How do cats learn their name?

(Note:  We may earn commissions from products/services you click on.  This is at no extra cost to you.)

Table of Contents

How Long Does It Take Cats To Learn Their Name?

Cats, just like other domesticated animals, have the ability to learn their names when they are called by their owners. It can be attested to by many cat owners that cats can feel all high and mighty, and they might not respond when they are being called, but that does not mean they have not learned their name. In comparison to some other mammals, the learning period of cats is relatively short. A newly-born cat will have most of its learning completed during its formative weeks. During this time, conditioned learning can be used to get them to learn some habits, which include learning their names. 

In normal conditioning of kittens, it can take as little as five months for them to learn their name, or even up to eight months to learn their names. Cats have an encephalization quotient that makes them big-brained, with the ability to learn lots of habits, and cats take almost the same time as dogs to learn their names. Their brain is not as developed as the one in dogs because they have a ratio of brain to body size, which is a percentage lower than that found in dogs. Although people think dogs are faster learners than cats, studies show that cats actually learn at the same pace as dogs. They might not respond, but they sure do know their names. It is easier for a kitten to learn their name than an already grown cat because most of its learnings are done in its formative years. To answer the long-awaited question, “How long do cats take to learn their names?” the answer is not definite. 

Cat A might take three months to learn its name, but it cannot be seen that cat B might take the same amount of time to learn too. This phenomenon is also seen in humans. In the case of a teacher teaching in a class, it can be seen that not all the students are immediately able to grasp what was taught. The reason is that every individual has his/her own learning capacity—some are slow learners, and some learn really fast. Also, learning depends on the way the lesson is being taught. If it is taught in an enticing manner, it would be easier to remember. This phenomenon is also found in mammals, cats included. Their learning process can be accelerated by using various methods like giving treats. These are some of the reasons why it cannot be said emphatically that it takes a dedicated amount of time for a cat to learn its name. However, a range of time can be given on how long they take to learn their names. Some cats can learn their names and perk up their ears when they are being called in as little as a month. Some can also take as long as eight months to learn their names. It should be noted that the older a cat gets, the worse its memory becomes. So a cat might have a better chance to learn its name when it is younger.

How do cats learn their name

How To Teach A Cat Its Name? 

Cats, as already known, are pompous animals. They might learn their name and just choose not to answer to it. Cats are basically known as socially awkward animals; they might not learn their names to please their masters. On the other hand, dogs are quite social, having the readiness to please their masters at every moment in time. Hence, something as small as an encouraging word and a smile on the face of their master can make a dog do whatever you want it to do. This behaviour is not seen in cats; they only obey if there is something in it for them. This is the reason why it is often encouraged that pet enthusiasts know how to teach their cats their names by rewarding them with treats since they don’t automatically love to learn.

Is your cat a fussy eater?  Click this affiliate link to order savor sensation food that won’t go to waste.

When choosing a name, it is important to choose a very simple name. A name with just two syllables or one syllable will be a good fit for a cat. Complex names will give the cat a hard time remembering. When a suitable name has been chosen, it is important to set the timing for when the name can be called. This process of setting timing is known as conditioning. When the cat is used to the habit of getting treats at a particular time, and the treats are accompanied by a sound that is similar each time, the cat will be encouraged to learn it. Treats are an important part of this process of conditioning. When treats are given to the cat alongside its name, it is easier for it to learn its name. This makes it possible for it to acknowledge that its name is being mentioned whenever it is called. The treats also make the cat happy to acknowledge its name. However, while it is important to give treats; it is even more important to give those treats that are loved by the cat. Also, when teaching a cat its name, it is important to do it in a secluded area so as not to cause distractions for the cat. The distraction might slow down the learning process or even bring it to a halt. 

Your cat deserves a treat – click this affiliate link to order catnip that your cat will love!

When teaching a cat to learn its name, you can take it to a secluded area in the park or a place in the house that is void of noise so as to make it concentrate on what you say. Furthermore, when saying the name of your cat, it is important to use a happy tone so that the cat can associate its name with nice things. It is preferable to avoid using its name when you are about to scold it so that you don’t scare it away from answering its name. It could also be helpful to play games with it while calling its name, making it come towards you, and of course, giving it a treat afterwards. Cats learn from as little as playing around; this is why this process can be helpful. It is very helpful to involve loved ones and people living with you in this teaching process.

Do Cats Understand The Word No?

Everything birthed into the world comes as a blank sheet that needs to be written on. Humans are born similarly without any thought when they come into the world. Animals are no different in this respect. As they are taught their names, they also adapt to recognising sounds. From the sound that is made, they are able to grasp the tone of the person making it. From the tone, they can tell if their owner does not like what is going on at that particular time. This is the reason why pet owners are advised to use a soft tone when referring to their cats. 

Is your cat a fussy eater?  Click this affiliate link to order savor sensation food that won’t go to waste.

The brain of a cat is developed but not as developed as the brains in higher mammals, not even as developed as the brain of dogs. They can barely understand any word, but they can understand up to a hundred different tones. This implies that they might not even understand the word no. If the word “No” is said in a calm and soothing voice, just like the one used in calling their name, they definitely would not understand what you mean. If “no” is said in a normal voice, there is a chance that they would not understand what is being said. If “No” is said in a firm voice or angrily, they would understand and stop whatever they were doing prior to the moment no was said. In plain terms, cats cannot understand the word no because they don’t have the intellectual capacity to do so. However, they can understand the tone accompanying it. Their understanding of the accompanying tone makes it seem that they actually have an understanding of what was said. Cats do not understand words; they only understand the tone or the expression that comes alongside the word that was being said. This behaviour is sometimes believed to be conditioning, that is, a learned behaviour. However, it is a bit of both. This is because cats naturally understand tone, but they can be conditioned by the use of the word no in a strong tone to make them avoid repeating errors. However, the strength of the tone should not be too glaring, so they don’t end up being afraid of you. There should only be a mild strength to the no, alongside a slight frown. No can be used on cats, just as it has always been used on dogs. However, the disciplinary measures used in dogs should be avoided when it comes to cats because they are very sensitive animals.

Your cat deserves a treat – click this affiliate link to order catnip that your cat will love!

Do Cats Understand Words?

Cats do not have the cognitive ability to understand the words said by humans; they can only recognise when it has been said over a period of time. A person can literally tell a cat about their life history, but it would not understand a thing. The cognitive ability of a cat is similar to that of newborn babies. Their ability is limited to just recognition, eating food, and learning survival skills. This is where their abilities end—just basic skills. Some schools of thought may find this line of thought arguable because cats respond non-physically to their names. They respond because they have been conditioned to recognise their names. The fact that they recognise their names does not mean that if you use their names in a sentence, they will recognise what you said. You can teach your cat nursery rhymes all you want, but they would never understand them. You could read them a story but what they might be listening to is the tone of your voice, especially because they don’t understand what is being said to them or what it means. If a cat is spoken to in a mild voice, it might assume what is being said is something good and worth listening to. If a harsh tone is used, even if what is being said is good, they might become scared of you because they believe that what is being said is against them and detrimental to them. 

Is your cat a fussy eater?  Click this affiliate link to order savor sensation food that won’t go to waste.

Statements like, “Come here, good boy,” said in a harsh tone, can make the cat really scared and feel it did something worth hiding from. Studies that have been done have proven this. This only further proves that they cannot understand words because they don’t have the intellectual capacity to. Similarly, when a cat name is called in a very harsh way, it starts being cautious of replying to its name because it would feel it attracts punishment to itself. This is evidence that cats do not understand words. Despite the fact that they don’t understand the words being said and their meanings, they can relate those said words to different actions. Some owners use words like “bedtime” to indicate that it is time to sleep for the cats. Others use “mealtime” to indicate that it is time to eat. Some use “time for a bath” to indicate time to get clean; most cats don’t like this part not because they understand, but they have a good memory that reminds them that this event is not something that they love. They might respond with a sound showing discomfort because they remember how unpleasant it is. Also, they associate words like “time for vet” with going to see a vet doctor. It might be an unpleasant experience to some cats, if not most cats. There are so many instances of words they associate with actions, depending on the cat and owner in question. These feline creatures respond accordingly because they have learned to associate the actions that accompany these words.


Do Cats Recognise Their Owners?

As said earlier, the brain of cats is not well developed up to the point of carrying out higher intellectual functions. Although they do not have a developed brain to aid them in higher intellectual functions, they have a good memory for an animal. It would have been great if these feline creatures have good eyesight. Good eyesight accompanied by a good memory would have made them geniuses. Cats are nearsighted; in humans, this is myopia, and it is known as an eye defect. This means if you’re standing really far away from a cat, it might not know who you are. If the distance is really far, he might not smell the person to know if the person is its caregiver. In contrast, dogs have pretty good eyesight and can recognise when their owner is coming, so they can rush to greet or welcome. The reason why cats lack this ability is that their eyes do not have the muscles on the eyeball responsible for the movement that ensures the seeing of objects that are far away. Cats seem to have lots of problems with their eyes, as they also have problems with their cones. The set amount required for an animal to see the world in colours is absent in cats. 

They have just a few cones which enable them to see the world in black, white, and yellow. Most other colours in the spectrum cannot be seen by them because of the inadequate number of cones they have. Colours like; red, orange, and green cannot be seen by a cat. That is to say, even if you are just twenty centimetres away from the cat, as long as you do not have black, white, or yellow hair, the cat might not be able to differentiate you. The way they view the world is like the way humans see in darkness, which means they can also see colours that we cannot see. Seeing the world from the light side, we can say that cats are colour blind. This means cats are also face blind; they do not have the specialized ability to recognise our faces, even if we look different. However, despite the fact that they cannot distinguish human faces, they developed another coping mechanism, which allows them to distinguish their owners from other people by smell, voice, and response to the sounds they make. So yes, cats recognise their owners, although not by face, but by action, voice, and smell.

Your cat deserves a treat – click this affiliate link to order catnip that your cat will love!

Do Cats Recognise Themselves In The Mirror?

Cats do not have good eyesight as well as a developed brain. They cannot tell many things apart; their reflection in the mirror is no exception. When they stare at the reflection, and they see something that looks exactly like them, they immediately become threatened, and they feel like fighting till the other cat leaves the house. Some are indifferent and just don’t care, but some do. Since they work more with their other senses, they try to perceive the reflection. After a while of not perceiving a thing from the reflection, they give up after they feel it is not a threat to them. This means they don’t recognise themselves, especially because they do not possess higher intellectual capability.

Hazel Buckley
Hazel Buckley

About Hazel Buckley
Hazel is an animal enthusiast and educator who grew up on a farm which her parents owned in Ingogo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The farm was situated right under the Majuba Mountains - the site where the Anglo-Boer War was fought. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information published on this website is accurate, the author and owners of this website take no responsibility  for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relience upon the information contained therein.  Furthermore the bulk of the information is derived from information in 2018 and use therefore is at your on risk. In addition you should consult professional advice if required.