Unwanted Behaviors

Physical Punishment Doesnt Work and May Make Problems Worse

Scratching, biting, attacking – all from your feline companion. Talk about an attitude problem! This is the kind of behavior that hurts more than our feelings; it causes pain to our body parts and takes the fun out of sharing our homes with such an unpleasant character. Can Feline the Hun be tamed, or does he need to be caged and fed morsels through the jail-cell bars?

Yes, he can be tamed, says Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, an animal behavioral consultant at Westwood Animal Hospital in Westwood, Kansas, who explains that behavioral modification therapy and plenty of patience can change a cats nasty attitude and turn him into a happy housemate. The number-one reason why cats are referred for therapy is house-soiling, Hunthausen says, and the second most common reason is aggression.

Understand and control undesirable behavior
Before turning to a behavioral therapist, have your feline friend checked by his veterinarian. Pain associated with ear infections, arthritis, bite wounds, and abscessed teeth can cause aggressive behavior, Hunthausen explains.

Do not use punishment to modify your companions behavior. Do not handle him roughly or throw him off your lap, Hunthausen says. Physical punishment (or treatment that is perceived that way) is the least effective tool for controlling undesirable behaviors and often makes the problem worse.

If you have a cat with an attitude, Hunthausen offers some advice (see boxes), and if further assistance is needed, seek the help of a behavioral therapist. For more information visit www.vet.cornell.edu/public/fhc/ or http://www.westwoodanimalhospital.com/