Join 3,551 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


how to punish a cat
April 21, 2012 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Cat bit the crap out of wife. Is locking in garage for punishment productive?

Cat knows we were leaving for a trip, would not come in. Wife picked it up, got badly bitten, went to ER etc. Leaving for 1 night, is locking cat in garage going to be beneficial for behavior training? It will help wife for sure (no, I'm not suggesting locking her in the garage...), but thats not really the point. Leaving outside is probably not a good fit as the 'yotes roam all over the place here. Cat is otherwise well behaved for years.

Other suggestions?
posted by H. Roark to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The cat is incapable of making a connection between being trapped in the garage and biting your wife. It's an animal. They do weird shit. Be the human and move on.
posted by cuban link flooded jesus at 9:40 AM on April 21, 2012 [64 favorites]


No, it's not productive. Cat generally don't respond well to punishment, the only punishment that seems to have some sense is an immediate slap, but even that I doubt.
posted by dhoe at 9:43 AM on April 21, 2012


Wait, what? You're debating between leaving the cat in the garage or outside? Is this even an outdoor-access cat? How much does this have to do with "punishing" the cat and how much does it have to do with your trip?

The cat is not capable of seeing the relationship between the bite and your "punishment." Next time, don't let the cat out the day before the trip. They pick up on changes in your behavior and it upsets them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:45 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it productive for your wife? What does she feel about the cat from now on?
posted by flif at 9:45 AM on April 21, 2012


Does it make you feel better? If so, that's about as productive as it's going to get.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:46 AM on April 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


No. That's not how cats work. Your cat forgot it bit your wife ten minutes after it did so - though it probably remembers that your wife was "mean" to it.

Leave the cat in the house for the night - tempt it in with treats or tuna or whatever. Being somewhere quiet, where no one is trying to pick it up when it doesn't want to be picked up, will help it be calm and even more forgetful.

Hitting also doesn't work, and isn't helpful - it will only make the cat fearful and defensive, and will firmly cement in its mind that humans deserve to be bitten. A quick squirt of water or the rattle of a couple of pennies in a soda can, immediately after the undesirable behavior, can at least distract and startle the cat.
posted by rtha at 9:46 AM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


In my experience, if punishment isn't immediate, a cat won't learn from it. An immediate "no!" or spray bottle can have an effect, but I'd be surprised if this does. Like others are saying, be cautious around your cat in the future when you're on the verge of leaving.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:47 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have to AskMe about it, it's too late to be even marginally beneficial. There is the spray bottle and the loud noise and the immediate short timeout for being a shit, the latter of which seems to calm down an overexcited cat. The cat is not going to make the cognitive leap between the bite, which happened a week ago in cat time, and the "punishment".
posted by holgate at 9:48 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cat was letting you know it was upset by not coming in. When your wife disregarded that message* cat sent a stronger one. Locking her in the garage won't keep her from trying to communicate in the future, and she won't make the connection, especially if she was hiding in the garage in the first place.

*I know your wife was doing a necessary thing. I'm just expressing this from the point of view of the cat. I'm sorry your wife was bitten- cat bites hurt!
posted by oneirodynia at 9:52 AM on April 21, 2012


okay, thanks all. I suspected this was the case but was hoping for something else. On a completely non-related note, anyone interested in a loving family friendly cat for adoption?
posted by H. Roark at 9:53 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, don't lock up the cat in the garage, it will not understand. Your wife did the right thing going to the ER because cat bites can get infected. But punishing the cat at this point will just traumatize it and make it more likely to distrust you and do weird things in the future.
posted by mermayd at 10:08 AM on April 21, 2012


Nope. Locking cat in garage will, at best, make the cat associate your leaving with cat being locked in garage. The biting of wife will not factor into the memory.

So next time you leave, the cat would be even more upset in advance, remembering that you leaving = exile to garage.

Leave kitting in the relative comfort of your home, snuggle and otherwise be affectionate with your cat when you return. Special treat upon arrival.
posted by bilabial at 10:09 AM on April 21, 2012


You may think about a visit to the vet with your cat. It isn't normal for a cat to just haul off and bite the shit out of someone they live with unless there is a reason.

Was your wife really rough, perhaps the cat had an injury/ medical problem that was tweaked when she was picked up. Also, my cats can tell when I am super pissed and if I come near one of them, he will hiss at me (even though I am a god to him).

Please try to find out why this happened before you just give up and find the cat a new home.
posted by virginia_clemm at 10:18 AM on April 21, 2012 [18 favorites]


When my cat does something undesirable I make a hiss sound - ffffft - right then. She does very few undesirable things and those are peccadilloes rather than egregious bad behavior (she has jumped up onto the kitchen counter, for example). The hiss sound startles her and she gets it.

Of course, when there is no one around to make nasty hissing noises she jumps on the kitchen counter.
posted by jet_silver at 10:41 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You may think about a visit to the vet with your cat. It isn't normal for a cat to just haul off and bite the shit out of someone they live with unless there is a reason.

In my experience, trying to pick a cat up outside can lead to some freak out behaviour.

A lot of cats, especially ones who are regularly outdoor cats, are totally different animals out in the "wild"; their animal instincts reign supreme, they stalk birds and disassociate with any taught, indoor behaviours. I have had a cat who slept with me every night that would run away if I approached it outside...it just goes to show that in their heart, pets are still kind of wild animals.

Locking the cat in the garage will not do anything to curb this behaviour; if you're still up to keeping the cat, perhaps in the future you should try coaxing the cat in on the last meal before you're ready to leave...i.e., keep the cat in after breakfast if you're leaving at lunch. Cats' one weakness is food, it seems, so use that to your advantage.

The cat's been good for years...one incident should not spoil your relationship. And no, the cat doesn't know you're leaving for a trip, no matter how obvious it is to you. It's a cat, not a human.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 11:10 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


And no, the cat doesn't know you're leaving for a trip, no matter how obvious it is to you. It's a cat, not a human.

Animals are well aware of changes to the environment they live in. They may not know you're heading a cruise to Cancun, but they can certainly recognize the behavior that indicates that something is out of the ordinary routine. If a cat can see you pull out the carrier and disappear in anticipation of a horrible ride in the car, they can certainly recognize pulling out luggage and connecting that with upheaval of some sort in their lives. The language people use to express this is often along the lines the cat knew we were leaving for a trip.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:20 AM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, don't get rid of the cat! My perfect childhood cat bit me very badly when I was trying to bring her inside after she'd gotten out. It wasn't about the cat's personality, it was just overstimulation - and would you want to be judged severely and have your whole life altered (losing the only home you knew) over one ill-advised incident? Especially consider that the cat was upset because things were different and you were getting ready to leave. My angelic current cat gets all cattywampus and agitated under those circumstances and she's the most mannerly cat ever otherwise.
posted by Frowner at 12:00 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well-behaved cats always bite for a reason, one that fits into their little heads, that is. Meaning, from her viewpoint, she didn't do anything wrong. I'd try using this realization to get over it.

[I once picked up our heroic and sweet family cat get her out of the reach of that silly but black neighbor dog. Cat turned around, bit me hard, and ran up into a tree - doctor and two weeks of antibiotics for me. She just didn't find the me-holding-her thing suitable for the dog-approaching scenario. What do you know what your cat thought when your wife picked her up? Maybe there was a raccoon in the bush, what do you know...]
posted by Namlit at 12:09 PM on April 21, 2012


On a completely non-related note, anyone interested in a loving family friendly cat for adoption?

I'm not sure if this was a joke, but if so, you might make a serious effort to rehome the cat, if only because it seems like maybe you don't have a lot of information about cats as pets. Barring that, yes, how about a visit to the vet to check the cat out and see if you can get some behavior tools and ideas?
posted by Miko at 12:29 PM on April 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


A spray bottle works wonders - my Siamese cat had developed a nasty habit of wanting to chew on electrical wires....after being sprayed a few times, now, whenever he goes near an electrical wire and gives any indication of wanting to chew on them - I just have to show him the water bottle and he runs away from the wires.
posted by DonM at 2:49 PM on April 21, 2012


they can certainly recognize pulling out luggage and connecting that with upheaval of some sort in their lives. The language people use to express this is often along the lines the cat knew we were leaving for a trip.

Yes, but the OP's phrasing seems to suggest a more specific association between the cat's behavior and the humans' behavior.

H. Roark, the cat didn't bite your wife because it was angry that it was being brought inside. The cat bit because your wife's uncharacteristic behavior made the cat's little brain go WTF HELP.

(I got both bitten and peed on by my freaked-out cat thanks to a fire alarm in the big old apartment building where I lived.)
posted by desuetude at 7:09 PM on April 21, 2012


The phrase "punish a cat" has no useful meaning.
posted by Corvid at 8:05 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


The thing about humans using phrases like "the cat knew we were leaving on a trip" rather than "the cat reacted to changes in its environment and perhaps to the tension/heightened adrenaline it observed in us" is that imputing that level of intentionality and theory of mind to animals leads to the humans coming up with ideas like "punishment", which is at best irrelevant (as opposed to positive or negative reinforcements, which can be relevant).
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:00 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are you serious? You're ascribing certain intellectual attributes to an animal that it doesn't possess. It didn't know you were going on a trip. It did know that you behavior was different and you certainly left out certain details. The cat didn't want to come inside so it's not like your wife was able to just pick it up. Let's be honest here. She probably did something to provoke the cat especially since you say the cat is well behaved. It's not a spoiled child that deserves punishment. It's a cat that was instinctually reacting to the environment that you created.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:33 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bunch of cat apologists in here. If you don't feel safe with the cat, feel free to get rid of it somehow. Your wife not going to the ER >>> cat's happiness
posted by MangyCarface at 7:44 AM on April 23, 2012


I think you missed the part about the cat being well behaved for years.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:32 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older Please help me find an easy ha...   |  I got lost in post-divorce cra... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.