It can be incredibly frustrating when a cat starts exhibiting a bad behavior– especially one that is messy, stinky, destructive, or violent. While it may feel instinctual in a time of frustration to punish your cat for her bad behavior, it’s not how cats learn best, and it may actually create more problems. Here are 6 reasons to encourage your cat towards good behaviors rather than punish her for bad ones.
See links throughout and below this article for tips on more productive training methods.
#1 – Cats aren’t spiteful
It can be hard to remember that bad behaviors aren’t caused by spite– particularly if those bad behaviors come in the form of your cat peeing in the middle of your bed or scratching the side of your brand new couch. Despite how personal these things can feel, your cat’s behavior doesn’t have malicious intentions. Instead, your cat is simply trying to communicate to you that something isn’t ideal about her environment. Is the litter box clean enough? Has something changed in your home? Do you have a new animal? Is there loud construction happening outside? Is there a neighborhood stray lurking your yard? Learning to see her undesirable behaviors as communications will help you get to the root of the problem and solve behavior issues in constructive ways.
#2 – Their bad behavior is a reflection of you
As your cat’s caretaker, it’s your responsibility to provide a healthy, loving, and stimulating environment for your cat. Bad behaviors present themselves when something isn’t quite right and should be taken as a clue that something about your home needs to change. Shifting the responsibility to you from your cat will greatly increase your chances of changing her undesirable behaviors.
#3 – Your cat may become afraid of you
When are cats are doing things they shouldn’t be doing (particularly if it’s something destructive like scratching up the side of the couch), the urgency of the situation can cause us to act in ways that startle our cats. We can get into the habit of believing that shouting, clapping, or spraying water is an effective way of solving the problem, since it does technically stop the behavior in that moment. Unfortunately, this method can also cause your cat to become scared or anxious around you, which may compromise your relationship with her or create even more behavioral problems. Instead, catch yourself when you want to shout or spray water at your cat and practice using positive determent methods instead. For instance, providing an alluring scratching post is a much better option than shouting at a cat who has been scratching the side of the couch, since it fulfills your cat’s need to scratch and provides your cat with a better option.
#4 – Your cat may not know why she’s being punished
Cats learn by being able to directly associate behaviors with results. If you attempt to punish a cat after the fact, she won’t understand what’s happening. This scenario often happens when a cat poops outside of the litter box. The cat’s person may find it an hour later and punish the cat by making her smell it while scolding her. The cat, by this time, has moved on and won’t understand that the scolding and unpleasantness is a result of pooping on the bathroom floor. Any actions you take to correct undesirable behavior should happen as the behavior is happening or directly after.
#5 – The behavior may get worse
Like I said above, punishing your cat may not only compromise your relationship– it can also make the current behavior worse or create new problems altogether. Cats who are scared or anxious may become aggressive, begin eliminating outside of the litter box, or start spraying around your home.
#6 – Your cat deserves better
Your cat is the best, right? I’d bet nearly everyone reading this article would answer with an enthusiastic YES! Well, your cat thinks you are the best too, and that’s exactly why you should prove it by learning to address her behavior problems in more compassionate, creative, and productive ways. Remember, the best way to discourage your cat’s bad behavior is to determine why she’s doing it then offer a better solution.
Looking for better ways to train your cat? Check out these articles about the most common cat behavioral problems: