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Punishment in cats: good or bad idea?


Punishment in cats: good or bad idea?

Every cat owner has already known this: seeing their cat do something stupid … How to react? How can he prevent him from reproducing this stupidity? Punishment, even if it is a common human reaction, is not the best solution, why?

First of all, you should know that what we consider stupidity is simply the expression of a behavioral need of the cat. For example, if your cat climbs on the furniture it is because it needs to explore its environment, if it scratches the sofa it is simply that the scratches are a normal natural behavior and that it needs to mark thus its territory …

The cat never does anything stupid on purpose to annoy us or to take revenge. Revenge is a human feeling that does not exist in cats because it requires a complex construction that involves the cerebral cortex, which is not described in cats.

If for example your cat urinates outside its box is that it may be stressed or sick, you must find the cause, if it has scratched or bitten you, it is because it expresses a form of self-defense, that he felt uncomfortable, constrained, that he could not flee as he pleased, etc.

When punishing a cat, we try to prevent it from ever reproducing this behavior, but you should know that punishment has three major disadvantages:

  • it is not understood by the cat because very often it does not intervene right at the time of the undesirable behavior, even a few seconds too late, it is useless
  • it has to be systematic and we never get there because the cat will be able to reproduce the behaviors in our absence or while we are sleeping, it will not be punished and once again this will generate misunderstanding and cat will continue with its habits anyway
  • it generates a strong anxiety in the cat which will therefore fear its owner and perhaps develop other undesirable behaviors (aggressiveness, uncleanliness) …

The punishment is therefore ineffective, non-constructive and stressful for the cat.

So how do you do it? Better try to redirect the behavior that you no longer want your cat to have: for example, place a cat tree higher than the table on which he is used to climbing, and when he goes on top, reward him.

For scratching, you can place a scratching post in front of the furniture or wall that the cat usually scratches.

Generally speaking, it will always be more effective to reinforce by rewarding a desired behavior than to punish an undesirable behavior.

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