How I Influenced My Defiant Cat
The Most Effective Way To Change Unwanted Behavior
I love my dog. He comes when I call him, he feels guilty when he pees inside the house before I even know that he has, and his entire happiness revolves around my presence. My cat, on the other hand, was always more of the defiant variety.
When I first got her as a kitten, I had a fear of animals and she was shy, so I figured it was perfect, we’d both learn to not be scared of each other together. She was good and sweet for a while, but once we were used to each other, that’s when the trouble started — she became vindictive and feisty and would frequently eliminate outside of her litter box.
At first I thought it was because I had stopped feeding her wet food, which was supposed to be a treat, not an everyday thing. So I dug my heels into the ground and decided she was just going to have to get used to it, after all, she’s a cat, she doesn’t get to be picky when I’m the one paying for the food. Of course, her retaliation continued, so I started keeping her in my walk-in closet when I had to leave.
One day, my friend suggested that maybe she has a bladder infection. I can still remember the overwhelming guilt I felt in that moment at the thought that I had been unfair to an innocent cat because of my assumption. So I took her to the vet and had her checked out. There was no infection, and just like that, all of my frustration was back.
I thought about taking her to the shelter so many times, but about a year and a half in, I ended up giving her to my parents instead. They had a big house with no other pets, and I figured the fresh start somewhere else will take care of the problem, and it did for a while, until it didn’t. At some point after my first visit back since the hand off, she started peeing outside the litter box at their house too. I felt bad, but she was their cat now.
Then, about 6 years later, due to some life circumstances, I had to take her in again. I tried to come up with all sorts of other solutions for my parents, especially now that I had a dog, and I knew she was not going to like that, but they already loved her by then and didn’t want to let her go to another family.
So, I accepted it, but decided that I would try something different this time, a game plan to entice her not to pee anywhere besides her box. I decided that, unlike the entire time I had known her, I would bow down to her and give her the princess treatment. This meant that I would not keep holding her if she complained, or chase her into a corner so I could catch her, or anything else she didn’t want me to do. I’d even yell at my dog if I caught them bickering, even if she was the one that started it. So, that’s what I did, and it has now been over 2 years that she’s been with me and has never eliminated anywhere but the litter box. Can you imagine, an animal with a habitual behavior for most of its life, suddenly stopping and never doing it again?
Besides the peeing issue, she has also turned out to be a really affectionate cat, and not just with me, but also with my dog. This is something I had forcibly demanded of her before but never received. Now, she comes to me all on her own, follows me around the house and loves having our girl time.
My dog may be easy to love, but my cat is the one that taught me what it means to love. There are no demands of ownership or objectifying in love, just appreciation and respect. It is a servitude, with at most the hopes of a return, but without the expectations, which certainly makes it very challenging. If you serve love, especially to something as innocent as a cat or a child, no matter how defiant they may be, eventually they will realize that to be cruel to someone that is only being kind to you is to be cruel to your own self, and that is when their behavior will change.
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