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cat misbehavior

I'm occasionally accused of spoiling my cat, and I find that infuriating.

It is true that I'm indulgent about letting her run about where she pleases. Given the configuration of my kitchen and hallway, it's easy for her to ascend the shelves in the hallway, jump across to the top of the refrigerator, and then up to the top of the kitchen cabinets, and she can't do any harm there, so why bother chasing her down? Likewise, she's allowed free access to the raised countertop overlooking the rest of the kitchen counters, and I don't always get up immediately to shoo her off of the main counters. 

I also have always been willing to play rough with her, letting her wrestle with my hand and nip it. She's actually generally very good about that. She clearly understands how to bite playfully, not breaking the skin, and she's usually moderate with her paws; if she starts to get too rough, I can just stop moving and warn her "easy! easy!", and she'll let up. I'll admit too that I probably did not do a good enough job of establishing boundaries for that kind of play, and that may have contributed to her defensive aggressiveness towards visitors who want to pet her. So there's one point where I may have spoiled her somewhat. 

However, there are several other areas where I've always been consistent about limiting or forbidding her behavior, and yet that hasn't made any difference to her. Some of that is because I never knew a way to deter her that wouldn't also teach her that she could gain my attention with that behavior. For example, she's not allowed to play with or attack my potted tree, and deterrence has included clapping, spraying her with water, and stepping over to shoo her away. Likewise, she's not allowed to play with the assortment of power cords and computer cables hanging down from the back of the desk. In both cases, what she learned was that if she wants my attention—because I'm talking on the phone, or because she wants to play (or maybe just wants my chair) and I'm busy staring at my computer—then all she has to do is go play with the tree or the cables, and eventually I'll have to get up to chase her off. This is when I get very angry about people accusing me of spoiling my cat. I've always been consistent about deterring her from this behavior, because I don't want her damaging my tree or my cables (and hurting herself in the process), but all she learned was that it'd get my attention. What was I supposed to do?

Lately she's been developing some new bad behaviors, and again I don't know what I'm supposed to do to prevent them. One is that she realized it's easy to pull the power cord out of my laptop (it's designed with a magnetic connector precisely to keep the MacBook from being accidentally pulled to the floor by the cord and broken). Normally she can't get at it because I keep the laptop in a low shelf space at night, but because of my leg injury, I've been leaving the power cord plugged into an outlet by the couch and so leaving the laptop out on the lap desk by the couch. So she's been going after the power cord as a toy, which I certainly do not want her doing, and sometimes she's been waiting until I'm not around, like taking my shower in the morning. Apparently in this case the best I could do would be to put the laptop power cord away in a drawer, but it would be nice if I could instill in her the general principle of "don't play with electronics cords and cables".

Another thing she's been doing is chewing on papers. I used to give her paper grocery bags to play in, which she enjoyed, but I stopped doing that when she stopped spending time playing in them and just went straight to tearing them up with her teeth. She mostly leaves my papers alone, but recently she's batted some off the counter onto the floor and then chewed on them. Again, a couple times she's done that while I was busy on the phone or doing something else, so it may have been a deliberate attention-seeking move. But early this week I was busy with insurance paperwork and had a bunch of things spread out on my computer table, then had to step into another room for a minute. When I came back, I found that she'd pulled one of the sheets to the floor and started chewing on it while I was gone, which is not so much attention-seeking as just apparently bored and playful. (Fortunately, that particular sheet was to be shredded anyhow.)

With both of these bad behaviors, I can mitigate the problem by not leaving things out where she can get to them. But I can't always have every piece of paper secured out of her reach, and I have open shelves with books and papers on them, what if she decides to start pulling things down from the shelves? Better if I could teach her not to do that, but I don't know how. And the other frustrating thing about this sort of thing is that I'm not home all the time; she's quite capable of deciding to indulge in bad behavior while I'm gone. (That's one reason why I never bothered too much about keeping her off the kitchen counters; I knew she'd just be up there while I was gone, so it wasn't worth the trouble.) 

I think part of the problem is that she's bored with her toys, but keeping her entertained has always been another problem. She tends to prefer toys that she can "kill" and eat, but of course those aren't things that she really ought to be eating, and she tends to ignore more-durable toys once she determines that she can't tear them apart and eat them. She does have a few favorite durable ones that she'll play with occasionally, but it seems pretty clear that she could use some new distractions. And with my leg in the brace, it's harder for me to play games of chase with her. One thing I was investigating just before the accident was refurbishing her scratching post: the main one I have is carpet-covered, but she's torn it up enough with regular use that there are now strands of carpet hanging off it, and she's taken to tearing at the carpet with her teeth and trying to eat the strands, which is bad for her. I have to make some time for that project soon.


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