What can I do to reinforce the training to get my cat to come when called?

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Since it is human instinct to “call” an animal with his name, teaching your cat to know his name is a key element in getting the cat to come to you at your request. In truth, the cat will probably respond more quickly to the sound of the can opener, but if you go with that single reinforcement, he will need feline weight watchers in short order.

First, realize that cats and dogs “learn” in a very different way. Dogs are pack animals with an innate instinct to please. Cats won’t do anything unless there’s something in it for them. Dogs will continue to perform “tricks” even when the teaching reinforcement is removed. Cats will stop when they’re no longer being duly compensated.

In this regard, learning their name is one of the biggest compromises the cat offers to his human companions. His name is likely the only word he will learn that is “abstract” in nature. With proper training, however, the cat will realize that even absent a specific reward, there are larger benefits attached to knowing what you choose to call him.

With any “command,” including their names, cats respond better to short, distinct words with syllables that can be divided and emphasized vocally. Use the name in all positive interactions, addressing the cat directly when you are petting, feeding, or playing with the animal. Reinforce the use of the name with treats, affection, and obvious facial expressions of approval. Always remember that cats speak via body language. They know when you’re happy with them by how you look, move, and sound.

Given this fact, it’s also a good idea to pair a beckoning gesture in teaching a cat to come to you. Many cats respond much more readily to hand signals than verbal cues and will ignore their name but come willingly for a crooked finger or a similar hand movement.

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