Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Teach a Cat Its Name – 7 Tips & Tricks

white cat with the owner

Training cats isn’t easy but it is possible. Despite being renowned for their aloof behavior, cats are clever animals and can pick up tricks like playing fetch. You can even teach them to respond to their name with a few treats.

With a little time and dedication on your part, you can teach your kitten to recognize the way their name sounds. By teaching them to associate it with positive things, they’ll be more likely to come running when you call. Here are seven tips that can help you teach them their name.

divider-cat

How to Name a Cat

Before you start figuring out how to teach your cat their name, you need to choose the best name for the job. This isn’t always as simple as choosing the first name that comes to mind. The wrong name can make it much harder for your cat to learn that they’re expected to respond when they hear it.

cat owner looking at her pet
Image Credit: U__Photo, Shutterstock

Avoid Similar Sounding Words

Although a lot of people don’t train cats, there are still a few commands you might find yourself telling your cat. “Down”, for example, tells your cat to get off the dining table or “bed” could be your way of bidding your cat goodnight.

You need to avoid a name that sounds like these common commands. The more unique the name is, the easier your cat will be able to distinguish their name from the other words you say. Also, avoid cat names that sound similar to that of your family members, your cat might get tired of hearing the similar name. They may also learn to ignore it, even if it’s not directed at them.

Keep It Simple

A unique-sounding name doesn’t mean you need to find one that everyone struggles to say. The best names are simple and short. Names that are one or two syllables stand more of a chance of being easy for your cat to recognize.

While you can give them a longer name, you might want to use a nickname when you want their attention. Remember that cats don’t understand the words themselves but rather the sounds you make as you say them.

divider-cat

7 Tips & Tricks to Help You Teach a Cat Their Name

1. Start Young

kittens playing with cat toy
Image Credit By: Michelle Maria, Pixabay

Kittens are inquisitive and adaptable. They’re also super quick learners and will pick up tricks and commands much faster than older cats will. A young kitten will also be less likely to have already been named. This makes it much easier to teach them a new name from scratch.

While you can rename an adult cat you adopt, it’s likely to take much longer than it would if you were teaching a kitten. Changing the name of your senior cat might also confuse them so it’s not always recommended.


2. Be Consistent

When you choose a name for your cat, you must consider the opinions of everyone in your household. Part of teaching your cat their name includes being consistent about how you address them. Switching from your cat’s full name to a nickname or something completely different if one of your family members prefers a different name, will only confuse your cat.

Keep a list of suggested names for your new kitten and discuss them as a family until you narrow down the perfect one. Your cat’s name needs to suit them and be easy for them to understand.


3. Positive Reinforcement

Cats are all individuals and for the best results during your training sessions, you need to figure out what yours will do anything for. For most cats, treats are a good choice. You can also take the chance to spoil them a little with a treat they don’t get very often.

Don’t overdo the treats though. Rewards for good behavior shouldn’t become the main part of your cat’s diet. You need to balance their treats with a nutritious, balanced meal plan to avoid issues like obesity.


4. Repetition

cat waking up her owner
Image Credit: WiP-Studio, Shutterstock

Like with any training method, repetition is key. The more you use your cat’s name and reward positive responses, the more familiar they’ll become with the sound. This is part of the reason consistency is so important too.

The more familiar the sound of the name is to your cat, the more they’ll learn to associate it with a reward like their favorite treat. Repetition also allows you to take your time to teach your cat rather than expect them to understand straight away.


5. Use Nicknames

While repetition is a key part of training, it’s also important that you don’t overdo it. Only use your cat’s name when you want their attention. This will help you limit the number of treats you give them in response to them recognizing their name and also prevent them from getting bored.

Cats can be stubborn and can quickly grow disinterested. If you use their name too much, you run the risk of them growing tired of answering your call. Instead of using their name all the time, use a nickname when you want to discuss your cat but don’t want to disturb them or get their attention.


6. Keep Training Sessions Short

Learning something new is tiring. All the repetition you need to do to teach your cat their name can get boring too. Unfortunately, if your cat gets bored or tired during their name-learning sessions, they’re likely to begin associating their name with negative feelings.

Don’t try to sit down with your cat for a long training session surrounding their name. Your cat will lose interest and you’ll become frustrated if they start to ignore you. The key is to keep sessions short, light-hearted, and fun. Positive experiences surrounding their name will help encourage your cat to respond the way you want them to.


7. Increase Distance

bengal cat walking on plank outdoor
Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock

When you first start, you should be close to your cat when you try calling their name. Begin in a quiet room with no distractions and wait until your cat is sitting on your lap or being groomed. You want to be doing an activity where they’re close by when you first introduce their name.

As they learn to recognize the sound of their name and respond consistently, you can start increasing the distance. Do this slowly. If your cat doesn’t respond at a certain distance, take a step back and return to the last distance where they responded to you.

divider-cat

How Long Does It Take To Teach a Cat Their Name?

It’s difficult to say for sure how long it will take your cat to learn their name. Like us, cats are individuals and each one has a unique personality that plays a part in how fast they pick up commands. The complexity of their name can make it more or less difficult for your cat to learn as well, which is why a simple name is the best choice.

Their age plays a part too. A kitten is more likely to learn their name within a few days or weeks, while a senior cat might take a few months.

divider-cat

Conclusion

While it might take a little longer than training your dog, you can teach your cat to respond to their name. Choose a simple, short name that has a unique sound your cat can learn to recognize and combine it with a treat whenever they respond to it.

With enough repetition, your cat will learn to associate their name with good things and be more likely to come to you when you call.


Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets