Home > Family and Home > Cats Need the Option of Saying “No”

Cats Need the Option of Saying “No”

I’m obviously not referring to how a human being would say no, but rather, how your cat says it through his body language. It’s important for your cat to be able to have the choice to say no in many aspects of his life.

Cats Don’t Like Feeling Cornered

We love our cats and enjoy all forms of interaction with them whether that’s petting, holding, playing, training, etc. There are times though when they may not be in the mood and unless it’s something that has to be done, such as getting the cat in the carrier for a veterinarian visit, keeping a cat out of danger or administering medication, the quickest way to cause the deterioration of the relationship is if you force the issue. Pay attention to your cat’s body language. If you’re petting him and he starts displaying signals that suggest he has had enough, then back off. The cat is saying no and if you ignore that message then it causes him to feel trapped in a corner with no other option but to either 1) scratch you, 2) bite you, 3) or go away from you. Even though option #3 is better than the other two, it’s still not what you want in your relationship with your cat.

Your Cat Needs Choice

Whenever possible, always give your cat the choice to say yes or no. Use behavior modification to show him that saying yes is more worthwhile but that the option is totally his. For example, if you’d like to pet a cat who may be unsure whether he wants interaction, extend your finger and use proper feline etiquette so he has the choice of whether to approach and engage. He may sniff your finger (the same nose-to-nose sniffing that cats do with each other upon greeting) or he may choose to back away or simply not engage at all. If you ignore feline etiquette and just reach out to pet him then you don’t give him any choice. The next time you approach he may immediately react negatively since previous experience taught him that he won’t be given time to decide whether to interact. If you do the finger extension then the chances are he’ll be even more receptive the next time because you haven’t forced the issue. Providing choice is simple but can be so powerfully effective in behavior modification.

black cat in gray covered bed

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

Pay Attention to How Your Cat Communicates

Pay closer attention to your cat’s body language because in many cases it’s providing the go-ahead to decrease the distance between the two of you or it’s saying to increase the distance. The longer you live with your cat, the more you’ll become familiar with his typical ways of communicating that he’d rather nap undisturbed or that he does or doesn’t want to be petted right now. If you respect when your cat is saying no, you’ll probably discover that he’ll end up saying yes more often.

Need More Information?

For more specifics on cat body language, cat training or cat behavior problems, refer to any of Pam Johnson-Bennett’s books.



CatWise the brand new book from best-selling author Pam Johnson-Bennett

We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.

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