We humans seem to fall into two camps when it comes to cat misbehavior: one group thinks that cats act out on purpose to get back at their people; the other thinks cats are just behaving out of instinct and their behavior isn’t motivated by resentment or emotion.
The truth lies somewhere in between, and yes, sometimes cats do misbehave on purpose.
When aren‘t cats trying to get back at their people? Let’s look at peeing issues. These are caused either by illness or because the litterbox has become something the cat doesn’t want to use. When a cat stops using her litterbox, it’s a form a communication – she’s really trying to tell you something. Maybe it’s painful for her to urinate and she needs to see a veterinarian (this should always be the first assumption); maybe one of the other cats ambushes her when she tries to use the facilities; perhaps she hates the noise of the washing machine and is upset that you moved her box next to it. It’s never out of spite.
But what about those times when your cat pees on your clothing – or the clothing of another family member? That kind of peeing is often territorial. Cats can’t sign rental agreements or buy homes – but they can pee somewhere to mark what they own. Your cat may be feeling insecure because you’ve been out of town so much, or he is threatened by the presence of someone new. One thing he is <i>not</i> doing is expressing resentment. Cats always have a motivation that’s very real to them, and the only way you can solve your cat’s issue is by figuring out what has upset him.
What about the cat who scratches the couch all the time? Cats need to scratch, and your cat finds the sofa fabric more satisfying to claw than anything else you have – or it’s in a better location. Cats like to claim ownership of territory, and your sofa is perfect – it’s frequently used and out in the open. You can’t miss the scratch marks – so of course she’ll want to scratch it instead of the cat tree you’ve shoved off into a dark corner of a rarely used room. She’s not trying to be bad. She’s just being a cat, and you need to entice her with more appealing scratching options.
Then there’s the cat that has loads of scratchers of all types – but who still continues to scratch the sofa. In fact, he does it right in front of you and looks at you while he’s doing it. OK, that guy is misbehaving, and doing it on purpose! But it’s still likely your fault because you are not giving him enough attention, or the kind of attention he wants. Cats have the mentality of a 2-year-old child, and you know how toddlers act out when they want attention. Your cat does the same thing, like a furry little delinquent. If he finds the negative attention appealing enough, he may even turn his misbehavior into a game. Fun for him … not so much for you. Want the misbehavior to stop? Come up with a game that’s more fun for your cat.
People forget that cats don’t think like we do. Putting yourself into a cat frame of mind shows you what is really going on, and makes solving problems a lot easier.