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Positive Cat Parenting™

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS

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Punishment- Q&A
PPt Mind & Spirit of Cats

Did you know?

Common Myth: Cats will  eliminate outside of the box, particularly on the human's bed or clothing out of spite.

Debunking the Myth: Cats are smart but not complex thinkers. Their prefrontal cortex is only about 3.5% of their brains. These cats are unhappy, anxious and stressed and benefit from behavioral treatment NOT punishment which makes the problem worse.

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Rewards and Corrections

What is it?

To develop an IdealCat™ personality, it is very important not to not to hurt, scare or confuse your cat by applying human punishment - no exceptions. Cats do not understand this form of communication. Instead, they simply avoid human contact.

Behavior training is vital education for your cat. However, the goal is not to force the cat to conform to regimented routines  Behavior training is best when it becomes a fun game for you and your cat.  You help your cat figure out how to earn food treats by doing normal behaviors on cue. Increasing communication with your cat enriches a cat's life and improves the relationship between cats and people, especially the positive cat parent.

Most pet parents discover behavior training one of the most fascinating and enjoyable activities shared with a family pet.

Any type of punishment may temporarily stop a behavior but it does nothing to correct or stop the behavior in the long run. Cats learn better from reward training.

Most cats conduct their lives based on early learning experiences. These normal feline behaviors may not meet human expectations.

Humans tend to punish by
spanking, slapping, shaking, scruffing, kicking,which causes the cat to perceive people as threats and aggressive. Physical punishment leads to less control over cats. Hitting a cat tells the cat that hands are human weapons. We want your cat to see hands as a source of kind and gentle petting.

IdealCat ™ personalities are based on developing trust in people.


What to do?

If  you catch your cat in the act of an unwanted behavior such as counter-surfing, biting or digging up potted plants, scratching furniture or stealing human food off the table, try to interrupt this behavior without your cat seeing you.


  • Slam a door

  • hit the wall loudly

  • Clap your hands loudly

  • Stamp your feet loudly

  • Drop a book or magazine.

  • Squirt water (water blaster type squirt guns help you to hide and squirt the distance)


  • A reward is anything your cat enjoys such as tasty food, playtime, and stroking. If your cat isn't social, then being left alone is a reward.

  • Cats are social, do adopt people as family and therefore respond well to praise.

You can establish feline law and order in your household by following the principles of INTERRUPT, REDIRECT, and REWARD.


Normal Cat Development

Adolescence[1]:  17 weeks to 1 year

  • Sexual maturity if not altered; spraying and fighting to protect territory

  • If allowed outdoors, may wander farther away from home.

  • Keep a break-away collar with an identification tag on at all times.

  • Consider microchip - permanent identification - to avoid losing your cat

[1] AAFP. (2004). Feline Behavior Guidelines. Pg. 10.

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