It can be extremely frustrating and devastating when your cat starts exhibiting certain bad behaviors, particularly one that is stinky, violent, destructive, or messy.
While it could feel primitive in a time of frustration to scold or punish your cat for her annoying behavior, it is advisable not to do so, as this is not how pets learn best, and it may end up creating more problems.
Below are 7 reasons to encourage your kitty towards positive behaviors rather than punishing her for her bad behaviors.
1. Your cat may become afraid of you
Whenever cats are doing what they shouldn’t be doing (especially if it is something destructive such as scratching up the bed or the side of your couch), the urgency of such situations can make us act in ways that may frighten our cats.
We can develop the habit of believing that clapping, spraying water, and shouting are effective ways of tackling the problem since they can in some way stop cats' bad behaviors at that moment. Unfortunately, these methods could also trigger fear and anxiety in your cat.
Instead, always control yourself whenever you feel like shouting or spraying water at your kitty and practice other positive determent techniques.
For example, providing your cats with an appealing scratching post is a better option than scolding a cat who has been scratching your furniture, since it helps in minimizing your cat’s anxiety to scratch and also provides her with a better option.
2. Punishment will stress your cat out
Understand this; there’s always a reason or cause for cats' bad behavior. Contrary to what most people believe, cats are not cruel. They are not bad when they are doing less than desired things, they are simply communicating.
Now, imagine that you come back home, and your entire bathroom has been raided and is filthy. You try holding it for as long as you can since it is nasty and gross in that room and you definitely won't sit down on that irritating toilet seat. That would really stress you out, right?
Now imagine being sprayed with a water bottle whenever you decide to relieve yourself someplace else. Would it stress you out and confused you the more? Most likely.
3. You will break the bond
In contrast to what you have read on social media, cats are not secretly plotting any form of revenge after being punished. However, what may happen is that the bond they share with you could reduce or break.
Think about it, it is difficult to trust someone who’s smacking or yelling at you because you wandered off from your litter box, especially if the incident happened due to an unexplainable and unforeseen condition.
What was previously a normally affectionate pet can shy away and resist sitting on your laps, or dash away whenever you enter the room.
“The problem with scolding is that it doesn’t in any way teach the learner what needs to be done,” says Dr. Susan Friedman, a psychology professor at Davie High School who has initiated the application of Applied Behavioral Analysis. “And all the side effects that the individual being punished can experience are detrimental.
4. Your cat may fight back
Maybe your kitty bit or scratched you during playtime. While your response might be to strike back – never smite or hit your kitty.
It might just scratch or bite you again, and worst you could end up injuring your cat. Recall: cats are not malicious or vengeful, they are simply responding to being scared. Their bite or scratch could be the result of getting overly enthused during playtime.
Instead, give your cat a time-out whenever he plays roughly. The moment your cat scratches or bites you, end the game or playtime by leaving the room. Do not pick her up or move her to another room as this could trigger more bites and scratches.
5. Your timing could be off
In case you punish your cat while you are still in the process of getting him out from the counter, he may relate the punishment with being picked up instead of being on top of the counter itself, according to John Roland, a certified animal trainer, and a behavior adjustment instructor.
"While it might be clear to you that you want the kitty to desist from jumping on your counter, the kitty may think the punishment has to do with a noise which coincidentally occurs at the same time or certain other unrelated events," Roland says.
In fact, Dr. Quan Johnathan points out that punishment is pointless since it hardly happens at the same time the act or bad behavior is happening.
“Except the punishment is carried out within seconds of the bad act you are punishing your cat for, the kitty may not know why it is being scolded or punished,” Johnathan says.
6. Punishment doesn’t solve the problem
Your cat repeats a behavior because there is a payout for her. For instance, a cat might be pushing items off the table because it is fun or jumping on your countertop because it gives her the best view out of your kitchen window.
Rather than punishing your cat for doing something that looks natural, make changes to the environment and provide her with an alternative.
7. It can stimulate bad behavior
Even though it is a negative attention, punishing your cat is still giving her attention, something she likely wants.
"Just like a two-year-old kid may do something "terrible" to get dad or mom to look, your cat may also want to exhibit a bad behavior that she is certain to get punished for because it is a way of getting your attention," Johnathan says.
“That implies that by punishing your cat, you may be encouraging her to do more of such bad behaviors.”
This reaction tends to highlight one of the main issues with punishment: it does not teach your kitty what behaviors you’d like him to portray. In fact, it is just an unclear directive to desist from doing something without a vivid direction of what to do instead.
"It is much better to teach your cat where to be (like on a mat or a bad instead of a table or counter), rather than continuously saying 'not there, not there' always," says Johnathan.
In case your cat is doing something wrong, Johnathan suggests positively redirecting her. For instance, Johnathan suggests calling your kitty’s name or doing something else to calmly get the pet’s attention, and then offer the cat a treat or any pets-related toys to play with.
"This will help in distracting your cat from whatever bad behavior she was doing," says Johnathan. "You can then spare a few minutes petting or playing with your cat, by which after some time the cat won't want to go back to the previous, mischievous behavior."
Cats don’t respond well to punishment, however, they sometimes thrive on positive reinforcement. In case you scold or punish your cat regularly for bad “catlike” behavior, only to find out you are getting yourself stressed out and frustrated, then perhaps you are going the wrong way about it.
The 7 reasons not to punish your cat discussed above should be sufficient enough to give you a good head-start when it comes to dealing with the cats' bad behaviors.