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03/07/2016, 09:00

Never try to discipline your cat

If they could speak our language, cats would be the first to tell you that they are NOT dogs.

So while training a dog might involve stern commands and behavioral reinforcements, training a cat … well, there just isn't any such thing as training a cat.

"Cats don't respond well to punishment — it can make the behavior worse but can also cause a cat to become stressed or scared of you," Adi Hovav, senior feline behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center

Dr. Robert Proietto, a veterinarian in New York City, agrees that punishment, especially physical punishment, should NEVER happen to a pet. "It only brings out more unwanted behaviors," Proietto told The Dodo. "Cats often do their own thing and if they have unwanted behaviors, we often have to modify our behaviors to allow them to live comfortably in our environment."

Environmental enrichment is the key with cats. "Make sure that there are plenty of scratching posts and playtime," Proietto said.

If your cat is hell-bent on ruining all your stuff, take preventative measures. "We recommend cat-proofing any items that you don't want knocked over and offering your cat daily interactive playtime," Hovav said.

Unwanted behaviors — like jumping on counters or tearing up couches — can often be handled with covering the surface with aluminum foil or double sided tape, Proietto added.

Aggressive behaviors, like scratching and biting during playtime, are sometimes caused by people over-stimulating their cats or petting them in an uncomfortable place. But if your cat gets rough while playing and starts scratching or biting, never get rough back. Instead, give your cat a break from interacting as soon as you see these signs, Hovav advises. Leave the room until your cat calms down. This shows them that you have boundaries.

Everyone has boundaries. 

"Because they can't speak, cats tell us what they are feeling with their body language so it is incumbent upon us humans to know what they are saying to us," Hovav said.

Give cats things they love — like boxes. As always, talking with a veterinarian or behaviorist about the best way to curb your cat's rebellious behaviors is a good idea. Until then, remember Proietto's wise words: "Performing any physical negative reinforcement will cause more harm than good."

You're the person. When your cat acts out, be the bigger person.

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