Punishment vs divine intervention in training your cat

This is a short note about the difference between punishment and divine intervention. The concept was introduced for the first time, I believe, by Dr Bruce Fogle. I think it's a fantastic concept. It's important for cat owners to know the difference. Cat owners want to train their cat to avoid doing certain behaviours but they don't want to punish their cat. Or they shouldn't.

Punishment vs divine intervention in training your cat
 Punishment vs divine intervention in training your cat. Poster: Kattaddorra.

Punishment is pointless in cat training. In fact it's worse than pointless. The concept of punishment is about people and training people to behave differently. But it depends upon an understanding of what social norms are. It depends upon an understanding of what morality is and how a person compares their actions with what is required in society. All these factors are beyond domestic cats.

And you can't punish a domestic cat because they're behaving instinctively and therefore naturally because it is cruel. If you do the cat will associate the person doing the punishing, normally the cat's owner, with hostility. They might perceive their owner as an aggressor, someone to be avoided. It may harm the relationship and most likely will. But people see punishment as a way of condition their cat to do certain things.

The point is that you can "punish" a domestic cat without actually punishing them. You do this by disconnecting the discomfort that punishment brings from the person inflicting it. If the cat likes to climb an indoor tree but they find that it is an unpleasant experience because they are sprayed with water, they will no longer climb the tree. The key is that they don't know that the water is being sprayed by their owner. The water just arrives in the cat's mind.

In the mind of the cat these are 'acts of God' and not punishment from their human companion. And they will encourage if not train a cat to avoid certain behaviours which their owner disapproves of.

That's the fundamental difference so it means that you have to make sure that your cat does not see you spraying them with water or doing any other actions which are designed to "punish" your cat.

My personal viewpoint, though, is that we should allow cats to do what they want. We should accept their instinctive behaviours even if we don't really approve of them. It is a compromise that it is our duty to accept and go with. This completely resolves any problems that a person may have with feline behaviour. You don't require any form of disguised punishment or acts of God to modify feline behaviour. You just accept it.

This is my view because I don't want to make my cat uncomfortable. I don't want to 'punish' him even if it becomes an act of God because at the end of the day it is still inflicting something unpleasant on him.


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