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Home > Cats > Why Doesn’t My Cat Listen to Me? Feline Behavior Explained

Why Doesn’t My Cat Listen to Me? Feline Behavior Explained

Cat inside house looking out the window

Owning a cat is much different than having a dog. Dogs are social creatures that live in packs, while cats are independent, solitary hunters. That means the way they perceive your voice is different—a dog may see you as their protector, while a cat is happy to ignore you and groom itself. Unlike dogs, cats aren’t perturbed by alone time away from their humans.

This led to the myth that cats aren’t trainable because they don’t listen to your voice or come when you call them, but that’s not entirely true. Cats have been studied to see if they listen to their owners, and the results were surprising: they were found to perk up more to recordings of their owners’ voices than a stranger’s voice.1 Some cats can even learn simple commands, but training them is a bit different from training a dog.

If you’re interested in finding out more about why cats seem to not listen, how training them works, and more, you’ve come to the right place. Read below for the details.


Are Cats Trainable? Cat Training Tips

Cat laying on owner's chest
Image By: Maliflower73, Shutterstock

Cats know their owner’s voice and can hone in on it if they want, but they’re not as innately eager to please as a dog. Positive reinforcement is the key to training a cat, even only to not scratch your furniture or to stay away from certain areas. Some cats can be incentivized to learn simple commands and even tricks, but it requires a ton of patience, food, and a strong bond.

Let’s say you want to teach your cat to come when you call their name. They may even know their name already but simply have no reason to come when you call it. Praise and some chin scratches may work for more gregarious cats, but realistically, most cats want treats or food to do things.

You start by calling your cat’s name and looking for a reaction. Eventually, their ears will perk up, they’ll glance your way, or maybe even come to you. Liberally reward them with a high-value treat like canned tuna or a favorite treat when you see any acknowledgment. Cats easily understand cause and effect, and they’ll quickly understand that listening to you gets them delectable rewards.

Over time, you can simply pet your cat and give them praise along with the reward. Slowly reduce the number of treats or food you use as your bribe and taper it off until your cat only expects praise. They don’t expect a treat anymore at this point but still have a positive association with listening to your voice.

How to Redirect Bad Behavior: Scratching & Biting

cat scratching furniture
Image By: RJ22, Shutterstock

Cats don’t understand punishment, and you should never use it as a consequence for bad behavior or to deter it. For example, swatting at a cat when they bite you too hard will only make them afraid and anxious. They could associate you with being swatted and learn to simply avoid you to prevent it.

The same type of thing applies to unwanted scratching. If you catch them scratching and raise your voice at them or any other punishment, they’ll simply learn to scratch when you’re not around to avoid getting caught. It is a nightmare to find your cat’s been tearing up your new furniture, but positive redirect tactics are your best weapon. This goes hand in hand with positive reinforcement. Reinforce good behaviors and redirect bad behaviors.

Unwanted Scratching

Redirect unwanted scratching to a scratching post, which is a must-have for every cat owner. Add-ons like dangling mice, multiple levels, and appealing carpeted surfaces will increase the chances that your cat will prefer to scratch there instead of on your prized furniture.

Biting or Aggression

Young kittens and unsocialized cats are more likely to bite too hard, and it’s easy for them to froth themselves into a kitty rage. When your cat bites you too hard, ignore them completely. This is what mother cats do with their kittens, which teaches them that they get no more playtime when they bite too hard.

divider-catFinal Thoughts

Cats are the ultimate independent companion, so it can be easy to think they’re ignoring you when they’re not. Getting your cat to listen to you can be hard, but using positive reinforcement, treats, and lots of patience will go a long way toward winning over their furry little heart.

Featured Image Credit: rebecaml, Pixabay

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