How do I get my cat used to his new name?


Have you adopted a cat but would like to change his name? We give our advice on whether there's anything in particular you can do to get your cat used to their new name.

Q) I am going to be getting a rescue cat and would like to change his name. Is there anything in particular I need to do to get my cat used to their new name? Do cats even understand their name?

Cats can recognize their names when these are uttered by their owners and also when uttered by unfamiliar people. This, according to researchers, is because they associate the word with possible rewards, such as food or petting.

Choose the new name for your rescue cat and start calling him it when you are putting down his food, or are about to pet him or give him attention. Cats are clever enough to realise that this new word means nice things are coming their way and it will not be long before he recognises the new name. Even quite elderly cats can learn a new name.

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Will your new cat fully understand that this is their name, not just an important word that gets his attention? Probably not. It seems unlikely that cats can fully understand that their name refers to their own inner identity. That would involve thinking on a higher level than just word recognition and researchers believe that few, if any, animals can think in this way.

Did you know?

In 2019, the most popular name for male cats in the UK was Charlie, and Poppy for females.

Advice given by behaviourist Celia Haddon.