Many people think of cats as independent and aloof animals, but the truth is that cats benefit from training as much a dogs do.
Teaching your cat to come when called is not only handy but could save his life. If he is in the road and there is a car coming, getting him to come to you is lifesaving. If he is an indoor cat and escapes outside, you can call him back home. You can also call him when inside the house to make sure he’s accounted for before you leave the house. If he’s an outdoor cat, you can call him home if a storm or other danger is looming. Or you can call him to you when you just want to make sure he’s ok.
For this exercise, you will need:
- Your cat.
- Your cat’s food bowl – preferably a metal bowl as that makes the most distinctive sound.
- A teaspoon.
- Soft food, such as tuna or sachets of wet, saucy cat food.
Start off by getting your cat used to the idea that she is fed soft food twice a day (mornings and evenings, at the same time each day to start with). This is fairly easy to do – start by having her in the kitchen with you. Have her bowl in your hand, with a teaspoon of soft food in the bowl. Next, gently tap a metal spoon to the edge of the bowl so that it makes a distinctive sound, and then immediately put the bowl down for her to enjoy. Repeat this for at least a week.
Next, stand a few steps away from your cat when it’s time to give her some soft food. Tap the bowl with the spoon, and when she runs to you once again put her food down immediately. Repeat for a week, and then delay putting the food down by three seconds (you almost want her to be meowing in anticipation!). Once she’s very responsive to this, it’s time for the next step.
Start calling her to you by making kitty calling sounds and tapping the bowl with the spoon when she is out of sight. When she comes running, give her the yummy food and lots of praise. This will reinforce the recall to the sound of the food bowl being tapped with a metal spoon.
When she’s consistently coming when you tap the bowl and she’s out of sight, start making it more difficult: tap the bowl at different times of day, when she’s playing, grooming or investigating, and finally when she’s distracted outside. Remember to always give her a soft food treat for coming when called.
This valuable exercise must be practiced every day so we can teach her to come even when she out in the garden exploring. That way, she will come and ‘check in’ at least twice a day whenever you call her.