Ask A Vet: Is My Cat Naughty On Purpose?

| Published on October 7, 2016

It is a common idea that cats do things in response to our actions and they do, but do you think that cats do bad things just to try to retaliate or teach us a lesson?

People say that their cat urinated on their favorite rug because he was mad about something or clawed up the curtains to reprimand the humans for being gone. Too many times the act is noticed much later and the owner is left to deduce what the circumstances were surrounding the incident.

Urinating outside the box is one thing that owners think is deliberately motivated. The fact is, cats do not function like people do. They are cats and they still act much like their wild ancestors did. They might urine mark to define their territory or in response to an environmental stressor. They might even be showing you that they are suffering from problems like osteoarthritis, urinary tract disease or diabetes.

Since there is no reason for spiteful behavior in the animal kingdom, it is not fair to label your cat as hateful or vengeful. Even if the action was behavioral, it is much more likely to be stress related than because of anger or spite.  Cats cannot understand punishment for their own actions (cause and effect is a very complex higher thought pattern), much less understand and coordinate a punishment system in response to yours.


If your cat is engaging in destructive or inappropriate behavior, it is important that you get medical help in case there is an underlying medical or behavioral issue. An untreated medical problem can develop into a serious behavior problem that lingers long after the inciting cause, if not promptly identified and managed. Many animals are relinquished to shelters every year because of undesirable behaviors and so many of these could have been prevented or managed.

Don’t be too quick to assume that your cat is naughty on purpose because even though it might seem to be the case, it truly isn’t. Be your cat’s advocate and do not write off the behavior as spite when you really need help getting to the bottom of it. What if you were desperately trying to show someone who didn’t communicate like you that there was something wrong? Be your cat’s advocate and make sure that you make the effort to find out why your cat is being naughty instead of nice!

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