Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | March 25, 2009

No to Negative Cat Training

Silly says No to Punishment

Silly says No to Punishment

Hi my name is Silly and for this week’s Second Chance Pet Column I am following up on the recent column that my fellow shelter feline Sasha wrote promoting positive training techniques for cats.  I concur with Sasha that cats much prefer positive reinforcement than punishment when learning proper etiquette within the new family and home.  Below, with help from the Humane Society of the United States, I explain why.

Punishment can be verbal, postural, or physical and is meant to make your pet immediately associate something unpleasant with a behavior you don’t want her to engage in. The punishment makes it less likely that the behavior will occur again. To be effective, punishment must be delivered while your pet is engaged in the undesirable behavior-in other words, “caught in the act.” If the punishment is delivered too late, even seconds later, your pet will not associate the punishment with the undesired behavior. The punishment will seem totally unpredictable to her. 

Remember, cats do not act out of spite or revenge and they don’t have a moral sense of right and wrong. Thus you should never use physical punishment that involves discomfort or pain; in addition to being inhumane, such punishment may cause your cat to defend herself or resort to undesirable behavior. (Warning: frightened cats tend to scratch or bite to defend ourselves).

Also, your cat might associate the punishment with other stimuli, including people, who are present at the time the punishment occurs. For example, a cat punished for getting too close to a new baby may become fearful of, or aggressive to that baby-or to other babies. Thus physical punishment can not only be bad for your cat, it’s also not good for you and others.

Additionally, punishment delivered by you may erode your cat’s trust. That’s why punishment is more effective when it does not come directly from you. For example, if your cat enjoys scratching the couch, you may apply special double-sided tape to those surfaces. Cats rarely like sticky paws. Thus your cat perceives the couch, and not you, to be delivering the punishment. In this way, too, your cat is more likely to avoid the undesirable behavior even when you’re not around.

One of the reasons that cats are such fun companions is that when we are not sleeping, many of us enjoy playing. Playing with your cat will not only help her physical and behavioral development, but it can also reduce undesirable behaviors.

Be sure your cat has safe toys to play with by herself, and don’t underestimate the power of playing with your cat to strengthen the bond between you and enhance the quality of life for both of you.  It is critical that while discouraging undesirable behaviors, you help your cat understand what you want her to do and provide appropriate outlets for her normal cat behaviors.

In closing, I am a trainable, intelligent, talkative, and affectionate four legged fur ball who will learn to do back flips if you would choose me as your new forever friend…


Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online:  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.


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