Do Cats Know Their Names?
There is really nothing cuter than when you get home from a long day, and call your pet to have them come running to the door.
But do cats understand when we call their specific names? The awesome truth is in fact, cats do actually listen when their names are called.
Cats Pay Attention to Us
Cats are built to be paying attention to everything in their environment. My cats are able to watch a fly buzz around outside for hours on end, but still hear when we call them or when we are filling up their food bowls.
Yet cats are also social creatures with complex emotions that they share with us and use to make decisions.
Let’s be honest, cats find us fascinating, just as we do them. In fact, research shows that cats are more inclined to pay attention to items and associate them with positive emotions if their owner feels the same way about them.
A great example I love to use is our ear plugs. This is the weirdest things that our cats have come to treasure. But when you think about it, the ear plugs are something that my husband experiences positive emotion with, they make him happy (because he can sleep), and now they make the kitties happy.
Though their body language may not seem as obvious to us as our dogs’, they really are paying close attention. There are subtle things they do that show us they are watching us.
Why Doesn’t Your Cat Come When Called?
This is one question I get asked a lot from people. If my cat knows their name, why don’t they come when I call for them?!
The truth is, some do! Chloe and Zoe, our two kittens, not only know their names but come running when we call them! Now they do not come every single time they are called, but I would say at least 80% of the time.
Although you may really want your kitty to come whenever you beckon, cats may find themselves … already busy. Whether they be in a very comfortable position, or swamped watching the birds outside
How, and when, a cat responds likely depends on each kitty’s nature, motivation, and current feelings.
When Phoebe wants to go outside, she follows me EVERYWHERE and if I call her, she is running to me. However, if she’s eating and I want her to come cuddle, nope. Much too busy to leave what she is currently doing to see me.
Sometimes the sound of their name is just not as big of a motivator as you think it should be.
They could be sunbathing, or deep in their third cat nap of the day
Our biggest downfall is that we expect cats to respond immediately the way dogs do. Owners who compare the two are really doing a disservice to both species. Cats and dogs are unique and special in their own ways.
Use Their Name Throughout The Day
What is the best way to train your cat to know you are calling them and not someone else in your home?
The best way to do that is train your cat that responding to their name is something positive.
For instance, I would always call out my kitties names before I was feeding them. And then, when they came, I would say their name again as I gave them food.
Some also have tried saying their name right before you offer a favorite toy or when they come to you for pets.
If your cat associates their name (or the sound of their name) with something positive, they are more likely to come running to you, when they aren’t occupied with something else, of course.
When you are training your cat to learn their name, you should never use punishment with their name. The fastest way to make sure your cat ignores you is to have a negative aspect associate with their name.
Even a negative tone in your voice will tell your cat that something is wrong and they will not receive the same positive treats if they come to this tone.
Teach Your Cat Their Name Using a Clicker
If you really want to train your cat to always come to their name, you can try clicker training. Clicker training is a great tool if you want to train your cat to do other skills above name recognition.
Cats make excellent learners when you know what motivates them and what they find reinforcing. Once your cat understands that the sound of the clicker means they’ll get a treat, you can use the clicker to teach your cat their name as well so many other tricks
In short, do cats know their names? Yes! Cats do know their names. Will they always come when their names are called? No. But that is either because they are busy or based on the tone of your voice.
If you use your cat’s name in a positive light, your cat is more likely to come when called. For even more positive reinforcement, you can clicker train your cat.
Just remember that training should be fun for your cat. If your cat becomes bored, walks away, or becomes disinterested in the treats, stop your session and wait for another opportunity when they are likely to be motivated.
Lastly, remember cats are not dogs. So while they may understand their names, don’t expect them to respond like dogs and puppies when you call them. You are setting yourself up to be disappointed.