How to stop your cat scratching furniture by imposing your authority over them (by Elen)

This is an article by Elen, a visitor to PoC.

We humans are claimed to be divided in to two categories, Cat people and Dog people. I basically agree. I do love dogs myself; I do however not feel I have a natural way of communicating with a dog, I call this ‘I don’t speak dog language’. If you do not speak the language of a foreign country and something happens to you whilst visiting this foreign country, you might end up feeling totally helpless in regard to your matter if the natives of that country are not able to understand you.

Kitten imprinting
Kitten imprinting. Photo by Sam

This is the reason I have never had a dog as a pet, I don’t want to feel helpless and not able to communicate with the dog when it comes to the moment when I have to teach it something. It does not come naturally to me, and therefore I know that I could never have authority over the dog in my house. This means life would become unbearable to myself, as ANY animal has a natural way of claiming the place where they live as their territory. I don’t have a natural ability to want to make life unbearable for myself, so a dog is not an option for me to have as a pet.

Tootsie scratching a scratching post. Tootsie is a poly Maine Coon with a smokey coat.
Tootsie scratching a scratching post. Tootsie is a poly Maine Coon with a smokey coat.

A cat, will do the same, it will claim it’s home as its territory, and unless you speak cat language your life will soon become unbearable in your own home. Many people (families with small children who want a pet, for example) will opt for a cat rather than a dog, simply due to thinking that a cat is EASIER to keep due to many things. You will not need to get up early in the morning to take a cat for a walk: true, a cat will do its poops and pees in a litter box, also true. A cat does not smell; true, and a cat is not as expensive to keep (food etc.), also true. Still, all this does not mean that a cat is easier to keep, if you do NOT speak cat language.

The first thing that you will get -desperate- about is the cat scratching your furniture and walls (cat’s love wall paper) and objects of any shape or form standing upright, and if made of wood, all the better for the cat, cats love wood!

Now, in addition to the first part of this article of how to stop your cat scratching your furniture and other stuff, I mentioned that you need to become the kittens mother from the moment you bring it to your house. That -role- you can never leave. In nature a kittens mother would obviously eventually leave its offspring to fend for itself once it has taught it the necessary things for its survival. This will never happen with you! You will be your cats mother for good. Period.

As I said in part one, lift your kitten the way it is used to naturally, as its mother has done so far, by the neck.

This will impose a natural form of authority on the kitten, and it will simply start regarding you as its mother. As the kitten is programmed by nature to LEARN from its authority, the mother, it will automatically start accepting your authority over it and try and imitate the things you do, and learn what it is NOT supposed to do from YOU (My cats go to the toilet when I do, eat when I do, sleep when I do, get up when I do).

Therefore, keep up the lifting the kitten by its neck even when it becomes bigger. It SERIOUSLY does not hurt nor harm the cat as long as they are used to you doing this from the very start. You obviously have to take into account that as the kitten becomes heavier, your grip on its neck needs to be over a bigger area of the neck. IF the kitten cries out, you are doing it wrong! Please understand I am NOT teaching anybody to hurt their cat in any way! All the reverse, I am trying to tell you how to AVOID hurting your cat in the worst possible way, by de-clawing it!  This will only happen if you did NOT become its mother.

My two youngest kittens are 6 months old now, and by the time they were 3 months old they had already stopped trying to scratch the furniture. My older cat looked at me whilst training them with a sympathetic look in her eyes, knowing very well what it was I was teaching the little ones. Occasionally when my 6-month-old ones forget what they are doing (usually when playing around with much excitement) and one of them happens to dig in their nails in the couch or my wooden table, they suddenly remember quick as a flash! They will turn around and look at me with a look that tells me -oops, sorry, I forgot! Still, if and when the going gets too rough I will still lift them by the neck and as an additional reminder sometimes close them (just one at a time, so they don’t continue to play) in the bedroom for about 10-15 mins so as to reinforce that -this is my territory and you were not allowed to do that!

Again, you are not hurting your cat (my cats never say a peep when i lift them by the neck) and the few minutes isolation will teach your cat that your feelings are hurt because it did something you have taught it not to do. This is all a part of what i call -talking cat language. Remember ALWAYS, you have to FEEL your authority GENUINELY! You have to impose your will – GENUINELY, and do so only when you truly feel it. Cats are VERY intuitive creatures, and in order for a real bond of trust and respect to form in regard to your authority -always show your true feelings to your cat companion.

To end this story, I will tell you of when I had 6 cats (and feeding another 20 odd wild ones on a daily basis!) once upon a time. Time was coming up for three of them to go for their first visit to the vet. I lived in a very remote place and corner of the world and I did not have a cage, as there was no possibility to buy one where I was.

My closest neighbors (a very old couple) kept asking me how I would achieve taking three cats to the vet without a cage, in a car, driving 50 odd miles to get to the vet??

I said – I will tell my cats to get in the car and be still. The old man looked at me for a moment in total disbelief and then burst out in the wildest laughter I have ever heard! I laughed along with him! LOL!!

The day of the vet appointment came along and I called on the cats. Obediently they came running after me as soon as I did. I went in the car in the back seat and called on the cats with my silly voice, -come to mummy come!! come on, come to mummy! Using the voice i always do when it’s huggy times in bed. First, they looked at me utterly confused, but within 3-4 mins they were all inside the car, looking at me as if -what is going on, this is NOT bed huggy time??!!

I closed the door, crawled on to the driver’s seat and then used my -now you will be GOOD boys, stern voice.

And off we drove!

They all stayed in the back seat, complaining slightly every so often, the -what’s going on miauw?..looking out the windows and calling on me all the time. .(not one of them went crazy with fear though) and i drove all the way answering their miauws with miauws..reassuring them with my -huggy time voice, all the way that – I love you guys, no need to worry!

The vet did not believe his eyes when I opened up the car door and let the cats out.

I will add, it was NOT to de-claw them!!!

Part 3: How to stop your cat scratching your furniture and other objects

I can tell already that my comments (scroll down) on how to bring up a cat, is upsetting certain people.

I will not go in to arguments or start commenting back on objections to how I bring up my cats and take responsibility for their and my OWN environment and give us all space to be together under the same roof. Cats are cats, as I state all over again, and you should NOT take a cat into your home unless you are prepared to make certain sacrifices in your home. Cats will run and play and brake things and be FUNNY doing just that, being CATS! I will never limit a cat from being a cat, it is the reason I have cats, because I love seeing them run about, play, play with me, play together, jump about and play rough! I love their energy of life and watch their movements, agility, how they jump and do volts and play with each other. Cats are the most beautiful AND loving creatures there is! I prefer having a cat any day over being in a steady relationship, I reckon I was a cat in another life, because I understand and get along with cats better then i do with humans, ever.

I will keep my opinions about legalized de-clawing of cats in America to myself, as I wish to insult no-one. I will also not answer to insulting comments about how i teach my cats a few basic rules on how to live a comfortable life under the same roof with me. If someone thinks my way of teaching a cat to respect me and my things as much as I respect its life and taking care of it with all my love and cherishing I have within, then, I will leave it to those people to express their opinions however, without me responding to them, as I know that communicating with people is basically useless, it all comes down to a lot of opinionating and being RIGHTER then someone else.

My point is not to be RIGHT; my point is merely to give someone contemplating having a cat a few possible tips on how to avoid big time trouble with a cat scratching stuff to pieces. The only purpose I do this is to hopefully save cats from being de-clawed in the future. Anybody saying that all I do is teach my cats to be in awe of me, are welcome to think so. I hope they post alternative advise themselves on how to stop your cat scratching stuff, and so, everyone can go with the method that is the most suitable for themselves. The only point being, that cat and human can live in peace and understanding under the same roof and for all involved being able to avoid emotional and physical suffering in any way shape or form.

Always have stuff around, like clawing boards or pieces of wood or RUGS that your cat IS allowed to scratch and use its claws on, as there is no point in expecting that a cat should stop its natural habits for your sake.

I have a massive piece of wood in the kitchen corner going out to the hall on the way to where the toilet is, and as we in our daily routines (simply stating that my cats always run after me wherever I go in the house, and I love that!) go through that doorway tens of times (and the cats more than I do), they have learned with much ease that THIS is the place where they dig their claws in and are allowed to do so. I have rugs in every room, woolly woven rugs that my cats LOVE, and they are allowed to dig in their claws in every single one of those and scratch away all they like. These rugs do not suffer from this treatment as they are meant to look rugged in any case!

I suggest you have at least ONE such small rug somewhere around for your cat to dig its claws in.

That’s all for me. Be happy with your cats, and may your cats be happy with you.

STOP de-clawing!!

Elen

Comment from Michael. I feel that Elen is showing people how she got her cats to regard her as their mother by imprinting herself on the brains of her cats as her true mother. This is going deeper than the usual relationship between cat and caregiver which is one of kitten to mother anyway.

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Imagine having someone actually need you that much, like this kitten to this person

Kitten snuggles down. Screenshot.
Kitten snuggles down. Screenshot.

I think this cute little kitten has been imprinted with the mental image that this man is his/her mother. She goes back to him for warmth and security instinctively. It is humbling to see. So vulnerable and loving on both sides. I guess he had to remove her from the warmth of his lap twice to make the video. Without that there would be no video. But…it looks a tiny bit unfair, to me, to impose that on a kitten for the sake of a video. Well the video did get 16 million views 🙂

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Plush cat toy is imprinted on duckling as its mother

This abandoned duckling’s brain has been imprinted by a cat plush toy as its mother. For the duckling the toy is its mother because Ms Neill who found the duckling thought it needed something to cuddle so she put the duckling on a tea towel and ‘put the toy cat in and snuggled it in with the heat lamp on’. It thrived and it is still thriving.

Neill could see that the duckling was looking for its mum because it tried to go under the tea towel. She grabbed the first plush toy she could find in her daughter’s room and it was a cat.

The photos tell the story. The idea of imprinting is quite interesting. There are many examples of it. Sometimes cats have been imprinted with the firm conviction that their human guardian is their mother. This can happen when a person nurses a very young kitten at that very sensitive stage of their life and it lasts to adulthood.

These cats are very loving towards their human companion and perhaps quite clingy. I think there is quite a subtle difference between a cat being imprinted or being a friendly companion but there is a noticeable difference and it lasts throughout the cat’s life I believe. Once the relationship is fixed it does not normally fade if the relationship continues to be close as is normally the case. I believe that I am imprinted on my cat’s brain as his parent because I raised him from about 7 weeks of age which is a bit late perhaps for imprinting. However, his behavior is that of an imprinted cat, I believe.

It is known that the strong attachment formed because of imprinting can equally be with an non-living object as a living one.

I wonder if this duck can now be returned to the wild. If the duckling had been imprinted with the conviction that Ms Neill was its mother there’d little or no chance but as the mother is an inanimate object perhaps it can become independent in the wild.

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The sensitive periods for domestic cats to become socialised to other cats

All the discussions we have about domestic cat socialisation concerns socialisation to humans. Little is known about the important time for kitten-to-kitten socialisation. I try and address the topic generally here.

How do I know if my cats are playing or fighting?
Play-fighting

During the first two weeks kittens form an attachment to their mother. It is based on smell (olfaction).

During the first four weeks of the lives of kittens they interact with siblings and may learn to recognise them. Bradshaw states that kittens are born with a ‘template as to what another kitten looks like, but this is easily overwritten if there are no other kittens available’.

This ability to overwrite the template is why we sometimes see kittens being raised by dogs and accepting without question their littermate puppies. They don’t see anything unusual in that. Kittens are not, it seems, aware of what they look like and therefore what their siblings should look like. If they did they’d find it strange to be among dogs.

However, Bradshaw says that kittens prefer the company of kittens. So it a puppy is introduced to a litter of kittens they accept the puppy but prefer the company of fellow kittens.

Kittens appear to inherit the ability to form stronger attachments to their own species than to other four-legged animals.

F2 Savannah kittens interact
F2 Savannah kittens interact

At five weeks of age, kitten littermates learn to play with each other. They learn boundaries, how far they can go in play before the other complains.

A kitten from a litter of one will play rougher than a kitten from a litter of several cats. And kittens who have been hand-raised are relatively inept at play. Some are too aggressive and are avoided by other kittens. Other hand-raised kittens become strongly bonded to their human guardian and ‘seem barely to realise that they are cats at all’. I think this is imprinting on their human caretaker.

Hand-reared kittens miss out on these important kitten-to-kitten interactions and may develop extreme as opposed to a balanced personalities.

Littermates who are ‘homed together usually form a stronger bond with one another than two unrelated cats.’

Abyssinian Kitten Smack in Play
Abyssinian Kitten Smack in Play. Version 2

Littermates become friendly towards each other and are happy to feed side by side, sleep in contact with each other and allogroom. Experts don’t know if littermates can recognise each other later in life after they have been separated and reunited.

The third and fourth month of a kitten’s life – both male and female – is about play. It seems that this is an important contribution to developing the kittens into social animals.

Video

I remember making this video. We were in the living room of the owners, Martin and Kathryn Stucki of A1 Savannahs in Ponca City, OK, USA. The kittens were being socialised to humans and in the video we see them being socialised to each other. Being F2 and F1 Savannahs they play hard. The screaming is the F2 being pushed around too much by an F1 whose name was Focus as I recall.

Note: I am indebted to Dr Bradshaw’s Cat Sense for guidance and the quotes. This book is available for download to Kindle. It is worthwhile because Kindles have a search facility.

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Is it normal for a cat to imprint on you? What’s the difference to attachment?

A person asked: “Is it normal for a cat to imprint on you? My cat will not leave my side and must sleep with me or she meows all night. She was feral.”

Cat attachment to human
Photo in public domain from PoC archives.

In terms of a domestic cat’s behaviour, I think that a close attachment by a cat to her human guardian is very similar to a cat who has been imprinted with the notion that their human companion is their mother.

“Imprinting” is a technical term in the realm of psychology. As I understand it, in kittens, it occurs when a newborn kitten sees her mother and as a result attaches herself to the parent as her mother. Imprinting creates the kitten-to-parent relationship.

It might happen in the kitten-to-human relationship if and when a person attends the birth of a kitten and the kitten attaches to that person as her mother. Or the imprinting takes place quite soon after birth. It will be a special form of attachment as offspring to parent.

There are other examples of different species imprinting. For instance in one video a duck had imprinted a dog as her parent.

But as I stated at the beginning of the page, if a kitten does not experience imprinting but nonetheless forms a very close bond with her human companion her behavior will mirror that of an imprinted cat because cats see us as surrogate mothers anyway.

Therefore in answering the person’s question in the first paragraph, imprinting is definitely not normal for cat owners but close attachment between cat and person is and therefore the cat behaves in a way which might give the impression that imprinting has taken place. For me, in a good human-to-cat relationship, there is a fine difference. What do you think?

Can imprinting take place between young kitten and human?

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Our brain damaged rescue cat is imprinted onto my husband

By Judi G

Cat imprinted on a man who cared for her intensely when she was sick
Cat imprinted on a man who cared for her intensely when she was sick.


We adopted a two year old cat who suffered brain damage from getting hit by a car. We brought her home two weeks after the accident when she was still having trouble with vision (blindness) and walking.

After we brought her home she suffered a severe upper respiratory infection that she picked up at the shelter. She needed veterinarian care including nebulization because her immune system was already compromised from her previous injuries. It took her 5 weeks to recover from the infection. During her URI illness we had to sit with her and try to get her to eat because she was losing weight rapidly.

My husband spent more time sitting with her during her illness than I did. To make a long story short, she seems to have imprinted herself with my husband. We have now had her almost 2 years and I have never seen such a close bond. She needs to be always on his lap when he’s sitting, she yells at the door if he goes into the bathroom or goes to bed. She suffers separation anxiety after his days off when he goes back to work.

She ignores me when he is around. It is a very intense bond. She is obsessed with him. I have had cats my whole life and a few that I have had special bonds but nothing like this. I think she was reborn after the accident (she was near death) with brain healing being delayed because of the URI so she imprinted on him. Or maybe she has an mental illness from the brain damage? I have told my husband the she acts like a bird who has imprinted on a human.

Imprinting: To become imprinted on another animal or on an object identified as the parent.

Can imprinting take place between young kitten and human?

Judy

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My Cat Calls Me to Go out with Him at Night

My cat calls me to go out with him at night. He’s just done it. It was about 9:30 pm. I think I am imprinted on his brain as his mother/father. Today I took him for a walk. I walked around the block and then called him and he followed me just like a dog.

Gabriel won the competition between himself and my computer.
Gabriel won the competition between himself and my computer.

He invariably follows me like that. He enjoys it I’m sure. That is why this evening he called me to come outside to do it again. But it was too late. I wanted to go to bed and dictate this short note.

I think I will try and develop this relationship so that I can go out more with him and go further afield as long as I think it is safe.

I remember some videos on the Internet of a man going trekking with his cat. In fact there is more than one person who does this.

I don’t propose to go trekking with my cat Gabriel. However, I might well take him out somewhere safe and then go for a walk with him. I feel that he will follow me closely. I feel it will be safe to do this. Initially I will have him on a long lead just to make sure that all goes well. But he does stick to me like glue. Provided the area is safe and there is such an area near where I live I believe all will be well.

The area is Richmond Park. This is one of the Royal Parks and there’s lots of space with little distraction.

I would like to see whether I can take him with me a bit more to both enhance my life in his but safety is paramount of course.

Have you ever considered taking your cat out for a walk like a dog? Do you think it’s impossible to do this? I think it’s possible but unusual.

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Can imprinting take place between young kitten and human?

When a person raises a newborn cat, does imprinting take place whereby the kitten sees the person as his/her parent? It may not take place but this article is about whether it could take place and whether it does sometimes take place without the knowledge of the person.

Kitten imprinting? Do we know or realise it?
Kitten imprinting? Is it taking place? Photo by Sam.

I am not referring to the usual close bond between a good cat caretaker and her cat. No doubt there is a close bond in that situation. I am referring the biological process called “imprinting”. There is a short window of opportunity for imprinting to take place.

Imprinting can only occur between a newborn or very young kitten and a person. It need not be a person but I am discussing the human/cat relationship. If imprinting does occur between a person and a newborn then the newborn cat will firmly recognise the person as her/his parent. It will be a hard-wired relationship.

This normally won’t occur because nearly all newborns are parented, initially, by their biological mother.  However, where a person raises a kitten from a very young age it seems plausible that the person could be imprinted on the kitten’s mind that she is the mother.

This may account for some exceptionally strong bonds between cat and person. This sort of relationship goes beyond the usual. It is pure biology. The well known example of animal imprinting is ducks flying with a person in a light aircraft when migrating. The video below (sad, in my opinion, as it is in China) shows a duck that has been imprinted with the notion that a puppy is his/her parent.

Let’s assume kitten to human imprinting takes place. On that basis, shouldn’t people be aware of it? It places the person in a greater than normal position of responsibility. The person genuinely becomes the cat’s parent. This is not about good standard cat caretaking but a person being the parent of a cat.

I have not seen this discussed on the internet. It does present a delicate question. If a person is a known excellent cat caretaker might it be a good idea if, under the right circumstances, she is imprinted on a cat’s mind as the parent because it will create the best possible bond. It could result in better relationship and better cat caretaking.

Foal imprinting
Deliberate foal imprinting. Photo by Sundance Stables.

Horse imprinting sometimes take place in some stables. It is done deliberately and it makes the foal that much….

….braver, calmer, more trusting, inquisitive and willing, and who see us, and their future owners, as friends and partners…(Sundance Stables)

Now, I don’t know if imprinting is a good thing. After all, it is taking some of the naturalness out of life for the young animal. However, if the animal is a domestic animal and therefore has to live in the human world, imprinting would seem to make the animal better adapted to being a companion. This is a tricky ethical question.

SOME MORE ON IMPRINTING:

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