Model Attributes

Model attributes allow you to set properties that can override the default model behavior.

For a complete list of model attributes and their descriptions visit the CakePHP API.


The useDbConfig property is a string that specifies the name of the database connection to use to bind your model class to the related database table. You can set it to any of the database connections defined within your database configuration file. The database configuration file is stored in /app/Config/database.php.

The useDbConfig property is defaulted to the ‘default’ database connection.

Example usage:

class Example extends AppModel {
    public $useDbConfig = 'alternate';


The useTable property specifies the database table name. By default, the model uses the lowercase, plural form of the model’s class name. Set this attribute to the name of an alternate table, or set it to false if you wish the model to use no database table.

Example usage:

class Example extends AppModel {
    public $useTable = false; // This model does not use a database table


class Example extends AppModel {
    public $useTable = 'exmp'; // This model uses a database table 'exmp'


The name of the table prefix used for the model. The table prefix is initially set in the database connection file at /app/Config/database.php. The default is no prefix. You can override the default by setting the tablePrefix attribute in the model.

Example usage:

class Example extends AppModel {
    public $tablePrefix = 'alternate_'; // will look for 'alternate_examples'


Each table normally has a primary key, id. You may change which field name the model uses as its primary key. This is common when setting CakePHP to use an existing database table.

Example usage:

class Example extends AppModel {
    // example_id is the field name in the database
    public $primaryKey = 'example_id';


The displayField attribute specifies which database field should be used as a label for the record. The label is used in scaffolding and in find('list') calls. The model will use name or title, by default.

For example, to use the username field:

class User extends AppModel {
    public $displayField = 'username';

Multiple field names cannot be combined into a single display field. For example, you cannot specify, array('first_name', 'last_name') as the display field. Instead create a virtual field with the Model attribute virtualFields


The recursive property defines how deep CakePHP should go to fetch associated model data via find(), and read() methods.

Imagine your application features Groups which belong to a Domain and have many Users which in turn have many Articles. You can set $recursive to different values based on the amount of data you want back from a $this->Group->find() call:

  • -1 CakePHP fetches Group data only, no joins.

  • 0 CakePHP fetches Group data and its Domain

  • 1 CakePHP fetches a Group, its Domain and its associated Users

  • 2 CakePHP fetches a Group, its Domain, its associated Users, and the Users’ associated Articles

Set it no higher than you need. Having CakePHP fetch data you aren’t going to use slows your app unnecessarily. Also note that the default recursive level is 1.


If you want to combine $recursive with the fields functionality, you will have to add the columns containing the required foreign keys to the fields array manually. In the example above, this could mean adding domain_id.

The recommended recursive level for your application should be -1. This avoids retrieving related data where that is unnecessary or even unwanted. This is most likely the case for most of your find() calls. Raise it only when needed or use Containable behavior.

You can achieve that by adding it to the AppModel:

public $recursive = -1;

If you use events in your system, using the value -1 for recursive will disable all event triggering in the associated model. This happens because no relations are created when the value is set to -1.


The default ordering of data for any find operation. Possible values include:

$order = "field"
$order = "Model.field";
$order = "Model.field asc";
$order = "Model.field ASC";
$order = "Model.field DESC";
$order = array("Model.field" => "asc", "Model.field2" => "DESC");


The container for the model’s fetched data. While data returned from a model class is normally used as returned from a find() call, you may need to access information stored in $data inside of model callbacks.


Contains metadata describing the model’s database table fields. Each field is described by:

  • name

  • type

The types CakePHP supports are:


Generally backed by CHAR or VARCHAR columns. In SQL Server, NCHAR and NVARCHAR types are used.


Maps to TEXT, MONEY types.


Maps to the UUID type if a database provides one, otherwise this will generate a CHAR(36) field.


Maps to the TINYINT or SMALLINT type provided by the database.


Maps to the SMALLINT type provided by the database.


Maps to the INTEGER types provided by the database.


Maps to the BIGINT type provided by the database.


Maps to the DECIMAL or NUMERIC types.


Maps to the REAL, DOUBLE PRECISION types.


Maps to BOOLEAN except in MySQL, where TINYINT(1) is used to represent booleans.


Maps to the BLOB or BYTEA type provided by the database.


Maps to a timezone naive DATE column type.


Maps to a timezone naive DATETIME column type. In PostgreSQL, and SQL Server this turns into a TIMESTAMP or TIMESTAMPTZ type.


Maps to the TIMESTAMP type.


Maps to a TIME type in all databases.

  • null

  • default value

  • length

Example Usage:

protected $_schema = array(
    'first_name' => array(
        'type' => 'string',
        'length' => 30
    'last_name' => array(
        'type' => 'string',
        'length' => 30
    'email' => array(
        'type' => 'string',
        'length' => 30
    'message' => array('type' => 'text')

Changed in version 2.10.0: The smallinteger and tinyinteger types were added in 2.10.0


This attribute holds rules that allow the model to make data validation decisions before saving. Keys named after fields hold regex values allowing the model to try to make matches.


It is not necessary to call validate() before save() as save() will automatically validate your data before actually saving.

For more information on validation, see the Data Validation later on in this manual.


Array of virtual fields this model has. Virtual fields are aliased SQL expressions. Fields added to this property will be read as other fields in a model but will not be saveable.

Example usage for MySQL:

public $virtualFields = array(
    'name' => "CONCAT(User.first_name, ' ', User.last_name)"

In subsequent find operations, your User results would contain a name key with the result of the concatenation. It is not advisable to create virtual fields with the same names as columns on the database, this can cause SQL errors.

For more information on the virtualFields property, its proper usage, as well as limitations, see Virtual fields.


Name of the model. If you do not specify it in your model file it will be set to the class name by constructor.

Example usage:

class Example extends AppModel {
    public $name = 'Example';


If set to true, data fetched by the model during a single request is cached. This caching is in-memory only, and only lasts for the duration of the request. Any duplicate requests for the same data is handled by the cache.