When you bring your kitten or cat home for the first time, everything will be new, for both of you, and she’ll have lots to learn. She needs to know where the litter box is, mealtimes, and all the routines of your household. But there is so much more for her to learn. If you can work some training into your playtime with her — and it’s easy to do! — it will go a long way to strengthen the bond you two have.
Above all else, there is one thing cats of all ages should learn, and that’s to come when called. What if your cat gets out, or you receive an emergency evacuation order? If your cat knows to come when called, and it’s part of her routine, chances are a lot better you will find her when you need to.
Here are some tips that will help teach your cat or kitten to come when called:
- Make sure to start off with a high value reward. For most cats and many kittens, this will be their very favorite treat. But lots of kittens will be more play than food motivated, so consider using their very favorite toy as a reward instead. When a cat knows she’s getting something really awesome if she comes to you, she’ll eagerly learn. And always do something to reward a cat for coming when called once she’s learned, even if it’s something small.
- You will actually be teaching your cat two different “come here” commands — one for extra-special treats and emergencies, and one for every day routines like dinnertime. You will use a different nickname or word for the two commands. You’ll find out why in a minute. But for now, know that you are establishing a consistent routine, which is why you need to pick out words that you use specifically for coming when called. Otherwise, it’ll confuse your cat.
- Only call for your cat, using her special name, for very pleasant activities, or an emergency. Of course, as a human, you will be tempted to use it when you need to take her to the veterinary clinic, or to give her meds. But depending on how your cat feels about the vet and her meds (most loathe both), she will feel betrayed, and it will teach her to distrust the command. If your cat only associates the command with good things, when you need to use it in an emergency, she won’t thinks she’s going to the vet and will be less likely to hide. This is why you have an “everything else” come here command.
- Start off with short sessions using the special come when called command. Stand a few feet away, tempting her with the treat or toy and use your chosen word or nickname as she comes to you for her reward. Eventually, as she becomes consistent, move farther away, then to a different room or part of the house. Make a fun game out of it and she will learn to look forward to these brief, rewarding sessions.
Use dinnertime and other pleasant, regular routines for the other command. Your cat will learn both of them, but she will realize that one command means something extra special.
Training cats and kittens to come when called is actually pretty easy, and it’s most effective when it’s a regular part of your cat’s day. Having two different come here commands is even better because it deepens the language, and sense of fun between you and your cat.