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How to Train Your Kitten to Come When Called

Updated on January 26, 2011

We don't want our cats to be obedient like dogs, and most of the time we don't need them to be. Dogs can cause trouble and can be dangerous, so there is a need to ensure they are under control. However, it can be very useful if your cat comes running when you want it, or at least responds by meowing or trying in some way to get to you. If it does become lost or shut in a room, such a response can save a great deal of heartache and help you find it much more easily. You will also be able to locate it for the everyday things, such as feeding or bringing it inside and locking the cat flap at night. This training is also vital for when you let your kitten out for the first time into the big, wide world. And, let's face it, it is really lovely if you call your cat and it comes running across the yard to greet you.

Food is probably the best thing to use to motivate your kitten, and training it to associate its name with getting a treat is a good start. Therefore, start with the food ready and the kitten nearby, when it is not too distracted by something else. Call its name and immediately offer it the tidbit. Keep your voice light and encouraging and offer food every time you call its name. According to experts, a two-syllable word seems to have more of an activating effect on animals, while single, flatter tones have a calming or slowing effect. Perhaps this is because, with two syllables, you can say the name in a more singsong sort of way and end on a high note, which has the promise of something good. Perhaps this is why many people choose cat names with a "y" or "ie" at the end and automatically call Smokie or Bonny or Sandy in that way. Remember to reward immediately.

You want your kitten to get it right, so don't expect it to make great leaps of achievement. Call it from slightly longer distances, but still in sight, until it has really got the hang of it. Then you can try it from just outside the room or around the corner. Instead of rewarding with food every time, try giving praise or playing with a favorite toy. See if that is an acceptable reward for your particular kitten.

If you want to sharpen your kitten's response so that it comes to you faster, try rewarding only the best responses.

Never do what you may have seen so many dog owners do. Having lost the dog or having seen it go off in search of a fight or a friend, they call frantically. When it does come back they punish it, venting their frustration and embarrassment on the dog. What does the dog learn from this? Don't come back or expect something unpleasant if you do. That's why many of them come back in that submissive posture, asking to be let off. Cats don't really have a submissive posture, so they just don't bother at all! Never punish the kitten after calling it. And remember that punishment may not just mean shouting or hitting -it may mean putting the kitten in the car or into a carrier associated with the veterinarian and being caught and sprayed for fleas. Make sure you leave a little time between rewarding it for coming and doing what you need to do with the kitten. One bad experience can undo weeks of positive training - again, you need to think like a cat and realize how you may be perceived.

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