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Why Your Cat Thinks You’re a Huge, Unpredictable Ape

The communication gap between humans and our cats is huge. That’s because cats are not human, and don’t perceive or learn our attempts at communication the same way infant humans, or even dogs, learn them. Nick Stockton talked to OSU veterinarian Tony Buffington about the way cats see us.    

You hear the unmistakable sound of claws on couch. You snap, shout, squirt water, and maybe even throw a pillow. It’s all futile, because eventually he’s at it again. Your cat isn’t ignoring you, Buffington says. He just doesn’t know how to connect your negative reinforcement with his behavior. This is because cats evolved as solitary hunters with little need for reading social cues, especially those for behavior modification.

“How the hell is your cat supposed to know that you’re yelling at him because you want him to stop scratching the couch?” Buffington says. Without the cognitive ability to connect your outburst to their scratching, cats see only chaotic aggression. “To the cat, you’re this crazy primate who is attacking him for no reason,” he says.

Of course, the cat is right: we are crazy primates. Buffington offers an alternative to “attacking” your cat, plus some other tips on getting down to a cat’s level. While my cats have learned to tell us exactly what they want in ways we humans can understand, they still haven’t figured out what we want from them -or maybe they just don’t care. Read more about a cat’s inner thoughts at Wired. -via reddit

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Punishment for bad behavior simply has to be immediate and direct for a cat to understand it. WHILE your cat is scratching the furniture, a smack on the nose will stop them, and tell them not to do that... You may have to do this multiple times, too. Cats don't understand abstract anger after the fact, like dogs can, and they aren't as eager to please you and learn the rules as dogs are. Punishment also has to be light and reserved for really bad behaviors (namely, clawing), not just when they fail to do something good you wanted.

And like the article says, you've got to provide acceptable alternatives for the cat... They need toys, places they are allowed to scratch, windows they can look out and possibly sleep in-front of, things to climb, and plenty of comfortable locations they can hide under or jump-up onto. It drives me crazy when people want a cat (or dog) that doesn't jump onto the furniture, doesn't scratch anything at all, doesn't need to have any unsightly toys, or otherwise disturb their sparse and perfectly sterile world. Those people really want a cat (or dog) figurine instead of the real thing... or maybe a roomba.

My cats are very well behaved, but it takes a long, long time (years) to gradually break bad habits entirely. Though you will see signs of improvement long before then. A big part of that is teaching them that they can always trust and depend on you. If you're inconsistent, or you ever trick or unpleasantly surprise them, you can forget about ever getting belly-rubbing privileges.
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