The Misbehaving Cat or Misbehaving Human?

The Misbehaving Cat or Misbehaving Human?

by Michael
(London, UK)

The motivation to write this short post has come from the introductory page of chapter 10 of the book, The Cat, It’s Behavior, Nutrition & Health by Linda P. Case. It is a well known and well received book. It is a thorough book. And in this instance if you read between the lines you can detect what is at the root of so called “cat behavior problems”.

She says that the domestic cat is a cherished companion and friend to young and old people – a member of the family (90% say their cat is a member of the family). The bond between cat and human is strong and enduring, therefore, she concludes.

Yet, she goes on to say that cat “caretakers” frequently relinquish their cats to “shelters”. I say, that both the word “caretaker” and “shelter” are inappropriate terms because neither the person is taking care of their cat nor is the shelter sheltering the cat because about 6 million companion animals in the USA are euthanised annually at shelters. I also say that the word “euthanised” is also the wrong word because the cats are healthy and normal. This paradox between so called cat caretakers and relinquishment is partly put down to cat “problem behavior”. Eighteen percent of owners consider killing their cat for behavioral problems – I used the correct word there. Finally the term “behavioral problems” is frequently used incorrectly to. I’ll explain why.

Linda P. Case explains that a cat’s normal behavior includes “communication patterns, social and territorial behaviors and predation”. She agrees that these behaviors are normal and don’t constitute a problem. Common sense, I guess.

She then, unintentionally, provides us with a hint about where the real problem lies. She says that when a cat’s normal behavior as referred to above “is displayed with an intensity or frequency that is incompatible with the owner’s lifestyle, when the owner has no control over the cat’s actions…the behavior is considered to be problematic.”

The key here is the reference to the cat’s behavior being considered “incompatible” with the human’s lifestyle. It is the human of course who decides this. And what is and what is not compatible is bound to be highly subjective. And this subjective decision making is dependent on a person’s expectations, personality and education which dictates whether the cat lives or dies. In short it is about human behavior.

And Linda P. Case’s reference to the intensity and frequency of behavior of the cat, is frankly absurd. A cat is entitled to have its own personality. To show more interest in some things more than others. This is normal behavior. It is not for us to decide if a cat’s behavior is “intense” or “frequent”. Neither is it up to us to decide if a cat’s behavior is “compatible” with ours after we adopt a cat.

We should make that decision before we adopt. We must surely know how a cat will behave before we adopt and if we don’t it should be obligatory to learn!

I conclude that in nearly 100% of the cases where a cat has been relinquished and killed because of misbehavior the real reason is the misbehavior of the person charged with looking after the cat.

There is one final point. Often it is the human’s behavior that dictates the cat’s behavior; the cat is reactive. If the human creates an unsuitable environment for the cat, its behavior will no doubt become unacceptable to the person who who is ultimately responsible. This ignorance about cat behavior is often demonstrated in the thoughtless comments on YouTube in reference to funny cat videos etc. The classic example of so called “cat misbehavior” as a result of human misbehavior is inappropriate elimination. Often this is due to dirty litter trays or the tray in the wrong location or ill health, stress etc.

These very important points are missing in Linda P. Case’s arguments.

Michael Avatar

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The Misbehaving Cat or Misbehaving Human?

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Aug 26, 2010 I agree with Phil
by: Ruth

How I agree with Phil !
I’ve said for many years now, that people should have to sit a competence test to prove they can care for a pet as fitting to its species, BEFORE being allowed to have a pet.
But that will never happen as long as animals are freely available to anyone at all and looked upon by some as possessions.
Ignorance is the cause of a lot of animal abuse.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Aug 25, 2010 Know You Neighbors
by: Merrily


The young mans landlord told him he would have to get rid of the dog, or be out by the next day.

He made the decision to be out the next day, however he took the landlords refrigerator, microwave oven, and various other items,in the dark of night.

These are the people who should never own a pet of any kind, their lives are always full of turmoil, and lets face it they don’t spend their days reading “How to be a good pet owner”

The saddest thing of all is that when I reported him, no one ever even talked to him, in fact they treated me like the nosy neighbor. Thank goodness the landlord was willing to take action.

Aug 25, 2010 Misbehaving Cat or Human?
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

While I agree with most of Michael’s article, I do disagree with the nearly 100% mark about surrending cats. Though far and few in between, I would state that a medical condition could present itself in the cat that could lead to a cat’s death as well in a surrender/shelter case: rabies, FelV, terminal disease not previously diagnosed. I would venture to say the number could probably go to 90%, which is still pretty high.

Merrily’s neighbor should be reported to the RSPCA. It sounds like the guys’ 3rd dog didn’t stand a chance. What is the latest with this guy? Is the dog still alive or did he do the right thing and give it up to someone who can care properly for the furkid?

Aug 25, 2010 Pet owner licence?
by: Phil (London)

It does make you wonder whether there could ever be a time in the future when pet ownership was outlawed, unless the prospective owner had obtained an owner’s licence – a licence that they would have to qualify for, a bit like a driving licence.

It would at least mean that education was foisted upon pet owners, and would provide a basis for prosecution in abuse cases. Unfortunately I can’t see that happening for a very long time – not in the UK, anyway, animal lovers though we are. Maybe a much more strict state, like Singapore, might lead the way some day.

Aug 25, 2010 Just don’t get it
by: Michael

It is surprising to me the number of people who “just don’t get it”. Either they have closed minds or are stupid – or both. But it is all about common sense so should be easy to understand.

Michael Avatar

Aug 24, 2010 Misbehaving Humans
by: Merrily

Michael, your story brings to mind a recent conversation with my new neighbor.

He is probably 20 years old at most and no doubt living in his own home for the first time.

When he moved in he aquired two dogs who both were dead within 24 hours. When he brought the third dog home i was really concerned for the dogs welfare.

I heard him once again screaming at the dog so I interveined. Seems the dog had peed on his carpet, and he was upset. It was noon time, and the young man had just gotten out of bed, so the dog had been unable to get to a suitable place to relieve herself.

When I explaned that he gave her no choice but to go inside he simply didn’t get it.

I am of the opinion that far too many people are not fit to own pets, or children for that matter, but that is another story.

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