Ah, cats. We love them, they sometimes love us, but the bottom line is, we’re not going to kick them out of our houses anytime soon. I mean, who wants to deprive the internet of their cat videos?
Since we’re all going to continue cohabitating with our feline friends, wouldn’t you like to know how you could make sure your cat is more comfortable when you’re around?
If it leads to less insane behavior, like random bites and scratches, then I am all for this – so let’s hear what the experts have to say.
Basically, it all boils down to this: even though cats can’t speak human language, that doesn’t mean they’re not communicating in their own way.
And since they are cats and we’re people, it’s our job to adjust the way we communicate specifically to them, instead of trying to shortcut it using the tricks that work on babies, or even dogs.
Ohio State University veterinarian Tony Buffington spoke with Wired.com about how he thinks cats see us in our shared space.
“You hear the unmistakable sound of claws on couch. You snap, shout, squirt water, and maybe even throw a pillow. It’s all futile, because eventually, he’s at it again. Your cat isn’t ignoring you. He just doesn’t know how to connect your negative reinforcement with his behavior.”
This is because, he says, cats are typically solitary creatures and have little need to read social cues.
So basically, your cat doesn’t actually care about modifying it’s behavior to please you, because they aren’t designed to need to please anyone but themselves.
“How the h*ll is your cat supposed to know that you’re yelling at him because you want him to stop scratching the couch? To the cat, you’re this crazy primate who is attacking him for no reason.”
Instead of “attacking” your cat, try communicating with your cat in a way that he or she might be better able to understand.
Since your cat will see you as a threatening primate if the correction comes directly from you – and will therefore just learn not to do those behaviors when you’re around – most experts advise remote correction in the form of bad tastes, offensive sounds, icky textures, or off-putting smells.
You’re connecting a behavior you don’t like to something unpleasant, which should encourage your cat not to do them in the future.
Try sticky paper, aluminum foil, or heavy plastic (textures) in areas you don’t want your cat to climb or traverse. Spray citronella, perfumes, citrus scents, aloe, or eucalyptus oil anywhere you want your cat to avoid (you can soak cotton balls in these scents, too).
Bitter apple, citrus products, hot sauces, or aloe gel are also tastes that will convince your cat they don’t want to chew on something.
Any loud sound, like a whistle or pennies shaken in a can, can help divert your cat’s attention.
When it comes to scratching, make sure they have an area they are allowed to scratch, and then put the opposite – inviting tastes and smells – there to encourage them to use it.
The bottom line is that for everyone to get on, the corrections should not come directly from you. Cats learn from their environment, not from others, and so convincing them that it was their idea to avoid the counters or not scratch the couch is the best way to go.
Good luck, cat people. You’re probably going to need it.