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Do Cats Know Their Names?

Dogs often come running at the sound of their name, but when you call their feline friends it’s a little less obvious whether or not they’re aware of their moniker. But according to a new study, there’s a good chance these fur babies have learned to recognize their names, too.

In an April 2019 study published in the journal Nature, Japanese researchers played recordings of a group of cat owners saying four nouns that were similar in length and intonation to their cats’ names. The results showed the cats expressed less and less interest the more the words were repeated. However, they perked up, moving their ears and heads, when they heard their names spoken after the four nouns. This was the case even when cats heard their name said after the names of other cats they lived with, as well as when their name was spoken by a stranger. 

Now that we know cats can pick their name out of a lineup, how can you teach your cat to come when he or she is called? You shouldn’t blame yourself for being a bad pet parent if your fur child can’t be bothered to look up from his or her cat tower when you come calling. Cats, unlike dogs, are solitary creatures that don’t naturally take to having a master. They have less of a biological instinct to submit to a pack leader, aka you. 

That said, there’s still a way to train your kitty to respond to his or her name if you’re determined. Be sure to get some treats (and lots of them), this process may take some time. Try to get your cat’s attention with those aforementioned treats, then offer him or her one without saying their name. After doing this for a bit, start using their name before you give them the treat. You should repeat this step a few times at different spots around the house to ensure your cat isn’t just following you for food. Eventually, you should be able to call your cat from anywhere and he or she will come running — treats or not. 

Of course, even if you train your cat to come when she’s called, there’s no guarantee that she’ll listen!

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