Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fingers & Toes Are Not Cat Toys!

Hello kitty cat friends,

I have a feeling I'm about to burst a lot of people's bubbles here. I actually burst my own over this too. It's so difficult not to do and it actually is almost an instinctual response. Your kitten or cat is in a playful mood so you dangle your fingers in front of them and let them chase or play with your fingers. You also may let your cat/kitten gnaw on your fingers because isn't it absolutely precious? It is absolutely precious, but you're also teaching your cat/kitten some pretty bad behaviors.
Do you ever wonder why your cat will dart toward your hands, fingers, toes, and even ankles and bite them? One of the reasons is probably because they were taught at a young age that your hands, fingers, toes, and ankles are toys. In a cat's mind though, your hands, fingers, toes, and ankles are not toys, but prey. You've trained your cat to treat you as prey!

Cats are hunters and it's a very natural and normal behavior for cats to chase, dart, pounce, and catch prey. These wild behaviors will never leave the domesticated cat, it's part of their makeup. This part of their behavior should absolutely be encouraged and never discouraged. This keeps your cat's mind sharp and stimulated. You want them to engage in these hunting behaviors but with appropriate prey-like toys, not you yourself. Cat teaser toys, toys they can bat and chase, and even interactive toys are ideal prey-like toys for your cat to play with that are not human extremities!

 If your cat is using you as its play toy and is used to that now is the time to train them away from doing that. Redirect your cat's play with your hands, fingers, and etc. by immediately using a teaser toy for them to play with instead. If your cat is engaged, playing, and catching the appropriate toy give them a treat. Do not swat, yell, or squirt your cat with a water bottle if they try to lunge or bite at you. Punishment does not work with cats. I will get into this more in a separate post. Continued and consistent redirection to an appropriate prey toy and reward with treats will be most effective.  Positive association and reinforcement work very well with cats!

This I know on our human side is a difficult habit to break. I still catch myself using my fingers to play with a kitten every now and then. I'm there with you all in this and you're not a bad cat owner or person for doing this with your cat. We're trying to give them what they need and it's so easy because our fingers are attached to us! We don't want our cats treating us like prey and even more so we don't want them treating our family, friends, and guests to our home like prey either!

That's all for meow 😻,

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