Cat Behavior Experiment: Which of These 6 Nicknames Will Get My Cats to Respond?


Many of us have eleventy billion nicknames for our cats. Most of my friends typically use those nicknames instead of the cats’ given ones. I’m no exception; Cosmo and Phoebe have a library of monikers, but there’s a small collection that I use on a regular basis.

I rotate the names I use, and I sometimes wonder whether they respond to one nickname over the others. Naturally, I felt like it was time for an experiment. Science knows the answer to most everything important … like cats’ nicknames.

I called my cats by their top three nicknames and logged the results, along with a video detailing my findings.

1. “Russell”

Even Phoebe comments on "Russell."
Even Phoebe comments on “Russell.”

I usually call Cosmo “Russell” when I’m talking about him to other people, but also use it when I speak to him directly. I’m not sure about the origination of the nickname, but I think my daughter and I made it up several years ago. He just seemed like a “Russell” to us — it made us laugh, so we went with it.

During the experiment, I started with this nickname. I called out to him a few times and he turned away from me. Like, he physically turned his body away from me. What the …? Russell, I thought I knew you better than that.

2. “Bunny”

This bunny's ears aren't working.
This bunny’s ears aren’t working.

“Bunny” is definitely my favorite nickname for Phoebe. Her fur is so rabbity soft that there really isn’t a name to top it. She’s used to my calling her that name, along with “Rabbit.” I thought for sure she’d quickly respond when I called her. Of course, in typical cat fashion, she chose to do the opposite.

She did that cat thing where she almost looked at me. She looked to the side of me, but refused to allow her eyes to meet mine. It felt entirely passive aggressive.

3. “Young Man”

Mr. Fancy Pants gives the cold shoulder.
Mr. Fancy Pants gives the cold shoulder.

Cosmo’s my little boy, and I sometimes opt to call him “Young Man.” I use a voice that sounds a little bit posh, which makes the whole situation funnier … to me, anyway. During the experiment, when I called him “Young Man,” he continued ignoring me. It was like I was talking to a complete stranger. Maybe he was nervous because of the camera, or maybe he was trying to be the one in charge. My vote is the latter.

4.  “Cha-Cha”


Cha-Cha” is a name I’ve called Phoebe for many years. Sometimes I combine it with “Bunny” and call her “Little Bunny Cha-Cha.” It’s adorable. She’s adorable. Using it as the second nickname in the experiment, I called out to Miss Phoebe as she chilled under the Christmas tree. Yes, my Christmas tree is still standing tall — I’m festive!

This cute-as-all-get-out nickname fell flat. That’s right, she continued the “I’m looking at you, but not really looking at you” routine. Friends, she’s got the moves down pat.

5. “Monkey”

He's having none of it.
He’s having none of it.

I call both of my cats “Monkey,” but Cosmo especially responds to it. Usually. He totally messed with me when he chose not to answer to this nickname. It’s such a funny one, and he’s such a funny guy. It’s perfect. He obviously wanted control of the whole name-calling situation, and he wasn’t about to help me with my very important experiment.

I ended my time with Cosmo by calling him by his given name. I thought for sure he’d give me a little attention, but cats are predictably unpredictable, so I guess I’m not surprised with what happened instead. You see, when I called “Cosmo,” he looked away, but Phoebe emerged from underneath the tree and walked over to me, stretching and trilling. I guess maybe “Cosmo” is her favorite nickname — or at least the one she most responded to during the experiment. #unexpected

6. “Baby”

Cosmo's photobomb may have skewed the results.
Cosmo’s photobomb may have skewed the results.

Lastly, because Phoebe’s such a petite thing, I like to call her “Baby.” Of course I have to use the kind of voice you’d imagine while calling her that specific name. I thought for sure she’d answer because it sounds so sweet, plus it sounds a bit like “Phoebe.” She, however, continued to play her game with me, looking around me, but not directly at me. When I ended my time with her by using her given name, she totally teased me by looking at me for a split second, but then looking away, leaving me wondering whether the eye contact really happened. I know it did because I have video proof!

Here’s my account of the whole experiment. What I learned was:

  1. Cosmo didn’t show a preference for any nickname — in fact, he ignored me the entire time. I know for a fact he’s responded to these names in the past. So he’s pretty much a big fat liar.
  2. Phoebe’s favorite nickname is “Cosmo.”

What nicknames do your cats most respond to? Tell us in the comments!

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