Best selling author agrees with PoC on cat punishment

Temple Grandin, in association with Catherine Johnson, in their book “Animals Make Us Human” agrees with me and other PoC supporters and regulars (who are very important to this website in getting the message across) that..

“…you can’t train a cat using punishment and negative reinforcement….”

Click on this link if you’d like to see the page I wrote a long time ago. My page is not scientific. It is based on common sense but I am pleased someone in authority and who is respected in the animal and cat world supports my argument. This is important because a lot of writers on cat behavior on the internet and in magazines encourage what can only be described as cat punishment. There are manufacturers making devices which are totally based on cat punishment. These people and businesses are very short-sighted and ill-informed in my view.

Taining a cat with punishment is not good
Training a cat with punishment is not good
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Temple Grandin writes that as cats are essentially less domesticated than dogs, horses and cows they react to negative reinforcement as a wild cat would. The wild cat ancestor – the African/Asian wildcat – is lurking just under the surface of the domestic cat. Wild cats do not react well to negative reinforcement.

Temple Grandin refers to Karen Pryor, who describes how wild animals react to punishment or someone trying to force them to do something. One example she uses refers to is otters:

“Put a tame pet otter on a leash, and either you go where the otter wants to go, or it fights the leash with all its might….”

Temple Grandin spells it out:

“The only way to train a wild animal is to use positive reinforcement…”

A cat should be trained by rewarding him for doing things you want him to do. It is interesting that traditionally the training of animals is by negative reinforcement no matter how mild the “punishment” might be. The ubiquitous form of negative reinforcement for a companion animal is the lead and collar around a dog. Pulling on it creates discomfort, which prevents the dog from pulling.

People who want to train their cats (not many because most of us are happy to be trained by our cat) should remember that the domestic cat, even the docile flat faced Persian who is indoors all the time, is not that different from any of the wild cats.

Nicholas Dodman calls the domestic cat, “a miniature tiger in your living room”. And Mel and Fiona Sunquist in their master work The Wild Cats Of The World say the following, on page 104, about the domestic cat:

“Though cats have been domesticated for some time, they quickly and easily revert to the wild or feral state….”

There you have it. Domestic cats are wild at heart and is not advisable to train wild cats by punishment. Let’s stick to far more effective and humane methods if we want to train a cat. Personally I wouldn’t bother. Just let things happen naturally and you’ll train your cat to a certain extent without even knowing it is happening and vice versa. Cats train us gently too.

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15 thoughts on “Best selling author agrees with PoC on cat punishment”

  1. Sealy doesn’t come when called or stay put in my lap when I pick him up. He looks away from me if I hold him up to see his face. If he’s in his feeding cage and I want to go over and get him out he’ll run to the back of it. Yet he comes and sleeps in my lap for hours at a time when he’s readyand he comes out of his feeding cage when HE wants to. I think he has US trained. We just let him do as he pleases.

  2. The only thing that punishment teaches, is fear of more punishment.
    Nothing can be truly learned whilst in a state of fear.

    This is a basic tenet of humanist based teaching. It’s true for all species. Good to see it’s being promoted here, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from PoC!

    Good piece.

    • Yes, well said Everycat. Training a cat through punishment it is not learning it is just avoiding pain and discomfort. For humans punishment seems to work because the human can connect the pain to the objective.


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