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Compared to dogs, cats may not always respond as quickly to the sound of their names. Even so, it’s absolutely possible to train your cat to come when you call them—which can be important for their safety, if they ever slip outside!
There’s no magic way to “make” your cat do what you want. Cats are independent creatures, after all. Sometimes they’d rather keep exploring, napping, or chasing that fly than find out what their pet parent wants.
But a combination of treats, positive sounds, and gentle training can start you on the right path. Keep in mind, too, that the more you bond with your cat, the more they’ll trust you. And if they trust you, they’re more likely to listen when you call them—especially when they realize you’ll reward them with attention and treats.
Step 1: Offer Treats
If you’ve ever gotten your cat to come out of hiding by shaking a box or bag of cat treats, you probably already know treats work great for recall training.
Dr. Janet Cutler, certified cat behaviorist at Cat World, says it’s a good idea to continue using treats even after your cat understands when they’re supposed to come to you. You want to reward your cat every time they respond to your call, she says, especially when you first start training.
As soon as your cat makes it to your side, give them a treat and plenty of praise. This will encourage them to do the same thing in the future.
That said, some cats aren’t very motivated by treats. If your cat doesn’t have much interest in edible rewards, you can try offering a favorite toy, cuddle, pinch of catnip, or brushing session instead.
Tip: Opt for healthy cat treats meant for training to help your cat maintain their ideal weight.
Step 2: Use Sounds
Short, repetitive sounds like clicking or kissing noises can help get your cat’s attention and encourage them to come to you.
You can also use a clicker during training to mark the step between a request and a treat. Experts have found that clickers work effectively for training cats, especially when you add treats into the mix.
Here’s how it works:
- Call your cat’s name
- Say “come”
- Give the treat
Eventually, they’ll begin to associate the click with the reward.
Some cats also respond to music, particularly:
- Glides and legato notes
- Feline noises
- High-pitched tones and chirping
- Classical music undertones
Loud noises or angry and frustrated voices, on the other hand, will likely leave your cat feeling less like coming near you.
Step 3: Get On Their Level
When trying to get your cat to listen to your voice, getting down on their level can make a big difference. So, try kneeling or sitting on the floor during your training session. This can help put your cat at ease and make it more likely they’ll head your way.
It also helps to pay attention to your cat’s physical cues during training sessions! Dr. Cutler says you’re more likely to succeed if your cat isn’t distracted when you want their attention. This is especially the case if you’ve just started working on recall training.
If your cat’s ears perk up or turn toward you when they hear their name, they’re most likely listening (and they may be ready for some training!).
Things To Keep In Mind
Every cat is different, so recall training may take more time for some cats than others, according to Dr. Cutler.
Factors that can play a part include:
- Your cat’s personality
- How often you practice
- Whether you reward them every time
- How much experience you both have with training
- Whether they trust you
Some cats could learn within days, while others may take much longer.
In short, don’t worry if your cat doesn’t seem to want to come to you right away, particularly if you’ve just adopted them or moved to a new house. Cats who feel anxious or uncertain may prefer to stay in a secure spot until they feel more comfortable.
It may also help to start out with shorter distances when calling your cat and work up to longer ones over time. For instance, when you first try recall training, you might sit on the floor a few feet away from your cat.
Eventually, you can try calling your cat from a different room, or even the other side of the house!
What To Avoid When Training A Cat To Come When You Call
Recall training can take plenty of patience.
Not only that, you might feel frustrated, even scared, if your cat jetted out the front door before you could grab them and you’re trying to lure them back inside.
Still, it’s important to always stay patient and calm. Cats can pick up on your body language and tone of voice. If you start to get frustrated or annoyed, they may sense this, become afraid, and run off to hide somewhere they feel safe.
You’ll also want to make sure to keep your training sessions short. Just 5 minutes a day is long enough for cats. Longer sessions will usually just leave them bored or annoyed, and training likely won’t be very effective.
If you’ve tried training your cat for some time and don’t notice any results, a cat behaviorist can always offer more guidance and support.
Bonding With Your Cat Makes A Difference
Dr. Cutler says your cat is much more likely to come to you when you call if you have a good relationship and strong bond.
Of course, training offers a great way to spend some quality time with your pet, so it can help you and your cat grow closer. You’ll have a pretty good idea of whether your cat loves you if they sleep on you, make biscuits in your lap, follow you into the bathroom, and bring you bugs or other “gifts.”
Taking good care of your cat by feeding them, playing with them, and rewarding them can quickly make you their favorite person, which can make training all the easier!