Cat Training: How to Teach Your Cat to Talk

Nancy has experience training her cats to talk and has learned their various vocal cues.

How Cats Think and Talk

Training your cat to talk is easier than you might think. Feline friends are known for being aloof to their human counterparts, but did you know they are highly social creatures, with their own style of verbal communication?

Cats tend to be group-oriented, which is to say that they will absorb the family personality and will interact with their own group of feline friends, as well as with the household of the pet owner. It is not unusual during my early morning walks to see several cats congregated on someone's lawn or in the alley. Because most of the people in my neighborhood are daytime workers, pets are usually let out to potty between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. These pets become social with one-another and will sort of congregate and just hang out together. Often I see several cats sitting in a circle, watching the sun come up!

When I am quiet I hear them making gentle churring noises when hunting a bug or if they have found something else of interest. The cats seem to exhibit a social etiquette when investigating objects of interest. The one who finds the prize will make quiet noises, such as chuffing and churring. The others soon come to see what is going on, but they tend to wait their turn, taking the role of the observer. When the first cat backs away or pauses, they will soon after investigate. Each cat typically waits its turn. During the entire process, the cats usually become more verbal in their communications.

Cats Make a Variety of Vocal Sounds

Listen to Your Kitty Cat

Listen to your cat in order to become aware of the verbal cues your cat is sending out to you. He or she may already be saying words to you. Think about the phrases you use consistently while interacting with the kitty.

Your kitty may consistently use certain tones for specific reasons. My female cat, Hunter, uses, "Hmm . ." several different ways to indicate her thought process. She does this by consistently varying the tone she uses. There is, "Hmm . I am not too sure about this." and "Hmm . that looks interesting." My favorite is when she receives a command that she does not want to follow. She says, "Hmm . how am I going to get out of this one?" Sort of as if to say, "I hadn't thought of that complication."

By listening to your feline, you will begin to see a pattern of verbal communication.

Cats Love to Hang out in Groups

Cat Speak

Cats Like to be Involved

Encourage the Feline's Verbal Responses

Encourage your kitty's verbal responses by simply talking directly to the cat. Make eye contact and say short phrases and sentences to it while it is looking at you. Use the same phrase or sentence every time until you are sure the cat "gets it." Work on sounds and circumstances that are pleasing to the cat. Reward your cat for listening to you by saying a positive phrase followed by a gentle petting, or scratch behind the ears. Later, when working toward a specific response from the kitty, food treats can be used.

Verbal and Physical Rewards

By encouraging your pet to offer verbal responses to you, the cat will naturally begin to increase its verbal interaction. This is an important part of the teaching process. Pick a simple phrase that indicates that the cat has done something well. I usually say, "good job," and reward the cat with either a treat or physical touch. My cats each love it when I scratch them behind the ear for a few moments. This verbal reward, combined with a pleasant physical connection (the scratch behind the ears, or petting), creates a link in the cat's mind of pleasant verbal and physical reward. They then begin to associate it to the words and the tone of voice used.

Make Your Objective Clear

The idea here is to get the cat to realize that you are communicating with it by saying words. Make a list of the sounds and vocal cues your cat already responds to, and begin talking to your cat more often, and more consistently if the way you do it. Be sure to remember to enunciate clearly and to be consistent in this.

Cats Enjoy Exploring Outside

How to Teach Your Cat New Words

  1. Choose a short sentence or phrase that you know will be important to the cat. "Time to eat," is a great one, to begin with. Food is very important to your pet and any talk of it will grab and hold your cat's attention.
  2. Use the phrase or sentence consistently, always doing the same thing. Outcomes are very important to cats. If you say, "Time to eat," to him or her but do not follow through with producing some food, the cat will lose interest very quickly and will likely make a point of ignoring you the next time you use that particular sentence.
  3. Feed the cat at the same time each day, and use the phrase each time you do it.
  4. Practice numbers one through three for a week, taking care to be very consistent.
  5. After seven full days of doing this, test your cat's knowledge and word use. Delay the feeding time by an hour or two. Listen to your cat during that time period. Most cats who are inclined to verbal communication will begin to pester you and when that doesn't work they will use the words you taught them. Listen carefully to your cat for syllables and tone. Most cats will say the syllables very quickly, and try to mimic the tone you use while saying the words.
  6. Reward the cat quickly. The goal here is to make sure you show the cat a connection between the words they just said and doing a good thing that brings reward. Say your verbal reward such as, "good job," along with a scratch. Then repeat what the cat said, "time to eat," and go directly to the food and feed the cat. Once you do this a few times, your cat will never again let you delay their feeding without telling you what time it is.

Cats Play Hide and Seek

Time to Get Chatting

I hope you enjoyed this article, and that you have many hours of fun with your pet. Learning to communicate better with each other will strengthen your bond and make it easier to coexist.

My Results

My household currently has three cats. The cat that talks the most is a five-year-old that was orphaned before his eyes were open. He has several short sentences that he uses regularly in various situations. He clearly enunciates and uses the same tone each time. The female, who was orphaned at after her eyes were opened hums her words. She uses many different tones to indicate her thoughts. And the oldest cat, who adopted our family, has worked a long time to learn the words, "want out." He also says it when he wants to eat or is playful and just wants to socialize.

© 2014 Nancy Owens

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on February 02, 2017:

Thank you, Favored, for reading my work. I apologize for the lengthy response time. Somehow I missed approving your comment until now. Hope Life has been good for you, and I enjoyed your story about your kitty who named herself. What name did she pick?

Fay Favored from USA on February 24, 2016:

I have had several cats that have been talkers. One even named herself! She used this name so much we decided to nickname her by how she identified herself. True story. Welcome to Pet Helpful Nancy!

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on August 02, 2015:

Hi! Thank you for taking the time to read my work and for the kind words. I wonder what the newest kitty is trying to communicate to you during the midnight hours... Hmmm... Maybe it just wants you to wake up and play! One time my two orphans from different mothers (the black and white and the white and brindle) woke me up at like three in the morning to show me that there was a dog in our yard. To them, I guess it constituted a cat emergency! Have a good day and thank you for writing in on this.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on July 31, 2015:

Most of our cats (we have 7) are quite vocal, and especially when it's dinnertime. They make less of a ruckus at breakfast, as feeding them is usually the first thing I do. However, at dinnertime, depending on what is cooking for our dinner, there may be delays, and they will all congregate in the hallway and get underfoot, while two of them provide the sound effects.

The little semi-feral we rescued, and the most recent addition, is pretty quiet until about 1:a.m., when she starts in singing "Meowpera." As all our kitties are 100% indoor-only, this can be quite annoying when trying to get to sleep.

No matter; they are all dearly loved.

Voted up and interesting.

RTalloni on July 31, 2015:

Oh, oh! Your cat in the last photo is much like ours that left us about a year and a half ago. How we miss her! Even when she was very young she was a great communicator. Spending time with her taught us to "hear" her. :) Your tips are very useful for anyone wanting to understand their pet better.

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on August 27, 2014:

Thank you for reading my work... sorry for the late reply... I need to work at being more consistent.

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on June 10, 2014:

Fun article! Nice friendly tone in your writing, keep it up!

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on May 05, 2014:

I know, Huh! One of my cats makes sort of a clicking noise when he sees this one bird that keeps coming back. Is almost like the bird is teasing him or something. It has sort of become a daily thing with the two. Thank you for stopping by and glad you enjoyed!

Stephanie Henkel from USA on May 03, 2014:

Great article for a cat person like myself! We have two cats and they each have their own speech patterns. My favorite is the churring noise the younger one makes when she sees birds out the window. It's funny, but she never makes that noise for squirrels or bunnies. Nothing is more fun than learning to communicate with your cat!

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on April 03, 2014:

Thank you so much, Ann1Az2 !

I think you are right about them watching us. Sometimes we are probably pretty entertaining, and other times they probably think, "Oh! No! Not another stupid human trick!"

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on April 02, 2014:

Love this! I enjoyed your many pictures. I have four cats and they all talk to me. What's funny is sometimes I catch them watching me. Why not? Don't we watch them? Well done and voted up.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 01, 2014:

I love this! My favorite two cats both utter responses. They are both very talkative. I'm so glad others have this experience. It is a matter of listening and connecting to another creature.

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on April 01, 2014:

It is so true! Lol... They do talk. Sometimes it gets overlooked when we are busy and living loud and just thinking our own thoughts. I wonder what horse owners would say about their horses' styles of verbal communication. Hmm...

Cynthianne Neighbors on April 01, 2014:

Love this article! I tell people my cat talks to me and they act like I am crazy. Clearly, they do not have cats. :-) I have had many cats and they all had their own way of speaking. I loved listening to them talking to each other. I have one cat and one Pomeranian and they will talk to each other. My Pom makes little squeaky noises and my cat replies back with different tones of meow or mer sounds.

5 Things You Can Train Your Cat to Do (Really)

Sit, stay and fetch aren't tricks reserved for man's best friend. Sure, you can teach an old dog new tricks, but, as it turns out, you can teach those same tricks to cats (old or young) -- really. And just like training a dog, training a cat requires patience, practice and a lot of praise and rewards.

Rewarding your cat for a job well done (or a job well practiced, at least) will reinforce the behavior you want, whereas raising your voice or otherwise disciplining your cat will only stress you both out -- and neither of you wants that. Keep your training sessions short (just a few minutes at a time will do) and calm, but also remember: Practice makes perfect. It can take anywhere from several tries to several weeks for your cat, kitten or senior, to learn a new skill, and that will depend on your cat's personality and temperament. Now that you know you can train your cat, let's talk about how to do it you'll be herding cats in no time.

Use Plenty of Treats

Using food-based rewards can be a powerful tool when training your kitten. Once you’ve socialized your kitten with humans and other pets, you can begin the training process by determining which treats tickle your cat’s fancy.

When you choose the right treat, use positive reinforcement to train your cat. Paired with their favorite reward, spoken cues and verbal affirmations are effective ways to guide your cat toward the behavior you want to reinforce.

Steps for successful treat-based training include:

Training before meals. Use the time directly before each meal to work on new behaviors with your kitten. When they’re hungry, kittens and cats are much more receptive to training. Never deny your cat food. Rather, use mealtime to hold your kitten’s attention and increase the power of your treats.

Eliminate distractions. Background noise, such as TV conversations or the stereo, can pull your kitten’s focus away from you — especially when they are young. Try to train in a quiet place whenever possible.

Keep training brief. Keep your kitty training sessions under 15 minutes. Cats get bored quite easily. Don’t let your sessions run long enough to become dull for your kitten.

Be consistent. Always use the same signals and cues. But don’t be afraid to switch up the type of treat you use to keep things fresh for your little student.

Tackle one skill at a time. For kittens and puppies alike, it's most effective to focus on one skill at a time. Overloading your kitten will make training stressful and unproductive. Always master one skill before moving on to another.

Be patient. When using treats, be patient. Don’t start until you know you have your kitten’s attention. Be open to pausing your session if your kitten gets distracted.


Why You're Probably Training Your Cat All Wrong

Yes, they're independent and willful, but felines can be taught certain behaviors—to the benefit of both cat and human.

Training has always been part of the deal when you own a dog, though methods have changed a lot over the generations. Cats are a different story—but they shouldn’t be.

“People don’t traditionally train cats because they think of cats as . independent and full of free will,” says Sarah Ellis, co-author of The Trainable Cat. (Read how everything you think about cats may be wrong.)

“What they don’t realize, though, is that they are subconsciously training their cats on a daily basis.”

How to Teach Your Cat to Do Tricks

Last Updated: October 25, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Brian Bourquin, DVM. Brian Bourquin, better known as “Dr. B” to his clients, is a Veterinarian and the Owner of Boston Veterinary Clinic, a pet health care and veterinary clinic with two locations, South End/Bay Village and Brookline, Massachusetts. Boston Veterinary Clinic specializes in primary veterinary care, including wellness and preventative care, sick and emergency care, soft-tissue surgery, dentistry. The clinic also provides specialty services in behavior, nutrition, and alternative pain management therapies using acupuncture, and therapeutic laser treatments. Boston Veterinary Clinic is an AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) accredited hospital and Boston’s first and only Fear Free Certified Clinic. Brian has over 19 years of veterinary experience and earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University.

There are 23 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 294,483 times.

Like many pets, cats can be trained to do tricks. Because they tend to be independent, teaching cats can take persistence, however. With positive reinforcement and patience, your cat can have a great time playing games and performing a variety of tricks.

Watch the video: How to Teach Your Cat To Play Dead (July 2021).