Showing posts with label punishment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label punishment. Show all posts

Thursday 18 May 2023

4 things you should NEVER do to your cat

This is Jackson Galaxy's list of 4 things that you should never do to your cat but it could equally well have been my list or the list of any one of millions of excellent cat caregivers. Actually, my list would be longer but Jackson was limited by the length of the video. 

It is wonderful for me that at the top of his list is declawing. He's American and millions of Americans declaw their cat. He is alienating these potential supporters by criticising them which is the right thing to do and it is wonderful to see. It proves that Jackson set high standards.

Although he has to say that declawing is very bad because it is bloody well exactly that. He says declawing should be banned in the US. He's right and it is banned in 2 states and around a dozen cities but there's a long way to go. Across the rest of the world around 38 countries specifically ban it. In other countries general welfare laws would effectively ban it. Or no one even thinks about declawing in nearly all other countries.

4 things you should NEVER do to your cat
Declawing is a big NO NO. Screenshot from the video.

His next pet hate is punishing your cat. Right again. That's number 2 on his list of things that you should never do to your cat. Cats do not understand punishment as it is a human concept, activity and process that is solely for humans. It requires understanding social norms and morals. That is not the domain of are precious feline friends.

Punishment alienates your cat if it achieves anything at all. There is a subtle modification that Britain's celebrity cat behaviourist, Dr Bruce Fogle, recommends and he calls it 'divine intervention'. 

Jackson mentions the squirt bottle. If your cat cannot see that the squirt is coming from their owner but just arrives as if by God's will, it will not alienate the cat but simply tell the cat that what they are doing results in an unpleasant experience. This should stop them doing it.

Personally, I'd never do this but there is a difference. There are better ways of dealing with cat behavior that a cat owner does not like: training through positive reinforcement or accepting it (modified human thinking).

Yelling at your cat is a form of punishment and is also a No, No. I can understand when this might seem acceptable or happens because the owner loses self-control but it isn't a good idea.

His fourth point of not giving up is, I believe, a reference to not abandoning your cat to a shelter or in a much worse place. There are always ways to resolve problems many of which are actually relatively straightforward.

Monday 25 July 2022

Punishing a cat versus deterring a cat humanely

Punishing a domestic cat and deterring a domestic cat can be one and the same thing but they can also be entirely different. I attempt to explain the difference here.

This topic is about the difference between punishment and what Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM calls "divine intervention". It's about deterring your cat from doing something without the cat associating the deterrence with their caregiver.

We know that punishing a cat is pointless because a cat does not have the mental capacity to understand the whole concept of punishment; a human process. For them, it is being harmed or made anxious because they are behaving normally. If you punish your cat by yelling at them or, God forbid, hitting them after they've done something that you don't like they will simply see you as a person to be avoided thereby breaking the bond which is so essential to a good relationship and which is the reason why you adopted a cat in the first place.

RELATED: Do ultrasonic cat deterrents work?

Image: RSPB

The way to deter a cat by invoking "divine intervention" is to ensure that your cat experiences something which is mildly unpleasant when they do something that you don't want them to do. And at the same time there is no linkage between that mild unpleasantness and you, the owner.

Cats learn from experience. So going right back to the time when they are kittens, if they try to do something and they suffer a bad experience because of it they will not try to do it again (normally).

Dr. Fogle provides two examples. You can put double sided tape on a kitchen counter which will be unpleasant when a cat jumps up on it. I don't like tinfoil on kitchen counters because that can terrify a cat which would not be "mildly unpleasant".

If you don't like your cat to jumping onto your bed, Dr. Fogle DVM suggests an infrared beam from a tiny burglar alarm that sets off a siren. The cat doesn't like the sound and escapes from the bedroom. Or your cat is about to scratch the sofa and silently gets a shot of water in their face from a water pistol. They don't see that you have the water pistol. It is divine intervention or an act of God as the veterinarian states.

The two most common divine intervention cat deterrents concern the backyard or back garden. One has a motion sensor which then sprays water onto the cat and the other is an ultrasonic device which sends out a high-pitched sound which deters the cat. They operate automatically and therefore they are true acts of God from the cat's perspective.

RELATED: 2 devices I would try first to keep cats out of your backyard plus alternatives.

These are just examples of ensuring that there is no connection between the unpleasantness and the owner. It is making a certain type of behaviour unpleasant, which will obviously be a deterrent.

Personally, I don't employ diving intervention because I allow my cat to do anything which he wants to do because it is natural for him to do it. I don't like imposing my will on him although occasionally I will restrict him doing something because it gets in the way of what I'm doing. That involves a polite signal and words that he understands.

Happy cat
Happy cat. The objective of all cat caregivers. Photo in public domain.

Of course, as mentioned, there are alternative ways to live with and manage your domestic cat companion. For example, not allowing your cat on your bed or even in the bedroom is, on the face of it, unkind because bedrooms are full of the scent of their owner. This is something that domestic cats love.

RELATED: How do I make my cat happy

It is reassuring to them. In a good human-cat relationship, cats relish the smells from their owner. To deprive them of this pleasure by banning them from the bedroom is, I would argue, bad cat caretaking. It's a personal decision but if you want to please your cat you will let them into the bedroom and onto the bed.

The same, as far as I'm concerned, applies to letting your cat jump up onto the kitchen counter. People disallow this because they think cats might spread disease but from my perspective humans spread as many diseases a cat but be let them use the kitchen counter. The "banning from kitchen counter" policy doesn't make sense to me.

Monday 7 June 2021

Is spraying cats with water bad?

Spraying cats with water to stop them doing something that you don't like is a form of punishment and therefore it is a bad thing to do. Punishment is misunderstood by domestic cats as it is a human concept and it may harm the human-to-cat relationship. To be effective it requires a knowledge of right and wrong, morality and self-awareness.

Motion activated water spraying cat deterrent. Photo in public domain.

However, if you can spray your cat with water without them realising that it is you who is doing it then from the cat's perspective it is divine intervention. What I mean is the cat just thinks that what they're doing results in something unpleasant and therefore they won't do it anymore but there will be no connection between the unpleasant experience and their human guardian/caretaker. This prevents any damage to the relationship and it is no longer, strictly speaking, punishment but, as mentioned, divine intervention.

Training a cat with punishment is not good. Image: MikeB

That said, there is a third way which is better than both these. You don't spray water at all but you use positive reinforcement through training to stop your cat doing something that you don't like. It is always better to use the positive route for obvious reasons. Spraying water is negative no matter how you do it whereas gently training your cat to do something that you refer is positive. The downside is that it takes longer and more skill to achieve a result doing it this way. It is very simple and direct to spray water over your cat. Instant result.

Personally, without wishing to be boastful, and without wishing to feel superior, I would never consider spraying water over my cat even if it was in the form of divine intervention. I prefer to accept his behaviour. This is the fourth way: nothing that your cat does is wrong or bad behaviour and nothing that he does requires modification through either training or divine intervention. If he does something that you don't like adjust expectations. If he does something 'bad' look at possible medical reasons e.g. cystitis causing peeing on the carpet.

You just accept it and learn to live with it because it is part of respecting your cat. That may seem like an extreme point of view but it suits me and it ensures that the relationship is entirely equal which supports animal rights, and that pleases me.

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