Recently, a friend of mine was complaining that her cat wasn’t coming (or even acknowledging her) when called.
My friend had spent a lot of time looking for the perfect cat name and was at her wits end how to make her cat respond to it.
That’s why we’re going to talk about whether cats know their names and why they choose not to come when called.
Keep on reading.
DO CATS REALLY RESPOND TO THEIR NAMES?
I think that a lot of people have the wrong expectations about cats. Unlike humans, cats do not rely much on verbal communication.
In fact, adult cats don’t meow at each other. They only meow at humansmimicking the behavior of kittens who call their mother by crying out loud.
Instead, cats identify each other through smells. Verbal names are not important in the cat’s world at all. But since they live in a human world, cats have learned to adapt.
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DO CATS RECOGNIZE THEIR NAMES?
Most cat owners believe that their cats know their names, even if they don’t always come when called.
Science had nothing to say on the matter until recently because cats make notoriously bad testing subjects.
However, a Japanese study published in Scientific Reports gives us confirmation. Cats actually recognize their names among other words.
During the study, most of the cats reacted in some way by moving heads or ears when somebody pronounced their name.
However, they had difficulties distinguishing their name among the names of fellow cats, so if you have multiple cats, they may all think they share names!
What the study shows is that cats can make connecting between the words they hear and the action. You say a cat’s name a dozen times a day in positive and negative situations.
Your cat learns that something is going to happen when she hears these sounds.
However, it’s not clear up to what extent they understand our words and if they connect “Misty” with their identity.
As T.S. Elliot says in The Naming of Cats, scientists will never discover the cat’s true name. So, we can only speculate what goes round in our cats’ heads when they hear their names.
WHY DON’T CATS RESPOND TO THEIR NAMES?
I think that cats have the special ability to put us on mute. That’s the only logical explanation of how Misty can sleep soundly inside the wardrobe while you’re going crazy looking for her.
Joke aside, cats are very good at ignoring people when they feel like it. And there is very little you can do about it because cats still retain a lot of their wild characteristics.
Unlike dogs, we haven’t domesticated cats. They just invited themselves into our homes and for hundreds of years we’ve let them be.
There was no need to train or modify the cat’s behavior because they did their jobs well.
Don’t get me wrong. You can bribe cats with food, but once they have had their full, they do as they please.
They are not like dogs whose instinct is to do everything in their power to please their people.
What’s more, a study has confirmed that cats recognize their owners’ voice, they just don’t always care to respond to it.
Most of the cats in the study responded in some way when their owner spoke, but they didn’t show any inclination at getting up.
That means that when you call your cat, she knows you’re the person shouting like a crazy person.
Of course, outdoor cats might not respond to their names because they are too far away to hear you or they are in heat. The worst scenario is that something bad has happened to them.
On the other hand, an indoor cat that doesn’t come when called and spends most of her time napping might be sick.
So, you have to know your cat’s habits to determine if there is a reason for panic.
CAN YOU TEACH A CAT TO RESPOND TO HER NAME?
Some people believe that cats are untrainable. While dogs are easier to teach than cats, felines can learn quite a lot if they are properly motivated.
And by motivated, I mean a lot of tasty food. For cats, verbal praising is not as tempting as for dogs.
In addition to this, you have to find your cat a suitable name if you want her to respond to it.
Long, complicated names won’t work because Misty won’t bother to remember them.
What’s more, specialists have determined that felines react better to names ending with the sound “e,” like Zoe, Fuzzy, or Frankie.
After you’ve secured the treats and found the right name, follow these steps to teach your cat its name:
- Cats are very responsive when they are hungry, so this is the best time for training.
- Get near your cat, say her name, and then give Misty a treat.
- Repeat a couple of times.
- The cat will start to associate the word with the food.
- Move away from the cat and repeat the same exercises.
- Continue to practice and build a positive connecting between the cat’s name and the tasty food.
- If you give Misty something delicious to eat every time you call her, she will respond to her name as long as she is interested in food.
- Don’t use the cat’s name for negative things like going to the vet.
If you want a visual guide to training your cat to come when called, check out this video!
Despite your best efforts, remember that cats are individual creatures and that they value their freedom.
And sometimes when they are engaged in some activity, even food is not enough of a temptation to make them come running to your side. You just have to learn to live with that.