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Is there any way to train a cat to come when called?

marsupial mama
June 18th, 2007, 08:51 AM
Please don't laugh. My supposed-to-be-an-INDOOR cat keeps getting out and I am fed up of having to chase her round the neighbourhood. I met more neighbours that way then in the first 18 months of living here BUT I am fed up of it. I think they are all laughing at us, especially the one who bragged that her cat comes when she rings a bell. :rolleyes:

Is it possible to train a cat to come when called, any time any place?? My idea is that if all family members could adopt the same call, she would come running from wherever she has gotten to.

And if she gets out again --- should we go chasing after her, or just leave it and assume she will come back when she is ready?? :confused:

June 18th, 2007, 10:27 AM
Sure, both of mine do. What I did was call their name and if they came, I would give them something they really like, such as a tasty treat or lovin'. For food motivated cats, it helps to shake a bag of treats the first few times while you call them, then reward. Cats have long memories when it comes to food. However, I will say that when they are outside, this hasn't been working so well for me (I have a safe fenced in yard where they sometimes get to go in the summer). But they don't go out much, so could be I haven't tried training them enough for this to work. Probably getting them to come in from outdoors would require a much more tasty treat than what I usually give them. They do come in quickly if they hear some scary loud noise though, so it's not a problem for me.

I think if I were you I would go after the cat and not wait for it to come back on its own. Does she run away from you or is it simply a matter of finding her, picking her up and bringing her home? If she runs, probably chasing is not a good idea. When you catch up with her, try giving her something very tasty so she knows you will have it with you, perhaps motivating her to come to you when outside. I should try this too... good luck.

June 18th, 2007, 12:10 PM
Your cat is spayed, right?
So if her escapades are not hormone-induced, you might try taking her out on a leash, some cats enjoy being 'walked'. She may need that extra stimulation, especially if she doesn't have a playmate back at the old homestead.

Recently, I found an old dog/cat crate on the street, the kind made of narrow metal bars, that folds up. It's big enough for a cat to cross in a few steps and plenty high enough to stand up in. I keep it on the back porch, the wire floor covered by a cotton rug, and when there is any chance of a cat wandering off or if he is ill, I put him in the crate, where he has a panoramic view of the alley and the park and is quite happy. I never do this in the heat of the day or for more than a couple of hours at a stretch. They especially love being out there at night, alert to everything that moves.

I wouldn't chance not looking for her when she escapes. Cats who stray can get lost very easily. The more this cat is attached to you, or anyone else in the family, the more likely they are to come to the sound of that person's voice. Attachment is key. JMO.

June 18th, 2007, 12:19 PM
All my cats know their names and all will come when called. The 3 indoor cats and my big outdoor stray will also come if he's within ear shot if I call him. All 4 are big attention hogs, I'm sure that helps.

I'm not sure that 2 of my 3 indoor girls would come when called if they were outside, maybe after the novelty of being outside wore off. Squeakie would come to me I'm sure whether inside or out....I don't plan on finding out anyway, they're going to remain indoor cats.


June 18th, 2007, 05:09 PM
None of my cats are outdoor kitties but in the house, when I call - they tend to come running. Unless they want to play and they meow to let me know that, especially my Siamese kitties.

June 18th, 2007, 05:41 PM
All 11 of my cats know their names, including the 4 new 2 mth old ones. Now, none come when called unless they want to :)


marsupial mama
June 18th, 2007, 07:46 PM
hmm... interesting responses...

Now I need to know:

(a) the tastiest treats to tempt her back
(b) an escape proof harness (b/c we tried walking her on a leash/harness and she slipped out of it, that was the first Great Escape)
(c) how to cat proof a yard. We have a high fence all around but she slipped under where there are gaps at the bottom, as the ground is a bit uneven.


June 18th, 2007, 11:05 PM
If you were to ask my cat, Aztec, what his favourite treat was, he would most assuredly say it was Greenies. They aren't all that great from a health point-of-view so I wouldn't give too many too often, but as a source of random reinforcement they work quite well. Alternate with another healthier but also tasty treat like freeze-dried ( or even raw chicken, and you'd be surprised what you can train a cat to do.

As for a harness, I've heard good reviews about this one:

And for fencing, although I don't honestly know much about it, this one has caught my eye in the past:

June 19th, 2007, 11:59 AM
Don't let your neighbors bother you. If you think they are laughing just ignore it. Obviously your cat enjoys being outside! I have two cats and they are both indoor cats. We have a bylaw in our municipality that does not allow cats to roam and I also live on a busy street. My son's two cats are indoor-outdoor cats. They usually don't go far. If he is going out he wants them inside. He calls their names and "shakes a plastic container with food in it" and they usually come running.

June 20th, 2007, 01:43 AM
The problem is that once she's out she enjoys it, and she knows that once you capture her she's going back in. Not much of an incentive for her to come back to you, eh?

I've had several cats that will come to the sound of a bag of food shaking, or a can opener. I've also had several cats that were trained to come when called, but some of my cats just never cared about coming to me, no matter the incentive.

You're best bet, since she loves being outside so much, is to condition her to the leash.
You mentioned that once before she escaped when you tried to take her out on leash, this is an extremely common thing. Cats naturally HATE being restrained, they fear it and they will fight to get loose. You can't force them into walking on a harness, they're escape artists, and once they deem the situation to be a negative one will fight harder and harder to get away.
Other than cats that have been taught to walk on leash from a small kitten (starting with a very young cat this is actually a very easy thing to do), you have to get them used to it over a long period of time.

Every time you feed her, put the harness partially on her (just the collar part). Don't tighten it yet, she will naturally resist. You don't want to move to fast or else she'll see the harness as a negative thing. When it's not feeding time you can give her treats with the harness partially on, make it something to her that she shouldn't fear.

When she shows no resistence to wearing the harness, start putting the back end of it on her, but don't latch it yet. Continue with the treats, and make sure to move slowly.

Without making this post too lengthy, I'm guessing you get the point.
Move slowly until you finally get to where she can wear the harness without resisting at all. Keep the harness on her for longer and longer lengths of time, whatever she is comfortable with until she doesn't even seem to notice it.
If you see her start to fight at all, loosen the harness. Unlike most dogs, the majority of cats won't just get used to the harness, they'll become more and more stressed trying to get themselves loose until they either become tangled in the harness or end up injuring themselves. A cat can easily injure themself this way, or end up injuring you in the process of trying to get the harness loose, so it's not a good situation.

Next, get her used to the leash. Don't try to pull her where you want her to go, she will naturally try to pull against you. Put gentle pressure on the leash and call her towards you, show her treats, give her an incentive to come towards you.
Try walking along and calling her while gently pulling and rewarding her with treats. Eventually she will get the hang of it and learn to walk with you.

The main thing with cats is to make it ALL positive. Cats don't respond to correction AT ALL. All negative pressure or correction with cats will cause them to try and avoid the situation by removing themselves from the proximity of the negative item completely. You do not want her to see you as a negative thing, you don't want her to see the harness or leash or the process of walking her as a negative thing, EVERYTHING should be completely positive, luring her into walking with you with treats and petting.