How to Teach a Cat its Name

While most dogs would basically respond to any pet name you give it with a wagging tail and an unwavering enthusiasm, it’s not always the case for cats. Today, we will learn about the art of teaching a cat its name. It’s not an easy task to complete, but the fulfilment you’ll feel the first time your feline dashes to your lap when you call it is a hundred percent worth it.

Results may not come as easily as you would like it to, but trust cat behavioralist Sarah Ellis and believe that cats are very much trainable, with enough patience and dedication from its human friends.

Do Cats Really Recognize their Name?

Some people would dismiss that cats never evolved to being able to recognize names that humans bequeath upon them, but Atsuko Saito, together with other Japanese researchers, proved in their study that actually, cats recognize voices and names, but choose not to show too much emotion.

See, in the wild, predators often prey on those that move too much as a response to stimuli, and those that easily show if they are hurt or ill. This is why cats have evolved not to be too responsive. So, it would really take a whole lot of training to make your cat actively respond when called by their name. But at least we know it’s possible!

10 Famous Cat Names Video

Tricks to Teach a Cat Quickly

In another post, we talked about how the tell-tale signs that your cats love you. One of the signs mentioned is when they respond when called. Here are some tricks to ensure an easy name-training session:

  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Sophia Yin confirms that good old classical conditioning works in this context. Associate your cat’s name with a positive experience (i.e. receiving a treat, head pats, belly rubs, etc.) and he/she would start responding to it proactively. Do not use the cat’s name when scolding it. Otherwise, he/she would learn not to respond.
  • Start as early as possible: Apparently, you can’t also teach an old cat new tricks! Ow when cats are young, the fun times of finding cat pee around the home! And shouting their name!
  • Engage the whole family: All of your hard work won’t pay off if some members of the household do not follow the rules. So while name-training, ask your housemates or family members to not use the cat’s name when scolding, and to stick with the name you all agreed upon!

Good Names for Cats

If you are having a hard time teaching your cat its name, the problem may be with the name you got for your feline friend. It might not be an appealing name to respond to. (Here are some good names for black cats)

The rule of thumb is this: name your cat something short and sweet. You may be tempted to call your handsome tomcat Alexander Hamilton, but “Hammy” or “A-Ham” might be a better alternative – shorter, catchier, and most definitely easier to instill in your cat’s sensibilities!

Changing your Cat’s Name

If, for some reason, you have tried all of the tricks mentioned above and you have even given your cat a short and catchy name, but it still won’t make him/her respond, then by all means feel free to change its name, train you cat again, and repeat the whole process to see which name your cat will finally respond to.

Again, we may never know the limits of the feline’s intelligence, and they may have grown to develop a liking some names and hating others, so shaking it up a bit might yield you better results.

A word of warning, however: never ever change your cat’s name once it has already started responding to one name. This posits a confusing problem and your cat might just stop responding to ANY name from that point on. Remember how difficult it is to make a name stick – do not undo it all just because you’ve started watching a new show and encountered a new bad-ass name!


Do not put too much pressure on your cat and yourself throughout this name-training process. Cats truly are eccentric, and some of them might never really get keen on responding when called.

If this is not something you can live with, then you can simply plan ahead and get one that belongs to the friendliest cat breeds - doing this will increase the chances (not guarantee, take note) of you being successful in teaching the cat its name.

Rebecca Welters

Yes, I am that weird cat lady with 200 cats and live in the darkest corner of the city where no one dares to go! Joking! But I am a cat lover and have 2 Ragdoll cats called Toby, he's 3 years old and Dory, she's 8 years old. I'm 36 years old and live in the quiet town of Washington.

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