Social media user asks “How do you discipline a cat without hitting him?”

Kitten behaved like Satan according to owner.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

A user on the website asks what I consider to be an inappropriate question about cat caregiving namely, “How do you discipline a cat without hitting them?” The woman (Julia) considered hitting her cat to discipline him. I responded by saying that her cat is very unhappy living in her small apartment and that she caused the cat behavior problems. There’s nothing radical in the statement because all issues regarding domestic cats originate in human behaviour. There are no exceptions.

And there’s no point answering the question because the woman is looking for an answer about “negative reinforcement” training. The opposite of positive reinforcement. And you do not train a cat using negative reinforcement i.e. punishment. Punishment is a no-no in the cat-to-human relationship. It doesn’t work.

The woman said the following about her cat: “I have a very, and I mean VERY naughty cat. He is my fifth cat, and he is only called Loki because “Satan” seemed inappropriately harsh for a nine-week-old kitten.”

How does that catch your attention? She thought of calling her cat Satan because he was naughty as a nine-week-old kitten! She says that the kitten did all kinds of naughty things “with no reaction at all to any sort of verbal command”. Message to lady: a cat is not a dog.

She admits that she has a “very small flat” but she’s lived with two other cats in far more cramped conditions and they were happy.

She adds that Loki regularly attacks her and bullies an older cat. And Loki will growl “like an angry daemon”.

RELATED: How to discipline a cat?

She goes on with the following, “Caveat: I wouldn’t usually recommend trying to scare a cat half to death, but Loki was regularly endangering himself and frankly destroying my humble abode (not to mention my mental health). Once again, she had considered scaring her cat “half to death”.

Look, I can understand how she feels. When it goes wrong it can be very frustrating, but if the relationship between a cat caregiver and a cat is broken to this extent, it has to stop. It’s like a divorce. It is better to try and stay with your partner and work through the problems in the interests of the children. But there comes a point when the interests of the children are better served if there is a divorce. The same kind of rules apply here. But this woman doesn’t get it in my view. She is saying all the wrong things. All the things which indicate clearly to me that she is unsuited as a cat caregiver to this unhappy cat.

I won’t go on. All the indications are that this is a very unhappy cat because he doesn’t like the conditions under which he lives. He is sharing a small apartment with another cat which unsettles him because his personality demands a ‘home range’ which does not overlap, which it must in a small apartment, with another cat.

It would seem fair to also speculate that this cat has ‘argued’ with his owner on many occasions and if that is the case it would have reinforced the breakdown in the relationship. I’ve speculated, but it’s a reasonable speculation.

All in all, Loki is in the wrong home and he needs to be rehomed. The last duty of a cat owner is to be particularly careful in rehoming their cat if it hasn’t worked out. That doesn’t mean relinquishing the cat to a cat shelter as a first option. It means trying to find somebody who could be a loving owner. Perhaps somebody the person knows as reliable and decent.

RELATED: Punished cats may be more likely to have mental health problems?

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