Does Your Senior Cat Really Want to Live with a Kitten?

Resistance is Futile

By Daniel Quagliozzi

Cat Behavior Consultant

 

 

 

One of the things that I find truly fascinating about cats is their keen ability to train human beings to do their bidding, no matter how inconvenient the task may be. We go to all sorts of lengths to keep our cats happy, eating, drinking and using their litter boxes, even if it means displacing ourselves in our own homes.

Cats are quirky animals. They could even be described as eccentric and little bit manipulative in their methods. Sure, human beings are particular about things too, but cats seem to boggle the mind when it comes to their likes, dislikes and habits. No one ever said that living with a cat would be easy. As long as you are trainable, your cat will have no worries at all.

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Let’s use my former best friend Matilda for example. These pictures are old as she has now crossed over into immortality. When Matilda was living, her old age and experience paved the way for many alterations in my lifestyle. There were certain conditions that she just had to have in order to get through the day. Most of these conditions happened at the my own expense.

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1. Matilda needed very cold water presented to her in a drinking glass, located on the night stand next to the bed. (I  found this out the hard way when I set a glass out for myself in case  I got thirsty during the night)

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2. Matilda demanded that sleeping be accomplished under the covers and on top of my chest… the moment I lay down for bed each night. This required me to lift my comforter up so that she could spin around several times on my chest and get comfortable. Other times, she preferred to be tucked in like a human…and I happily obliged.

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3. In the absence of a blanket, Matilda would attempt to crawl under my bathrobe. As you can see, this is was partly successful as there is only so much bathrobe to go around and I am wearing most of it.

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4. Matilda asked that her wet food be served exactly at 7:00 Am and 9:30 PM, which was communicated by the act of trampling all over me  until I finally give in to her cries for attention as she stood on my wind pipe. Her night-time demands were quite effective to say the very least.

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5. Once the food was served, Matilda would have roughly three or four bites of the food, walk away and make herself comfortable in the now empty master bed. She would remain in the bed until roughly 7 pm… when I returned home.

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6. For her daily work out session, Matilda required that a shoe lace attached to a stick be forever dangling from the same night stand she perched on for water. I guess she decided that having her very ownhome  gym was easier than pestering me for playtime.

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Cat guardians across the country can relate to Matilda’s story. She may be gone in body but the spirit of her quirks will forever live on. Her needs, although not that outlandish… were still her very own.

Freedom of choice is a cats prime directive. They do what they want, when they want and there’s nothing you can do about it. Resistance is Futile.

People Behaving Badly

Written by:
Daniel Quagliozzi
Cat Behavior Consultant
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Is Mr. Fluffandstuff being naughty? Are your punishment techniques unsuccessful at getting results? A new approach to “bad behavior” may help you change how you look at your cat and find solutions that work for both of you. Punishment doesn’t work with cats. Here’s why:

There are often times when we may find ourselves at wits end with our cat. However, most behaviors that cats are punished for are actually normal, they just may not be what we humans consider acceptable.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of outdated or just plain inaccurate information about punishing cats available. Whether you heard it from your veterinarian, your friend or the internet, I’m here to tell you that all types of physical punishment are not only detrimental to your relationship with your cat, but they JUST DON’T WORK. Physical punishment has many negative effects on your relationship with your cat. The first thing you may notice is that your cat starts to cower whenever you approach with your hands. For fearful cats, this will only reinforce their apprehension of humans.

The other thing that happens is that punishment can turn a sweet cat into an aggressive one. If you swat or spank your cat, he may feel that you are “escalating” the situation or provoking it to fight. Many cats respond to a nosetap with a bite or swat – not exactly the response you may have been expecting…especially if you were looking for guilt or remorse.

Cats have a fairly limited concept of punishment. Many people assume that their cat “knows” he’s is being bad, because he did something wrong, such as scratching the furniture, and then skulks away. In fact, the cat is just associating the presence of it’s owner with being yelled at. He is not recognizing that scratching the couch is bad – again, to your kitty, scratching is a normal behavior (that also happens to feel good, and that may be reward enough to risk being yelled at).

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Many cats engage in problematic behaviors out of boredom. Just as with children, they may see “negative” attention (such as being yelled at) better than no attention at all. Often, in the case of a very bored cat who isn’t getting enough mental stimulation, humans actually reward negative behaviors by shouting. In this situation, the cat is looking for some sort of response from the human – that reaction is frequently enough of a reward that the cat will knock things off your dresser or scratch your furniture, even if he knows he may get in trouble for it.

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So, do we just give up and let the cats do whatever they want? The answer is an unequivocal, no. But, there are ways to “correct” bad behavior that are much more effective than yelling or getting physical with your cat. Cats learn by trial and error. If they try something and have a good experience, they will do it again. If they try something and have a bad experience, the behavior is more likely to be extinguished – although not always immediately. Sometimes they will keep trying in hopes that the good experience will return – just as humans will play the slot machines time and time again, hoping for the “big payoff” – before finally giving up.

Here’s an easy 4 step plan!

1. Prevention: Give your cat an appropriate outlet for “normal” feline behaviors

2. Use correction, but only when appropriate

3. Use Remote punishment to discourage undesirable behaviors

4. Reward to reinforce good behaviors

I have identified two of the most common reasons people will punish their cats below.

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Scratching Furniture

The most common cause of furniture scratching is a lack of an appropriate scratching post. Since the couch fulfills most of the cats scratching needs (tall, sturdy, a material they like to scratch, and in an easily accessible location), it seems like the best place to sharpen those claws.

To work with this behavior:

1. Give your cat an adequate scratching post. Scratching is a natural behavior, and necessary for all cats – it’s how they stretch, mark their territory, relieve stress and shed their claws.

2. Correction or punishment, such as yelling or squirting with a water bottle, is not appropriate in this case. Cats learn quickly that the punishment only happens when humans are around, and will just return to scratching furniture when you leave. They may also scratch furniture, anticipating some attention (remember, to a bored cat, negative attention may be better than no attention at all).

3. Make the furniture an unappealing place to scratch by using tin-foil, double sided tape, or a product called Sticky Paws. These are all unpleasant sensations for a kitty trying to scratch.

4. Encourage your cat to use the scratching post by using treats, toys or catnip to lure them into a natural stretching position. Praise them for using their post instead of the couch.

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Climbing on Furniture/Knocking Over Items

Cats love to be up high. They also need lots of mental stimulation. When they don’t have outlets for these needs, they may start climbing up on your dresser, kitchen table or counters. In a playful mode, they may start batting at small objects, trying to knock them off. Not only does this provide them with some playful activity, but they may get a response from their human out of it, as well.

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1. Start by giving your kitty its own cat condo or high-up places to hang out (you can clear off some shelves and put fleece pads on them to make them more appealing). More interactive playtime with toys such as the cat dancer or DA BIRD, in addition to solo play toys (ping pong balls, fuzzy mice) will provide more mental stimulation.

2. As in the case of other attention seeking behaviors, punishment is not effective for this behavior, and may just reinforce it.

3. Make counters and other surfaces unappealing – you can use cookie sheets or pieces of cardboard with tin foil or double sided tape attached to them. You can also “booby-trap” the area with empty soda cans with a few pennies taped inside – when the cat jumps up on the counter, the noise of the cans being knocked over will be a deterrent. Keep in mind, this deterrent is not a good idea with shy cats or in multi-cat households where a non-guilty kitty may be scared off by the punishment.

4. Praise the kitty for using its cat tree, and make it a fun place to be – try placing some catnip, or solo play toys on the cat tree. Try incorporating the kitty condo into your interactive playtime – get your cat climbing or jumping on it to chase a toy.

So, with a little understanding, a watchful eye and maybe a little preventive re-arranging of your environment, your relationship with your furry roomates can stand the test of time!! Don’t be a human that behaves badly. Lead by example.