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 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 identifying the true underlying cause of the behavior. If you’re so sure 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. It’s not only counter-productive, but it’s cruel as well.
Any unwanted behavior 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.