How can I win an argument with my cat?
December 5, 2009 10:29 AM Subscribe
When I try to make my cat do something she doesn't want to do, she bites or scratches me. What can I do about it? So far it looks like my choices are a) let her have her way; b) get scratched; or c) bribe her. She generally knows the people are in charge, but when that setup just won't do, she uses violence to get what she wants.
Our six-year-old, female cat is usually well-behaved and pleasant to be around. She is sometimes nervous or skittish, inclined to jump at a sudden loud noise, but for the most part will always choose to be near people, play, or cuddle. She doesn't scratch or bite while playing, she doesn't scratch the furniture or carpets, and she obviously knows the rules (when she starts to do something wrong, like if she gets too wild while playing, she immediately draws back, runs away, and takes cover under a piece of furniture).
When the cat does do something wrong -- jumping on the counter, playing too aggressively, etc. -- we usually discipline her with some combination of hissing loudly, stomping after her wherever she goes to hide from us, and telling her sternly "NO!"
The main problem we have with her is that she knows she can win an argument by being physically violent. This happens very infrequently, but I think it is a big problem when your pet attacks people, however seldom it may happen. The typical scenario is that she'll go somewhere she's not allowed -- like the bedroom closet -- and where we can't really reach her to get her out. Last night, my husband wanted to remove her from the bedroom (where she is typically allowed, so I see how this could be confusing for her). She did not want to leave the bedroom, and when he went to pick her up, she bit him hard enough to break the skin.
So, what should we do? It seems like a choice between letting her win or getting cat-attacked. Often I'll just leave her in the closet, if that's where she wants to be, because I don't want to get scratched or bit. But that is obviously not a good way to train her! Coaxing her out of the room with food seems like rewarding bad behavior.
When she does bite or scratch, how should we respond? A water bottle isn't practical because it would take too long to go get it and come back to spray her. We can't really "scruff her" while she's agitated because she could just attack again if we get that close to her. I am wary of any physical discipline because I don't think it works with cats, and I'm afraid I could be too hard on her when I'm angry.
So, I'm not really asking WHY our cat displays these behaviors, but more what we can do about it. We can read her pretty well, and she always gives warning signs before she strikes, so if she's just over-stimulated or generally freaked out, we avoid touching her and she doesn't lash out. But when we're having a stand-off, trying to get her to do something that she doesn't want to do, how can I win the argument?