Thursday, January 20, 2011


What is an appropriate expression of anger when dealing with inappropriate cat behaviors? I have read many places that cat's don't learn by having their noses rubbed in their messes. They need positive reinforcement. I'm all good with that and all but I am left wondering what do I do with my anger?

I came home after work to find this:
The large plastic container that we use to hold all the cat treats was on the floor along with the shredded remnants of four treat bags. No sign of any treats remained. Theo had cleaned us out of treats.

I was not happy, in fact I was quite angry. Theo had consumed a significant quantity of treats. That's not acceptable. Yelling or scolding him is ineffective as he is not going to connect the human's sudden crazy and scary behaviors with his actions from hours before. How do I teach him that such behavior is unacceptable and even dangerous?

A few hours into the evening, I realized that a good portion of my anger was really about feeling powerless to stop Theo from hurting himself. He goes on these seek-out-food-at-any-cost-missions and one day he is going to eat a large enough quantity of something poisonous that he will seriously hurt himself or even kill himself. We keep all the cat food and treats secured in latching plastic bins and containers. One by one he is figuring out how to open the latches or break into the containers.

Human food is also never left out, even if it is sealed in a package. I am starting to fear for the pantry shelves. I often find the bottom kitchen cabinets slightly ajar, after Theo has gone exploring. I have seen evidence that he has opened the upper kitchen cabinets and started to explore. It seems only a matter of time before he discovers the available options in the pantry or figures out how to open the refrigerator and gorges himself. Worrying about these things makes me feel paranoid, but with his non-stop, over- the-top behaviors, it does really feel like just a matter of time.

Knowing what my vet was going to say, I asked her if there was any way to reset the part in his brain that makes him think he needs to seek out food. The answer was no, stray house cats who grow up without knowing where their next meal is going to come from pretty much always remain driven by seeking out food. I usually hope my vet is right on most things, but on this issue, I hope she is wrong! Maybe in time Theo will learn to relax about food.

Meanwhile, on my list of things to do is to install magnetic catches on all the kitchen cabinets and figure out a way to secure the fridge. And I am still searching for constructive ways to let go of all this anger. Interestingly enough, Theo seemed to sense my anger, as he uncharacteristically avoided me all night.


  1. Having very aged cats 15 years old, I say there is hope. They learn the rules over time. The old ones are never involved in any bad behavior while the youngest--a male--is Mr. Trouble! A year and a half old now, he is better in some areas than he used to be, and I am convinced they know when they are crossing the line! In time they will improve but you must simply remove the temptations.

  2. Greg: thanks for the encouraging words. I suppose someday when Theo has mellowed out, I will look back and miss all of his crazy antics. The look on Theo's face when I catch him doing something that he knows he's not suppose to do tells me that he knows right from wrong.


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