Cats have acquired an undeserved reputation for being untrainable, but nothing could be further from the truth. Cats are smart. They listen. And they are trainable (see Important Facts About Declawed Cats).
Many people assume that cats are antisocial and unattached. Some believe that cats are loners, and they think nothing of leaving a cat alone for long periods of time. These things are not true. Cats shouldn’t be left alone any more than people, dogs, or birds should. Cats hunt alone, but they prefer company the rest of the time.
A Parade of Myths
These are just a few of the other myths that have caused misfortune to many cats. Many of these myths have begun only in the last few decades.
- Cats always land on their feet.
- Indoor cats must be declawed.
- Declawing saves time and money.
- Cats do not like to have their paws touched.
- Spanking a cat is effective punishment.
- Diet and exercise aren’t important to cats.
- Black cats are bad luck.
Basic Cat Behavior Secret
The essential secret to cat behavior is this:
“Cats are like people.”
When people are strong, healthy, and confident, they don’t feel threatened or intimidated by situations. When people are weak, unhealthy, or insecure, they frequently behave badly. Cats are no different. Like people, they may whine, wet the bed, be irritable, or get mad when they aren’t feeling good.
Our aim at CatBeGood is to help you make your cat stress-tolerant, strong, confident, and happy. It won’t cost you much in terms of time and money. A good cat is easy to have when you consider what drives people-behavior:
Diet + Exercise + Environment = Behavior
A cat’s health is important to behavior. None of the advice on CatBeGood is intended to replace that of a veterinarian. Make sure the cat sees the veterinarian when you have any doubts about his health.
Our advice is tailored only to a cat that is spayed or neutered. If your cat isn’t, please see Getting Your Cat Fixed.
Our advice is not meant for feral (wild) cats. It’s dangerous to let a feral cat inside your house or to touch one. A feral may never learn to be part of a household. We don’t recommend their adoption. There are millions of already tamed cats that will be killed this year due to lack of homes. Alternatives for helping feral cats are listed in Cat Advocacy.
Declawing is illegal or considered inhumane in several countries (see Declawing Drawbacks). It is a risky and painful procedure that amputates the claw, tendon, bone, and ligament to the first knuckle of each joint. While many American veterinarians suggest declawing as a means of alleviating behavior problems such as scratching and aggression, it is, in reality, ineffective.
Declawing at first appears to save time and money. But it undermines the cat’s health, confidence, and attitude, and can lead to worse problems. Declawing can make a cat very expensive to own. Owners of declawed cats report higher veterinarian bills, higher home repair bills, and more litter box problems.
Throughout this website, we’ve included tips on how to offer special treatment for declawed cats. They most definitely need additional help . . . but even the best help will not make up for their loss. Declawed cats suffer pain and can’t truly “exercise.” They are forever denied access to muscles they could have strengthened by scratching a post with claws. Loss of muscle mass leads to poor health, stress, and low self esteem. Pain, attitude and poor health affect a cat’s ability to perform, listen, and behave. Don’t adopt a declawed cat and don’t have one declawed. You are better off with an able-bodied cat, not one that is permanently disabled.
The editors of CatBeGood have moral, ethical, and legal obligations to make only safe and sound recommendations. We advise others to never bring home a declawed cat because we know these cats are dangerous, expensive and vulnerable. (Clawed cats are better equipped to survive floods, fires or abandonment.) It would be fraudulent and negligent for us to recommend cats that we know frequently bite people, urinate on sofas, destroy floorboards, and cause the loss of security deposits. People are better off owning clawed cats.
Further to that, by adopting a declawed cat you’re supporting bad practice. Adopting a clawed cat is really a “vote” because you’re giving a voice for your cat as well as for all clawed cats. If you have a well-behaved declawed cat, you will tell others about how wonderful your declawed cat is (and how wrong we are.) But are you willing to risk your friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers and their children and furniture to house unhealthy cats that frequently pee and bite? Are you willing to risk other people’s cats, time, home, children, and money just because your cat happened to triumph over pain, disability, and homelessness? It does not help for you to wait until the cat was declawed and dumped at the shelter to cry “but kitty needs a home!” What about the homeless clawed cat in the next cage? That cat could end up declawed then abandoned in an alley unless you take her home to make sure that doesn’t happen. There is no reason why “last resort” cats deserve a second chance when millions of clawed cats are still working on their first. Every clawed cat needs your vote!
The Making of a Good Cat
It really doesn’t take much to make a cat happy and well-behaved. The secret to cat behavior is found in these basics.
- A healthy diet
- Exercise and play
- Social interactions
- Fresh air and sunshine
- A clean, safe toilet and bed
No two cases are alike and no single strategy works with every cat, so we’ve included lots of options. Don’t feel that you have to try every solution; pick and choose the advice that best suits your set of circumstances, and disregard the stuff you don’t think will help. If you get stuck on what to try, think of how you would solve the problem if your cat were a person. Remember, “Cats Are Like People”, so there is no single strategy for solving behavior problems that is effective with every cat or person. We often need to adjust things in many aspects of our life in order to improve our behavior.