Giving a name to your new cat or kitten is not a simple task. So it’s understandable that pet owners would ask: Do cats know their names? According to experts, cats can recognize and respond to the names we affectionately call them—but they don’t always decide to respond.
A 2019 study showed that cats react more to the sound of their own names than any other words. Researchers studied cats in regular homes and cats living in cat cafes. They said four different words to each cat that were the same length and had the same accents as their own name. If a cat responded by orienting itself—meaning when it heard its own name, it turned its head and ears toward the voice—the researchers knew the cat could tell its name apart from other words.
7 Steps to Teach Your Cat to Come When You Say Their Name
- In a peaceful, quiet place with no distractions, stand up with your cat in front of you and have a small container of their food by your side—remember when using food for training, adjust their regular food intake accordingly to avoid overfeeding.
- Say your cat’s name and, if they look at you, say “yes” in a cheerful, happy voice and quickly give them a bit of food (ideally within two seconds of them looking at you).
- If they look away, repeat step two again to further strengthen that positive connection with their name.
- If your first training session has been successful, repeat steps one to three in a series of short sessions (ideally no more than three minutes long) over the next few days. Try not to use your cat’s name outside of these training sessions as it could confuse them.
- Once your cat has mastered it, repeat the training sessions but stand further away from them or do it lying down instead. This will help them to learn to respond to their name in other situations too. Make sure these changes are gradual as they could get distracted by a sudden change.
- When your cat is consistently responding to you in every training session, you can then start changing the reward you give them. Try offering a toy, access to the garden, or a stroke (if they like this) instead to reduce the dependence on tasty treats.
- Finally, you can start modifying how often you give them a reward, reducing it to every other time and then every fourth time they successfully respond to their name. Just make sure you don’t suddenly stop the rewards altogether, as they will stop responding too!