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Norwich Bulletin - 9/17/2006

How To Make Kitty Come When You Call

It is really true! You can teach your cat to come when it is called. Of course, you have to properly do the training and also give your cat good reasons to bother learning his name. Once you have the perfect name for your cat, you can have some fun teaching him/her to recognize it, especially if you offer food rewards. Teaching your cat to recognize his/her name is a definite bonding experience for you both, as well as perhaps one day keeping her out of danger.

For purposes of this column we are going to use the name Garfield. You can teach Garfield to respond to his name by offering good food treats and lots of praise every time he successfully acknowledges you when you call. The way to begin is to settle down near Garfield before dinner time (name training works best if your cat is hungry) and have something wonderful to offer that your cat does not usually get (bits of chicken, or cheese or other such delicacies). Pronounce his name clearly and happily.

If he does not look at you after a few seconds, say his name again, Eventually, even the most stubborn cat will look towards you. At that time you say the word – good (or great) with lots of enthusiasm and give one delectable treat as the reward.

You now have your cats attention. Pet him, praise him, but do not use either his name of the word good while gushing over him. After Garfield looks away, say his name again (and again, and again) until he looks. If you put enough urgency in your tone, he will be curious enough to look your way.

Quickly say good and offer another treat. It’s best to do this three or four times a session and several sessions a day. Eventually Garfield will respond to his name whenever you call him. At this point, you make the food reward random, to keep his interest up. Once he figures out he won’t always get a treat he will be interested enough to wonder which time he will get it.

Remember when you do not give a treat reward to make sure you give lots of praise and pets so he doesn’t think he came for nothing. Hopefully he will start responding when you say his name, just because he likes the pets and praise.

Once Garfield knows his name, he can start learning how to come when he is called, which is a little more difficult. Start at dinner time when you know he will be coming to the kitchen as soon as he hears the can opener. As you open the can, call – Garfield, come. He will of course be coming because he heard the can opener, but give him a lot of praise and put the bowl down for him.

After about two weeks, Garfield will be coming when you call at mealtime. So the next step is to have him come where there is no dinner. First go to a room where Garfield cannot hide. Sit on a chair or sofa near where he is lounging and say, Garfield, Come! If he starts to come over, immediately take the beloved treat out of your pocket and as soon as he gets near enough to get the treat say Good and reward him with the treat.

If he does not come the first time you call, move a little closer and try again. If he comes, say good and give the treat. If he does not come, reach over quietly, pick him up, move him to you and praise him but do not give him the treat and do not use the word good. This way, Garfield does not get to ignore you when you call because you have shown him that he can either come when you call and get praised and a treat, or you will simply move him where you want him without the treat. It will become his choice.

You need patience – this is not an overnight achievement. Eventually you can skip the food reward and just use the praise – perhaps play a little while with your cat with a teaser, giving him some kind of reason to come when he hears his name. Make sure you never give medication or put your cat in a carrier to go to the vet after he comes when you call his name. That is the best way to insure that your cat never comes again when you call him.

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