Cats can be stubborn creatures, make no mistake. And none more so when they refuse to respond to their name and come to you. You might even have a cat who doesn’t even acknowledge that you are talking to her! But what does this behavior mean? Here’s why your cat doesn’t respond to her name and what you might do to rectify it.
Why doesn’t my cat respond to her name? Your cat might not respond to her name for a number of reasons including a lack of training or something that happened in her past. It’s a challenge you can overcome if you have the patience.
Fortunately, the research has been done for you. In this article I will explain what I believe the reasons are for your cat not responding to her name, and the background behavior as well as some solutions – because all cats should know their name and answer to it.
Reason 1: Ineffective cat training
It’s highly recommended that you get your cat—kitten or not—enlisted in some kind of cat training class as soon as you can. This is to help them understand basic commands as well as learning their name. Just as children go to school to learn, cats need a similar learning environment in order to learn correct behavior.
An animal is born with its natural instincts and much of it can prompt behavior you don’t approve of, especially a cat. You’ve seen how they want to sniff at everything and run around instead of staying by your side during a walk.
However, you can’t expect your cat to walk properly on a leash, listen to commands and understand its name right away. This is why training is so important since the animal will be encouraged and taught in a good environment that teaches the right habits.
However, it’s important that you take what you learn in class home with you and apply it there too. Otherwise, you’ll mess with your cat's training. The lessons will be pointless and ineffective if they’re once a week and you don’t reinforce them.
Here are some tips on how to continue training your cat at home.
Improve training with consistency
It won’t help to take your cat to training classes for you to then ruin it at home. By taking everything you learn and implementing it at home, your cat can then further learn your tone of voice, the actions, and the command in the environment it lives in.
Continuing training at home is a key factor to maintaining good behavior with your cat. They’ll get confused if your expectations in the home environment are completely different from what they’re being taught in class.
Consistency is also vital to your cat’s understanding and responding of its name. How will it make sense of situations if you’re using a different way—such as a nickname—to call it over to you? Calling out different commands that they’re not used to will confuse them. Stick to calling their name, and use it with other commands for optimal clarity.
Remember positive affirmation
While training your cat you should use positive tones and treats to instill good behavior. A cat will be more likely remember the reward they got for obeying a command or responding to their name. This makes it easier for them to remember what to do the next time.
Rewarding positive outcomes is a way for you to have more control over your cat and their training outside of lesson time.
Handy Hint: If you cat has started to ignore you and withdraw affection it might be related to some other reasons listed here.
Reason 2: Bad connotation with the name
There are a few instances where a cat could have a bad connotation with the name it’s been given – cats like this will often not want to respond to their name for reasons you might not have historical knowledge on. This memory can cause your cat to misbehave or not respond to her name. It can be difficult to make things work in such a scenario but with patience and the right steps you can make things work.
Let’s go through two reasons why there could be a bad connotation with the name and why your cat might not want to respond to her name.
Adoptions may require training
There are some cases where a cat has been in a very unpleasant and dangerous environment. During that time, the cat could’ve been treated badly while having its name called out which will then make them not want to respond to their name at all.
This will be information you may not have as the current owner of the cat. Without this context, it becomes challenging to understand your cat’s responses. Taking your cat to a professional cat trainer can help this situation.
It won’t be easy but you could train your cat to love its name again with the right affirmations and encouragement. However, if that doesn’t work you may have to look into creating a new name for your cat, one that would be easy for them to distinguish and get used to.
Constant name change brings confusion
While being with a breeder, kitty handler or foster parent, a cat normally gets given a name which they then get used to. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad connotation, just rather confusing when they get to their forever and you’re giving it an entirely new name.
Handy Hint: I've written a comprehensive guide on all the questions you should ask your kitten breeder!
You don’t have to keep the name they have been given but making the transition into learning their new name easier is wise. You can do this by using the new name often as possible, in order to get a reaction from your cat and rewarding their response to it with a positive tone and treats.
Expecting them to respond to the new name can take time, especially if the cat is a bit older and used to a previous name. Prepare to be patient and kind, since cats learn best in a positive atmosphere, rather than being yelled at.
You should hopefully get to the point where your cat responds to her name with no pause or delay.
What’s next? Seek medical or professional advice
What if you face a real challenge? For example, you may not even know your cat’s previous name, and it may not respond to any label you give it. If you have done all of the above with no results, it may be a good idea to seek some help from someone who has studied cats and can tell you how to improve the situation.
As stated, the right behavior isn’t easily taught and takes time, so patience is key. Knowing what you’re doing wrong and how to change that could be the step in the right direction you’re looking for.
A professional cat behaviorist has the skill to understand a cat’s reactions and what the cause may be. They also know how to create the optimal learning environment, without letting a human’s agitation affect the cat’s ability to learn.
You can also have your cat checked out at the vet, to ensure it doesn’t have any hearing problems.
Why is it important that your cat knows its name?
Should this topic be a priority? Yes! Having a cat respond to her name is very important as things can go terribly wrong if they ignore you on a walk, for example. You need a cat to recognize and respond to its name to ensure a manner of control over your cat.
And remember, cats love running around boisterously but they actually love and appreciate order. When they know they’re making you happy, they’re happy. So finding a solution to this challenge will improve life for both of you.
Being a cat owner can be a lot of work while being rewarding at the same time. Cats are fun to play with, cute and cuddly to hold but difficult to understand due to the communication barrier. The joy of being an owner can quickly fade if your cat is behaving a certain way you don’t approve of and you can’t figure out why.
Whilst it is unlikely cats will ever be able to talk, a well adjusted and happy cat should be able to respond to her name with patience from the owner.
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