Do Cats Know Their Names: Is Your Cat Ignoring You Or Genuinely Unaware?

calling orange cat out
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

One of the best parts of adopting a new pet is the name game. First-time owners, especially, are usually very excited to name their pet and may end up spending a lot of time trying to find the perfect name for their cat. You want the name to truly represent your pet. But do cats know their names?

It’s been said that if you don’t want to get attached to an animal, don’t name it. Seen from another perspective, this means that if you want to create a deep bond with your cat, you have to name him/her.

cat reacts when was called

There’s no doubt that cats react (most of the time) when being called, but is it really their names that they’re reacting to? Or is it really the tone or your body gesture? You’ll get a definitive answer in this article. We believe this question is important because you deserve to know whether the bonding experience is one-sided or not, and whether all that time you spent looking for the perfect name was worth it or not.

In this article, you’re going to find out everything you need to know about how cats understand their names and the importance of a name. We’ve also dedicated a section to a comprehensive guide on cat name training.

The History of Naming Pets

This naming of pets isn’t something new; in fact, this dates back to the 8th century in ancient Greece where there were records kept of personal names for animals. For example, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus’ hound was named Argos—which means ‘swift foot.’

In ancient Rome, personal names for animals were given to dogs and horses—specifically for animals that lived with their owners. As you can see, the tradition of naming animals and empathizing with them has been around for centuries as there’s evidence of it in history.

What’s in a Name?

human connection with cat

Though you may think a name is simply used to address someone for attention, the act of naming is actually one of the most basic uses of language. Of course, naming an animal is used for communication purposes; however, it’s not as simple as we’d like to think it is. Naming an animal changes the way we look and think about animals.

First of all, naming an animal asserts power and dominance over them. The process of naming an animal will also affect the view people have towards it. If you name your cat Rosie, she will be looked at differently than if you had chosen to name her Bertha. Naming a male cat Tyson gives off an aggressive tone in comparison to naming him Karl, which gives an “old man” vibe.

The names we choose to give our cats bring out specific characteristics that we may not have noticed if they were given an alternative name. Thus, a name also gives your cat individuality and identity.

When you meet someone and learn their name, we feel more connected to the person; this is the same for our cats. Giving them a name makes us feel connected to them; names provide us with the ability to empathize. Through empathy, we no longer see our cats just as felines that roam around the house; we see them as family members and as friends.

In addition, giving a name to your pets allows you the ability to engage them in training. But for you to train them and bond with them, they’re going to need to respond to their name. Which begs the question: do cats know their names? We’ve discussed how giving our pets names affects us, but does it have any effect at all on the pet in question?

Do Cats Know Their Names?

cat ignoring his name

While dog owners won’t have to blink to answer this question, for cat owners, this question may take them a little longer to answer.

Now, many owners will say that their cats respond to their names, but how are they so sure? What if they’re simply responding to the tone which gets their attention, or perhaps they respond to the body language matched with the word? Yet again, there are times when you think your cat has lost his/her hearing as they completely ignore you when you use their name.

Various studies have taken place to answer this question, so, let’s get to the bottom of it. Among the many research attempts to answer this question, one stands out.

Saito and Shinozuka, two Japanese researchers, conducted an experiment to see the vocal recognition of owners by their cats. What they discovered was that cats could actually rely on vocal cues to identify people.

They also discovered that cats reacted physically when they registered the voice. The body language they exuded was ear twitching, meowing, and tail movements. Although, not all cats show physical reactions when they hear their names being called. The missing link is training.

Dogs are trained from puppyhood, and we focus on training them with everything—whether it be walking, recognizing mealtimes, sitting, or staying. However, with cats, it’s not the case.

Yes, you may have assisted in training your cat to use the bathroom or to stop him/her from scratching your couch; however, cats usually can domesticate themselves without any human intervention.

Their independence allows them to go untrained; however, it also creates a lack of human interaction. If you want your cats to truly respond to their names, you’re going to have to train them.

How to Train Cats to Know Their Names

cat ignoring his name

If you want cats to know their names and to respond to their names, then it’s important to socialize your cat. Through socialization, you’ll be able to make your cat more open to training.

See Also: How to Socialize a Cat

Once your cat is socialized and doesn’t shy away from interactions with humans or other pets anymore, you can start the training. Though cats are different from dogs, they can be trained. Here are the steps you need to take to properly train your cat to know his/her name.

Step #1: Choose a Name that’s Easy for Them to Connect to

Cats generally respond well to shorter and pleasant-sounding names. You may want to give them a ridiculously long name, but that’s going to become a hurdle when it comes to training them. Instead, keep the name short and sweet.

See Also: Exotic Cat Names

Once you decide on a name, stick to it. And you may want to refrain from using nicknames; you want to keep it consistent.

Step #2: Train as Early as Possible

You know the old saying, can’t teach an old dog (cat) new tricks. Of course, you’ll always be able to train them, but the older they become, the harder it is to train them. So, start training during kittenhood. The younger they are, the more receptive they will be to learning their names.

See Also: How Long Do House Cats Live

Step #3: Reward Them

giving treats to cat

You’re going to have to reward them if you want to train them. Verbal praise is not enough for them; you need to motivate them instead.

Dogs are easy to train because they’re social beings. However, cats are more independent and honestly, don’t really care about what you think. So, you need to see what motivates them and what rewards they respond to well.

Of course, this varies from cat to cat, so you’ll need to test out various treats and see which one they love the most. Generally, cats love treats such as tuna and chicken liver.

See Also: DIY Cat Treats

Try to approach the cat, say the name, and give them a treat. Repeat this a couple of times. Then, walk a couple of feet away and repeat the exercise. You can add the word “come” or “here” to their names as well.

Continue moving a little bit further away each time, giving them a treat every time if they respond. You want to make a positive connection between your cat and treats.

Step #4: Be Consistent

If you don’t stay consistent with the training, it’s not going to work. The best way to see results is if you train them routinely and on a daily basis. If you want to be effective in training them, feed them a little less than they normally eat so that they’re more eager to earn treats. But don’t overdo the treats.

See Also: How Many Calories Should a Cat Eat

If you’re living with other people, then you need to make sure that everyone in your household is involved in the training process. Make sure they all know the cat’s name and that they all use the same name when calling your cat. Eventually, they’ll get so used to everyone calling them, they’ll be able to run from one person to the next.

Step #5: Gradually Expand the Range of Training

gray cat being called from other room

After a week or so of training, you’ll want to begin calling your cat from a further distance. First, start by calling your cat from the other room. When he/she comes, give them a treat. Do this for a certain period of time until they routinely come to you when you call them from the other room.

Then, try to call them from every room in your house. Make sure you give them a treat each time. Once your cat is responding inside the entire house, you’ll be able to try calling him/her outside—that is, if she/he is an outdoor cat.

Step #6: Decrease the Treats Overtime

Now, you don’t want to be giving your cats treats every time you call their name. Over time, you’re going to have to decrease the number of treats you give them. Try to call them without rewarding them with food each time. When they come, make sure you praise them.

You should still be giving them treats, but now, less frequently than before. This way, they’ll respond to your calling without necessarily expecting a treat. However, you do need to keep them on their toes by giving them treats every now and then.

See Also: How Long Can Cats Go Without Food

Step #7: If the Training isn’t Effective, Go to a Vet

Now, we’re not trying to scare you, but it’s always a good idea to get your cat checked out by a vet. If you’ve been training your cat and they’re not responding, your cat may have a hearing issue.

If your cat’s white, then they have a higher chance of being deaf. Your vet will be able to perform an exam on your cat to see if they’re hearing-impaired. However, it could also be that your cat is simply stubborn and will take longer to train than other cats. If this is the case, continue training and hire an animal behaviorist if necessary.

Wrap Up

cat ignoring his owner

Having a cat is an amazing experience; they’re quirky, emotional, and playful animals. They give you unconditional love and affection and are always there when you need a cuddle.

However, sometimes, you may notice that your cat isn’t responding to their name. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t understand or hear you; they probably do, but there’s nothing motivating them to respond.

So, yes, cats do know their names. But it’s your job to make sure that you train them in responding to their names. Training isn’t easy and can become quite frustrating; however, patience and consistency will lead to success.

If you follow the steps above, you’ll have no problem in having your cat respond to his/her name. If you notice after a couple of weeks that they’re not responding, take them to a vet and see if they have a hearing problem. If they’re fine, perhaps you just need to change the treats to something that they’ll like.

Cats can be tricky and stubborn but training them isn’t impossible. Do you have a cat? How did you get your cat to respond to their name? Did you use any special tricks? If so, let us know in the comment section below! We’d love to hear about your cat and your experiences with your four-legged friend. Interested in learning other facts about cats? Check out our article on How Many Teeth Do Cats Have.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.