dogs, but cats learn this important skill all the time.
Reasons to Train Your Cat to Come When Called
Training a cat like you would a dog might sound pointless to some people, but there are real benefits to training your cat to come when called.
I decided to take on this challenge with my cat, because now that he’s growing in confidence, he’s been showing increased interest in open doors and life outside. I don’t have any plans to let him outside (too many dangers where we live), but I realize accidents happen. If he manages to escape, his training to come when called will help me find him quickly.
Here are a few other reasons cat people choose to train their cats to come when called.
- In case they escape their harness while outside on a leash
- If you can’t find them within the house
- To do a roll call before you leave the house
- To find them quickly in an emergency such as a house fire
- As a way to bond and spend time together
- To impress your friends with how cool your cat is
How to Train Your Cat to Come When Called
Training your cat to respond to their name isn’t as hard as it sounds. In fact, you might already be halfway there. Cats that come running every time they hear the crinkle of a treat bag, the sound of food hitting their dish, or the pop of an easy-open can have already learned to associate sounds with rewards. And that’s all you’re going to try to do—teach your cat the sound of their name leads to yummy things.
Step 1: Choose Your Language
The first thing you need to do is decide what verbal cue you want your cat to respond to. It can be something like “Here, kitty kitty!” or add the word “come” after their name. Whatever you pick, make sure it’s something easy for your cat to recognize.
This is the word or phrase you’ll use every time you want your cat to come. You need to say it exactly the same way every time, or else your cat will get confused.
Step 2: Choose Your Reward
Coming when called deserves a super high-quality reward. Your cat isn’t going to work for minimum wage, so find something that they truly love. It could be a store-bought treat, tuna, or anything else that really gets them excited. If you pick a reward that’s only so-so, your cat will probably decide your silly human games aren’t worth the effort.
Step 3: Initiate an Association
The goal in training your cat to come when called is to get them to realize that every time they hear their name, something really great happens. It’s about associating a cue or trigger with a specific outcome to create a positive chain of events.
If your cat already comes running to a specific sound, use this as a stepping stone. Call your cat using your special phrase, make the sound they’re already attracted to, and then give them a reward when they come toward you. Always say your verbal cue before making the familiar sound. When you do it enough times, your cat will realize your call always precedes the other sound. Eventually, they won’t need to wait for the other sound to know what’s up.
In the case your cat hasn’t yet learned to respond to a random sound, don’t fret. You’re starting the association from scratch, but it’s not hard. Start by sitting right next your cat. Say their name (or whatever cue you’ve chosen) and immediately give them a reward. Do that a few times, and then only give the reward if your cat looks at you. Once they start looking to you every time you give the cue, you know you have the foundation you need for a strong association.
Step 4: Reinforcement
Once you’ve established that initial association, the next step is to reinforce it. Start calling your kitty from a little farther away. When they continually come when called from that distance, move a little farther away. You can also start doing it when they’re obviously distracted. Call them when they’re intently watching squirrels from the window or tormenting the dog.
Your goal is to be able to call your cat from any room in the house, and no matter what they’re doing, they’ll come running for their reward. If you plan on letting your cat outside, you also need to practice this new skill out of the house.
Tips for Success
Responding to training doesn’t come naturally to most felines. How long it takes and how hard it is will depend on your individual cat, but here are tips to help ensure success.
- Cats get bored easily, so keep training sessions shorter than five minutes.
- Practice every day. Consistency is key!
- Offer a reward no matter what. Even if you had to call their name 50 times, when they finally show up, give them their reward.
- Never punish your cat for not listening. Why would they want to come to you if they think they’re in trouble?
- At least at first, don’t call your cat only to do something they won’t appreciate, like trim their nails or give them a bath. This will create a negative association, and they’ll stop coming when called.
It took about three days for my cat to get really good at this useful trick. I was surprised by how quickly he caught on, and I now have peace of mind that if he ever gets lost, it’ll be that much easier to find him.