Does Your Cat Come When You Call?

Does your cat come to you when you call her? Do you want to have that ability as part of your cat caretaking duties? I’d like to know if you have trained your cat and if so, how. In this post I explore the possibility of training your cat to come to you when you call.

I think it is nice if you can call your cat over and for example feed her or call her in from the outside. I don’t normally call my cat. He is mainly an indoor cat and he normally calls me! He opens up the conversation by talking loudly to me.

However, we read about the dog-like behavior of certain cat breeds. Some breeds appear to be more responsive probably because they are smarter. First filial Savannah cats come to mind.

Training Cats

Training Cats. Burma. Photo by mistagrrr

My Training Efforts

There is one occasion when I call my cat to me. I am in bed and he jumps on and sits at the end away from me. I non-aggressively thump the bed next to me. That is his signal or cue to come to me and rest on me. He nearly always obeys that signal. Why? Because he associates it with something good. It is the classic reward based training.

In this instance the good thing he likes is being groomed by me using a flea comb. He does not have fleas. He hasn’t for a while but he does have an itchy skin and the flea comb brings him relief. That is the reward for him. That and bit of warmth and cuddling. The thump on the bed is a form clicker training.

I have also trained him to get off my armchair and move to the top of the back support when I want to sit in it. I move towards the chair and make a certain noise and he knows what to do. This is highly informal training. No method was employed to achieving that.

Training And The Clicker

In my basic bed example the sound of the thump on the bed is associated with the pleasure of a scratch and relief from an itch. It is more normal to, for example, say “come” or use a clicker device and associate that with a treat of some sort.

At mealtimes when your cat comes to the kitchen for food you can say “come” and when he arrives and you give him food click the clicker to reinforce the reward. As you can see from the video the click is made when the treat (food) is delivered. The click is used because it is sharp and precise. It allows the cat to make the association between action and reward with more certainty. I think the experts call it a “bridge”. It helps to bridge the connection between action and reward.

Training Your Cat To Come

I think this what I would do to train my cat to come on a call:

  • When he comes naturally for whatever reason, I would then call him;
  • When got to me, I would give him a treat and use the clicker.
  • Doing that several times should lead to the situation where I call and he comes. Treats should be small single bite sized pieces of a favorite food and be to hand to deliver to your cat promptly.

This video shows how to clicker train.

The method is called ‘classical conditioning’. It is used in a very specific way as part of clicker training. Each click results in a reward, something positive for the cat. As mentioned this can be a treat, a cuddle or a favorite game. As cats are smart, they understand what sort of behavior gets them a ‘click’ and the reward.

I can see advantages in clicker training or just plain training beyond getting your cat to come to you on demand. This sort of activity promotes interaction between human and cat. It entertains the cat if the cat is trained to do other things. I would have thought these activities are good for a cat, especially an indoor cat.

Facebook Comments


Does Your Cat Come When You Call? — 15 Comments

  1. I will come when you call….if I want to,
    I will purr….if I feel so inclined
    And we’ll live side by side in affection and peace,
    But you’ll NEVER know what’s in my mind.

  2. My cats come when I call them but then I only call them for reasons I know they will be interested in. Not just for the sake of it. If Gigi wants to play and is in the other room and I become free to play I call her. She trusts me and comes. Cats very quickly ignore you if you call them for your own personal reasons. They stop trusting you right away. I am very careful about that.

    Then if there is one day a danger I feel if I call them they will come for safety reasons. Your voice and words and actions are all you have with your cats so you must not over use them. Otherwise you open the back door and call for your cat and they just stare at you like you are totally bonkers, turnaround and walk away.

    You need to call them only when it affects them in a way that matters to them. Whether its food time or you are going to shut the door or something. Lilly sometimes wants lap-time when I am busy – I call her when I have a moment and she comes. I would certainly not do that if it was just me who wanted the lap-time. Otherwise you get the typical ‘cat totally ignores your request’ scenario. Gotta love cats eh, they know what they want.

    You must know what they want and when they want it too though. Sometimes I open a new cupboard that normally closed and I usually call Gigi because I know she will enjoy to go inside and explore the cupboard. She always comes running. Every time. She might hear the cupboard too but maybe not. She knows I won’t waste her time and its going to be worth it so she is excited or curious and heads straight over. Its very sweet – I do love her curiosity and she knows I encourage her to be so and she can tell when I call her it’s going to be fun or interesting.

    Food of course is more obvious. It’s very easy to make it that they don’t come when you call. Just like if you are late a few times for a rendezvous with someone. The next time you say you will be there at a certain time they aren’t going to take you seriously. Your word and actions are all you have and its even more so with animals because they wont understand there might be a reason if you are inconsistent. Your cat can always come when you call – but more importantly you cant just call whenever you want your cat to come. So there’s a catch 🙂

    • I just want to add that I think training is a bit wierd. The whole idea of getting your cat to do what you want him to do just for the sake of it is a real turn off for me. I would feel odd being involved in this type of training. People tend not to do that to other people so why do it to animals? For what purpose? I’m sure there are some answers to that but I’m proud of my cats and our relationship and that we genuinely like eachother and doing things together. I would feel a little odd drawing them in with temptation and some food they like or something. Psychologically it doesn’t fit with me – I’d no longer feel we are on the same level anymore but that I am manipulating them. Sorry about that – I’m sure I must be missing something about the whole training and clicker thing.

      • I think the answer is in the question, “what are you training for?” If you are training a cat to dominate them and control them – wrong. If you are training to better manage your cats in a difficult world maybe there is some good. And maybe if we rephrase “training” for “responding to me as person might respond” there might be some merit it a bit of training.

    • In the most gentlest and most informal of ways, I think you have trained your cats. And I suspect they have trained you. Perhaps “training” is the wrong word. It is more about responding to a request from someone who loves you.

  3. Hi Michael,

    My cats usually come when I call and I usually come when they call 🙂

    But cats are independent and a little rebellious at times – much like myself, which is part of what I like so much about them. Sometimes they sit there and wait – even if they are only a few feet away – and let me know they’ll come when they are good and ready. Sometimes they don’t feel like coming when I call.

    The Americans used clickers for WW2 communication.

    I’ve heard that clickers work great for training as you’ve mentioned. I’ve never used them but have considered and may do so in the future.

    My use would be to keep the cat safer, to come for food, and to increase interaction.

    I use words now but a clicker might be quicker and have more of a sweeping generalized purpose – to get a reward of some kind – as you’ve mentioned.

    But I wouldn’t want to use one for long; only long enough for them to get good at responding to it. Then I would want to use a substitute such as a word or phrase. Who wants to carry a clicker around for life? Not me.

    But I can think of one life-long use for it: If the cat should escape. You could bring it with you when looking for him.

    But that would require occasional use so that the cat won’t forget it.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

    • I love this comment because I agree with it 😉 LOL. More than that cat training for the British might be useful. Brits let their cats out a lot. They go wandering. Dangerous. If you can call your cat and get him inside when needed that seems useful to me.

      Training can be seen as a sort communication. It opens the door to another dimension in communicating with your cat as long as it is done wisely and for the right reasons.

  4. If I set a plate down on the counter Monty will appear from anywhere in the house in about three seconds. I use this when I want to make sure he’s ok. He has a tendency to eat non-food items if he feels I have not fed him enough (which despite the size of his belly is pretty much always) so I like to check up on him now and then.
    Monty comes in from outside when I say “Treat!” I always give him something after saying this word. Sometimes I just want him to come in but I don’t want to feed him, so I’ll just call to him. He sometimes will come in with me but sometimes not. Then I close the patio door and stand there for awhile watching him. Within a few minutes he will run in or if he doesn’t I open the door again and he comes.
    He does not respond to the thumping on the bed to move closer. Other cats I’ve lived with did, but Monty seldom sits very close to me. When he does it is at times of his choosing, when I have not encouraged it. I really like it when he snuggles close, but I’m not going to try and make it happen more, though I probably could by offering a food reward for it. He’s fat enough. He doesn’t need more treats. I will use a food reward to get him inside because he’s safer in here than outside without me. But unless it’s about his safety or my wanting to confirm that he is safe, then I don’t attempt to train him.

  5. I like Ruth’s little anonymous poem. It sort of says it all doesn’t it.

    What I love is how the communication develops while you get to know a cat, and they get to know you. No training needed. There is an understanding. I love how you put it Michael “It is more about responding to a request from someone who loves you.” It pays to come when called. That is how they get the ‘goodies’ and I don’t mean cookies. They come for the love.

    The communication I have with each cat is very different. I’d have to say Bigfoot understands English the best, tho I’m the only one he’ll respond to. Yellow cat knows her name and comes as long as there is something in it for her. If she had a juicy mouse for lunch, she may choose to ignore the call!

    Marvin is a whole other matter. That guy is a genius. He comes running like a dog when you call him. He will follow me all over place, trotting long like it is perfectly normal. Thank goodness he is afraid of cars. The sound of one sends him to cover. I’m very grateful for that. Fortunately we don’t have a lot of traffic on our street as it is a dead end with only five houses. But the high school farm is on the street, so lots of kids drive into the farm to feed their livestock. Marvin has been aware of that his whole life before he came to live with me.

    Shadow isn’t as clever as the others. Food is his only language. He is smart enough to be Yellows best friend. That means lots of grooming for him, but I never see it reciprocated. Whats up with that? Yellow hasn’t trained him!

    Message from Michael: Here is a video of Marvin and Daisy. Sorry if what I did is a bit basic.

    • Oh I love Marvin and this video with Daisy. Marvin is such a sweet cuddly boy with her. What a great cat he must be. Red used to come when I called, in a very relaxed sort of way. I liked the video – thanks 🙂

    • I’d like to add however that Red was afraid of cars and always backed right off when he saw them. I felt more secure seeing him behave that way around them. I guess something unexpected must have happened because he wasn’t the type to hang around or near cars.

  6. As the little poem said, our cats come when we call….if they want to.
    If I wanted an animal who lives to please and obey his people, then I’d have a dog.
    I love the free independant spirit of cats and see no pleasure in dominating them.
    I hate clicker training and any ‘circus act’ type of tricks some people have their cats perform, we can co-exist happily with cats simply by understanding we are different species.
    Jozef jumps on my bed and I push the duvet back and pat an invitation, he comes in and snuggles next to me, it’s the best feeling when a cat chooses to be close to you.
    Most times both our boyz Walter and Jozef come to us when we call their names, but if not well we understand they have better things to do and will get to us eventually lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please only upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks.