Categories: Cat Behavior

Bad Cat Behavior

Bad cat behavior is more likely to be normal cat behavior that we don’t like. It cannot be bad cat behavior because for another cat it is nearly always normal behavior. Or it might be behavior that is a response to our behavior. And if we find our cat’s behavior bad we might behave less than well towards our cat which will certainly prompt more so called bad behavior. It is a cycle of events.

I personally can’t think of anything that my cats have done that could be considered bad. If my female scratches me, it’s my fault. It probably happened because I was too rough with her. I went too far. If she went to the toilet outside the litter (this has only happened twice in 15 years) it was because of cystitis and so on.

I don’t know what people are referring to when that say that their cat is behaving badly. They mean they don’t like certain aspects of a cat’s behavior and because their can’t argue its case it gets

spread around that the cat behaves badly sometimes. This is almost certainly wrong. We often don’t like certain aspects of the behavior of our human partners, but don’t always refer to their behavior as bad; just incompatible to our behavior and vice-versa.

Take the case of your cat sticking its claws into your legs when it is on your lap. Some people would find that unpleasant and bad behavior. If you do you will confuse your cat as it is kneading its mother’s breast when doing that. She is treating you as her mother. If you smack your cat under those circumstances it will be badly confused.

If we decide to adopt a cat and live with her, I am afraid the primary obligation to adjust falls on us to fit in with the cat’s lifestyle and behavior. Although our cat will adapt significantly, its behavior is instinctive and we must accept it. All our actions are ultimately controllable and can be modified (to be proactive), whereas a cat’s actions are instinctive and reactionary. So our actions will dictate the cat’s reactions. The cat’s actions therefore cannot be described as bad cat behavior.

We sometimes do certain things that can cause a bad reaction in the cat (to us) but a natural reaction to the cat (and cannot, therefore, be described as bad cat behavior).

We agreed to live with the cat hence its domestication. We also made a world largely hostile to the domestic cat (and actually to most other animals). Do you think we are behaving well? Our roads are death traps to a cat. There are other hazards. We therefore are advised by the experts to keep our cat in the flat/apartment/house all the time. This is certainly the case for the long haired Persians and rare and expensive cats (that we bred).

Although a cat can adapt to living in a confined space and with other cats in close proximity it cannot be natural for the cat. We also might work long hours and leave her alone. This may cause emotional problems and resultant “bad cat behavior”. Who is behaving badly? There are countless other examples. Declawing springs to mind. This is still widespread it seems in the States. I just don’t understand how people can do this. Who is behaving badly?

For those of us who live with cats, lets us embrace her behavior, inconvenient that it might be sometimes. That is it the only way. Here is a thought. Domestic cats are so common in households across the world (and I am thinking of the western world primarily) that maybe it is time that house builders gave some consideration to the domestic cat when designing a house. The occupants, after all are very often not just human. This is something that we can do to help live in harmony with our cats.

It also helps to realize that a lot of your cat’s actions turn on the fact that she sees you as mother cat. Your cat will act in the manner of a kitten. We should act in the manner of a loving mother/father.

If you search for bad cat behavior on the internet nearly all (no, all except this article!) are about how to train your cat to behave well or how to “fix the problem” What problem? This is often not bad behavior but nornal cat behavior that we don’t like and we want to modify it to suit us. We should be calling this “How to Modify Your Cat’s Behavior”. Or more accurately “How to Make Your Cat Behave Unaturally”.

One last thought. Some people might say that their cat is bad or nice. Some people praise and some people criticize their cats. As stated above cats behave naturally and instinctively within the confines of their own individual preferences. So if the environment in which they live is less than calm and perhaps a little hostile, they might become defensive and nervous. The resultant behavior may be considered bad by the cat’s owner. The person may blame the cat for bad cat behavior but it will probably be bad person behavior from a cat’s perspective.

If a cat is described as bad or badly behaved I would look at its background and its current circumstances and you will probably see why. Bad cat behavior is actually often bad person behavior.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • This is perhaps my favorite subject regarding cats, and cats are my favorite animal. I think you have a great take on it and that we have to adjust to them, not the other way around which is where many people fail. To succeed we need to augment our knowledge and adjust our perspective and attitude accordingly.

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