Last week I did a consultation with a client who had never named her cat. When I asked her why, her response was that cats don't answer to their names. Do you think that's true? No, it's not. Cats are smart and they quickly learn their names. So before we did anything else, I showed her how to teach her cat.
Yesterday she called to say that Butter (named for her beautiful yellow coat) knew her name, was coming when called, and their relationship was growing closer. Way to go, Butter!
Before I get into the technique, let's talk about why it would be important to teach kitty to respond to her name. First, it's a good safety measure. Before I leave my home each day, I do a "cat count". I don't want to leave and have one of my cats accidentally closed in a closet. So I go around the house calling their names. Second, when your cat knows and responds to her name, it can help strengthen the bond between both of you. She hears your voice calling her name and she becomes eager to respond. And why is she eager, you might ask? Because she knows it will result in something good. And, just as with my client and her cat, Butter, interacting with your cat as a team, builds a bond because you're both doing something positive and fun TOGETHER! Here's the plan:
Start by having your cat associate her name with pleasant experiences. Food is a great motivator and many cats, with their finely-tuned hearing, are quick to respond to the sound of the can opener, the pop-top lid, or the opening of the food bag or pouch. Use that association by calling her name at the same time. Softly repeat her name as she enjoys her favorite meal.
You can also hide pieces of dry food or a few treats in your hand and sit on the opposite side of the room from your cat. Sweetly call her name. When she comes to you, reward her. In subsequent sessions, move out of her sight to another room and call her name.
Very soon you won't have to offer treats anymore as kitty firmly establishes her identity and learns that responding is always a positive experience. Even though you're no longer offering a food reward, always praise or pet her when she responds.