Training Kitty to Come When Called
by Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann
Can you imagine your cat coming when called just like your dog? Well, it can be done and he/she might already be trained to respond you just don’t realize it.
So why would you need to have your cat respond to you when called? Life and death situations come to mind in the event of a natural disaster or fire. It’s also important not to use this training to call your cat for anything he might (or will surely) find unpleasant, like giving him medication or taking him for a veterinary appointment. In those situations, says Christensen, it’s better to go find him so that he doesn’t make any associations between being called and a negative result.
You may not realize it, but your cat probably already comes when he’s “called” by any sound that tells him it could be mealtime, such as the whir of the electric can opener. If there’s no sound involved, he’ll be called by the aroma of his meal being prepared. Since he’s already answering these calls, you can easily build on this foundation, says veterinary behaviorist E’Lise Christensen in an interview with Adventure Cats.1 The trick is to pair calling your cat with something he’s already responding to.
First you need to decide precisely how you’ll call him from now on when you want him to come to you. For example, you can call him by his name using a different vocal inflection, or by his name followed by “come” (“Fluffy, come”) or preceded by “here” (“Here, Fluffy Fluffy”). The key is to consistently use the same words and tone of voice each time you call him to you. According to an animal communicator, it helps the “call” if you visualize the cat coming to you in your head as you call their name.
You can also use high-value treats to train kitty to come when called. Standing next to him, call him to come and then immediately give him a treat. When it’s obvious he’s made the connection between your call and yummy treats, you can start increasing the distance.
Move a few feet away from him, call him, and when he comes to you, give him a treat. Once he’s doing this consistently, gradually increase the distance between you. If things go according to plan, he’ll be reliably responding to your call from all over the house. Keys to successful training sessions:
- Plan to do several sessions each day to help your cat maintain his training; keep each one short — no more than five minutes
- Never, ever punish your cat for not coming when you call — it’s ineffective and can cause him to become stressed or fearful
- Always reward him, no matter how long it takes him to respond to you; remember that you’re asking him to do something entirely unnatural for a cat