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Positive Cat Parenting™

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS

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Household Pet Manners - Playing by the rules

Although you may not need "house rules" to play poker with your feline, establishing some basic house rules often help strengthen the bond between you and your cat.

What are house rules?

House rules are decisions you make, hopefully early on, about where your cat will be allowed and what behaviors you
want and what behaviors you will prevent, interrupt and redirect. For example, if you do not want your cat to be on counters or tables, you must make sure that nothing good happens when you cat tests these limits.

The rules should be fair, consistent, and designed to optimize the bond and relationship with your cat.
All family members agree to not give table scraps or treats from the table ...unless they are willing to have a cat that develops into a picky eater and possibly becomes a beggar who steals human food at every opportunity.

How do cats learn house rules?

Believe it or not, most cats learn from the consequences of their actions, similarly to dogs. So, if you praise a cat for using the litter box, scratching and climbing on cat furniture and playing with cat toys, those behaviors tend to continue.

If the cat gets an unpleasant surprise from jumping up on counters or tables, those behaviors are likely to stop. It is VERY important that the cat think the counter and table are unreliable. You do NOT want your cat to associate you with any bad surprises.

So, if you can hide and use a water blaster without being noticed, that might do the job. Or
if you can sneak under the table and make it wobble, that may discourage a table cat. What you do NOT want to do is pick up the cat and put it down. Just your attention and touch is reinforcing enough for your cat to continue this unwanted behavior.

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