Why Don’t Cats Listen When They’re Called?

Cats often don't listen because of their independent, stubborn nature.
Cats often don't listen because of their independent, stubborn nature.

You might be calling – “Here kitty, kitty” over and over to get no response. Nothing. Then you begin your search. You look on chairs, open doors, look in closets, under the sofa, pretty much everywhere and you can’t find the kitty. You start to worry. Maybe even panic. Then…you see your precious kitty walk in the room stretching after a nap.

Why don’t cats listen? The answer is … because they don’t need to listen. Cats are smart, in fact, many believe that cats are smarter than dogs.

Cat Intelligence

Intelligence is defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. It includes the ability to learn from experience, recall that information, and problem solve. A cat’s brain is about 2 inches in size and accounts for about 1% of a cat’s body mass.  Learn more about feline intelligence in this article How Smart Are Cats? Everything You Need to Know.

Cats may, in fact, be smarter than dogs. This topic is an area of debate with research reports being heavily debated as to the number of neurons in the brains of cats versus dogs. Most studies reveal that cats have over 300 million neurons compared to dogs who are estimated to have almost half of that with 150 to 160 million neurons.  This compares to over 20 billion neurons in the average human brain.

Some behaviorists suggest that a cat’s intelligence is comparable to that of a 2-year-old human. Some breeds are considered to be more intelligent than others. Learn about the Most Intelligent Cat Breeds.

Cat owners share stories of feline intelligence. For example:

My cat Tito can open doors. He can jump on a door handle and grasp it to turn and open it and go out.” – William – Boston, MA

“Teenie Weenie learned from my cat Ivan how to fetch. Both of them will retrieve balls of paper, bread ties, and milk carton rings” – Maryann – Portland, OR

“My cat Sammy is obsessed over playing with a red piece of yarn. He will chase it while we play for hours.  I am afraid he will swallow it so I hide it in a drawer when playtime is over. Sammy will see where I hid it and will not leave that area. He will stare at the drawer and sometimes even paw at the drawer to try to get it open.” – John B. – Newark, NJ

Cats can remember both good and bad experiences both inside and outside the home. They can associate a memory with a place, person, odor, or surroundings.  Cats also have amazing ways to communicate but you have to be able to read their language of communication. Here are two fascinating articles:

Explanation of Why Cats Don’t Come When Called

The question remains – why don’t cats come when called? Why don’t cats listen?

This answer most likely stems from the same reason that cats are so independent.  Cats are generally very independent compared to dogs. It appears that cats do not look at people as a protector and are not affected as much by separation. This can make the cat an ideal companion for those that work long hours.  While cats provide wonderful companionship and are full of personality, they are not dependent on you to come home and walk them.

Their independence probably stems from the fact that cats are solitary predators, unlike dogs who are pack animals and hunt within the pack. A cat doesn’t need other cats to hunt. Cats can live in groups but it is not a requirement.

It’s not so much a matter of cats not listening but more as cats not needing to hear what you have to say.

Training Tips for Cats

Cats indeed can be trained. There is one method called Clicker Training. A clicker is a small device that you press that makes a standard “click” sound. Behaviorist Dr. Nick Dodman shares the following tips to train your cat.

  • Choose a quiet location where you can be alone and undisturbed with your cat.
  • Have a supply of delicious food treats on hand, say in a bowl, but out of the cat’s reach. For cats: cut-up “Pounce” cat treats (of a favorite flavor) will often do.
  • Have your clicker in your hand.

 Clicker Training: Step 1

  • Pair a click with a reward – for nothing at first.  Click-treat; click-treat; and so on.
  • By the end of this stage you should:
    • Have your cat’s undivided attention
    • Notice that your cat reacts to hearing the click with some anticipatory behavior when it has learned to associate the sound with the reward.

Clicker Training Your Cat: Step 2

  • Begin to click and treat only when the cat has engaged in the behavior that is asked.
  • Approximate a reward with a behavior that you are trying to encourage.
  • Allow your cat to take a pace or two towards you if you are trying to train it to come to you.

The cat learns that if it performs a behavior that you approve of it can make you click …and that means food. Many cats will try all kinds of ways to make you click when in “clicker mode.”  All you have to do is decide what you want to reward (and therefore promote) and what you prefer to ignore.

Additional Articles that May be of Interest About Why Don’t Cats Listen:

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