Gift your cat an “outpost” to keep her off the kitchen counter

The Way Of Cats
The Way Of Cats by Pamela Merritt
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I been asked to review the book “The Way Of Cats” by Pamela Merritt. I’m reading the book at this moment and thought I would take the opportunity to write about a topic that Pamela addresses in an early section of the book about keeping domestic cats off kitchen counters. It is a perennial problem for many cat owners. It doesn’t bother me particularly but I respect the fact that it doesn’t bother many other people for ostensibly hygiene reasons.

Pamela Merritt and one of her cats
Pamela Merritt and one of her cats. Photo: Amazon.

The underlying modus operandi of Pamela Merritt in this instance, and what she regards as the solution to cats on counters, is to give them what they want but in a way which satisfies both parties. And what they want is to be off the ground because they like moving vertically, as it is in their nature, and they don’t want to be under foot where they are vulnerable and perhaps a little anxious. Pamela says that they can be frightened when they’re on the floor looking up while you prepare food in the kitchen. It is easy to walk on your cat in these circumstances.

Pamela believes that the way to get cats to do things is to employ the Law of Reciprocity. It means that you do your cat a favour and they do a favour in return. They reciprocate your behaviour by rewarding you with their behaviour which is of a type that pleases you. So, you give them the gift of an outpost which is a “place where they can hang out and be with us”.

You introduce them to this place with a happy voice to let them know that it is a gift. You place them in that outpost to signal to them that it has your approval. I’m going to presume that this will be some kind of cat tree or condominium where a cat can be at the same height as a kitchen counter but away from the kitchen counter. This is exactly what I’ve got, by the way, in my kitchen.

You put your cat in the outpost whenever they are making a nuisance of themselves in the kitchen. You can even point to it and tell your cat to go there and in time they will understand and comply. Your cat will be happy there, she says. And you will be happy because your cat is happy and she’s not interfering with you on the countertop!

She questions whether that makes cats the boss in the relationship and she agrees that it does. But that’s no bad thing. We know that domestic cats train their human guardians, which is a good thing because it creates harmony.

And Merritt correctly says that cats know better than us as to what they want; so, you give them what they want. She recommends that you should explain to your cat why you’ve given them the outpost i.e. it was for their safety. And if your cat jumps onto the kitchen counter you should “act shocked”. You should project worry but not anger.

You should then tell them that it isn’t a good place for them to be and use a cleaning spray to clean the area where they’ve been. This achieves two things (1) it cleans the area if you are worried about hygiene (2) it lets your cat know that you are looking out for them.

Some cat owners might think that it is too late to change their cat’s behaviour but Merritt disagrees. She says that “we can always do what we should have done in the first place” and “It is easier to train us to do it right than argue with the cat.”

And domestic cats will like to come into the kitchen because this is where there is food and where food is prepared. And they don’t want to leave the kitchen if and when we want them to because they want to be with their human companion and be part of the activity. She reminds us that people adopt cats for companionship and therefore they should enjoy their cat’s company in the kitchen.

This is the first part is a multi-part review of the book. I’ll provide my assessment in the last part.

You can purchase Pamela Merritt’s book, The Way Of Cats on Amazon by clicking on this link.

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