I’ll approach this is two ways. Firstly, I’ll set out a road map with general principles and secondly list some things to do. These are personal views although I refer to Jackson Galaxy. There is a presumption that the cat is healthy and well. Pain affects behavior. Check it out if needs must.
General principles of human-to-cat relationship and how to improve it
I’m going to take a slightly esoteric and philosophical viewpoint. In this part I am not going to list items as if you were reading an instruction booklet. What I will do is describe the underlying attitude and behaviour of a cat guardian who is likely to have an excellent relationship with their cat. This allows a person to formulate their own specific rules if they want to tackle the task that way. And I am taking my lead from Jackson Galaxy because he hits the nail on the head when he says that “It’s not what you own, it’s who you love”.
The point that he is making is that we should not regard our relationship with our cat as one of a human owning a cat. In other words we should ignore the fact that we are different species and regard our cat as a member of the family and an equal who we should love as any other member of your family. It is hard to go wrong with that starting point.
Of course, all relationships have their ups and downs. For my part, I think the major burden of how to make the relationship work falls on the shoulders of humans. We are the rational, less instinctive ones who are meant to be the more intelligent creature in the relationship. It is up to us to understand the likes, dislikes, fears, aversions and other behavioural characteristics of our domestic cat companion. Our cat will learn what pleases and displeases us.
A cat guardian should be open to the feelings of their cat as revealed by their behaviour and body language and of course vocalisations. This is a learned process. An observant cat guardian will learn what their cat likes and dislikes, their fears and anxieties.
Living with a cat is a mutual learning process. It is also a mutual training process. Both parties learn and adapt their behaviour to meet the needs of the other. Jackson Galaxy calls it compromising. You have to bend to the other’s needs. I regard this aspect of cat ownership as respecting the cat and respecting their inherited ‘drives’ (‘Mojo’ for Mr Galaxy).
Jackson also says that people should admit it when they don’t know everything and that there is a certain vulnerability in the relationship because we don’t always control the outcome. We don’t have ownership over our cat’s actions and the way that they interpret and react to the world around them.
If you love your cat you will meet these demands. You will adjust and adapt and always respect your cat. Love of your cat will completely bar any thought about modifying a cat’s behaviour through negative reinforcement i.e. punishment. Personally, I rarely try to modify my cat’s behaviour even through positive reinforcement. I accept my cat and mould my way of life around him. I make the small adjustments because I believe that it is the best way to manage a relationship with your cat.
There has to be compromise but most of the compromises are from the human’s side. It should be an attitude which is present before a person adopts a cat. There is too much on the Internet about how to stop cats jumping on counters and how to stop them doing this and that. I don’t believe in these things. They point towards a relationship which I don’t think is ideal and which is a human dominating a cat and trying to mould the cat into the human environment. Cats will automatically adjust their behaviour to fit in with the human home but you have to let them do certain natural things and provide alternative means to express them.
The classic example is cats scratching furniture. If you provide enough cat scratching posts or flat scratching blocks around the home then you minimise furniture being scratched. However, you do not prevent cat scratching furniture by declawing. That is anathema to the principles as laid out by Jackson Galaxy or any cat lover. It can never be a loving action. It is a dominating action and an ultimate form of control which will backfire anyway and which is very cruel.
As in all good relationships there has to be acceptance and respect. You should never try to change your boyfriend’s behaviour. You accept it or like it. That’s why you love him. If you don’t like or accept it then you don’t love him and you don’t live with him. The same applies to your domestic cat companion.
Some specific things to do to improve the human-to-cat relationship
- UNDERSTAND CAT BEHAVIOR
- Accept and respect your cat. Accept their idosyncracies, their character and behaviour.
- Don’t force your cat to do anything he does not want to do. You’ll lose.
- PLAY WITH YOUR CAT.
- Never punish your cat
- Don’t declaw your cat.
- Get down to the level of your cat i.e. lie on the carpet and interact with him.
- Give him some food treats but not too much.
- Make sure the environment in which he lives is suitable and as enriched as you can make it.
- Never raise your voice at your cat.
- Spend quiet time with him. If he likes to sit on your lap let him do it for as long as he reasonably likes.
- Comb him if he likes it. Comb him with a flea comb is it is practical (single coat) and if he likes it. He should. Do it gently and get him used to it. Comb the areas where fleas reside.
- Talk to him if talks to you and learn to understand what his sounds mean. Often they will be a request for food, to be picked up etc..Talk gentle with melodious tones 🙂
- GENUINELY LOVE HIM AS MENTIONED.
There are other things and if they come to me I’ll add them later.
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