My office receives a large number of requests concerning cat behavior problems and it’s alarming to me whenever I hear people refer to their cats as spiteful or they’re sure a beloved cat’s motivation behind a particular behavior is anger or revenge. Really? Do you really believe that your cat is capable of plotting a behavior as punishment for something you have or haven’t done?
Miscommunication Leads to Lousy Problem-Solving
There are a couple of major problems with thinking that your cat’s behavior is a punitive plan. First, it fuels miscommunication on your part so you waste valuable time in terms of identifying the true underlying cause of the behavior. If you’re so sure that the behavior is motivated by revenge then you will overlook some obvious and critical clues behind the true trigger.
Next, it may create anger on your part so you might end up punishing the cat for the behavior. I’ve received many calls and emails from cat parents who have spanked their cats, rubbed their noses in their messes or put their cats in “time out” as punishment. None of that works.
All-too-often, any so-called behavior problem that your cat displays is actually causing her anxiety. The behavior itself may be due to anxiety and then that gets ramped up in intensity because the cat is now getting punished for the behavior. Punishment doesn’t solve the problem and, in fact, makes it worse because the cat will likely develop a fear of you. So in addition to the initial behavior problem you will now have to deal with the fractured cat/human bond. Not a good plan.
Is it Medical or Behavioral?
The first thing to look at when it comes to a cat behavior problem is whether there’s an underlying medical cause. For example, the cat may be peeing on the carpet due to a urinary tract problem. Kitty may have started biting when petted due to pain or illness. Rule out potential medical issues and then you can tackle this from a behavioral standpoint. If you overlook this step you may be subjecting your cat to needless suffering.
What is Your Cat Really Saying by her Behavior?
Don’t get hurt and take it personally when your cat pees on bed or scratches your favorite chair. Instead, look at the situation from your cat’s point of view. You may find that kitty peed on the bed out of anxiety or fear. Perhaps she’s afraid to walk the path to the litter box because another cat in the household is bullying her. Maybe she’s scratching your favorite chair because the scratching post you supplied is totally ineffective. With a “think like a cat” attitude your eyes will be opened in a way that allows you improve communication, reduce your cat’s stress, provide for her needs and rebuild the bond between the two of you. If you feel hurt or offended by your cat’s behavior you will only end up hurting her – if not physically, then certainly emotionally.
Need More Information?
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.