A few weeks in, RJ explored the shower curtain. It did not react well. The next time he came in the bathroom, I shook the curtain and sadly explained the poor way the curtain would now work for its intended purpose. RJ was also there when I taped up the shower curtain to keep it working while I showed my displeasure with the tone of my voice. I didn't want to replace it until I knew he had gotten the message. He has, and we now have a new shower curtain, which, so far, he has left alone.
If what I have described sounds like a cat discipline experience you have not enjoyed, then it's never too late to start.
It is completely pointless to discipline a cat with physical means. Because:
- It doesn't work.
- It increases the cat's stress, which increases misbehavior.
- It makes the cat afraid of you.
Every time I hear of someone spanking, swatting, grabbing, or shaking their cat, I wince, and I don't always hide it. I always point out how counterproductive it is. For a cat to connect their actions with our displeasure requires a level of communication and trust which is destroyed by our hitting the cat.
If we happen upon the scene just as the cat is doing something wrong, we often have the impulse to grab the cat and show our displeasure. But the moment we lay hands on the cat, it is no longer about what the cat did. It now becomes about what we are doing. What we are doing is, at the least, scaring the cat, and at most, hurting them.
We think we are setting up a connection in the cat that lets them know their behavior will result in an unpleasant experience. But by getting physical, we are setting up an entirely different connection. Now the cat will associate us with something unpleasant. And us is what the cat will want to avoid.
I handled the shower curtain in an entirely different way. Since I didn't catch RJ in the act, I missed my opportunity to make a direct connection. Still, cats are smart, so when I followed him into the bathroom, he was naturally interested in what I was doing. Both times when I handled the curtain and acted distressed over its state, I was letting him know I didn't like the curtain in that state.
RJ put it together in his own little head. He hasn't touched either shower curtain since.
I can do this because RJ cares about making me happy. He thrives on my love, and wishes to return it. Once he knows that something he did made me unhappy, he will voluntarily not do that again.
Some people marvel that I can dissuade any of my cats from playing with something with a simple request. I get my cats to care about what I want by caring about what they want. I don't regard it as miraculous.