cats & critters

How to show your cat dominance

We’re all familiar about the concept of showing dogs dominance, but what about cats? Many don’t realize that showing dominance is even more important with cats than dogs!

It is said that you don’t own your cat — rather, your cat owns you. This holds great truth because cats are not fully domesticated, meaning that cats left alone in the wild can still survive — unlike babies or dogs. And so — basically, at the end of the day, you need your cat more than your cat needs you.

And that’s exactly why you must express dominance. If you want your cat to behave, to be happy and healthy, and to fully trust you — then show it who’s boss. As cats instinctually know that they don’t need you, you must convince them that they do. It’s much harder than it is with a dog, but absolutely necessary.

A pet is a pet, no matter the species. When a pet’s owner emits submissive energy, the pet becomes fearful and distrusting — fearing their owner cannot properly take care of them. And when an owner has a pet who expresses dominance, it can be a miserable experience — you’re frustrated and annoyed with your pet’s negative behavior to the point of fearing them — like when you can’t even rub your cats back because you’re too scared that they’ll scratch you. But when the owner knows they’re in charge and the cat knows they’re in good hands, it’s the perfect dynamic!

Although it’s rare, it’s not uncommon for cats to run away from home — whether it’s an indoor escapee or an outdoor cat who never comes home. This thought is an absolute nightmare for every cat parent. While dogs risk getting lost by accident, cats who leave home do so completely intentionally. And so, assuring your cat needs you can keep you free of this worry. But worries aside, the most important part about assuring your dominance is to keep your cat healthy, emotionally fulfilled, and strengthen your bond.

Some of these techniques are common sense while others are a little out-of-the-box and even silly. Consider them all.

Punishment now, and apology afterwards

As soon as your cat expresses bad behavior, like clawing your couch, discipline within seconds of it happening. As animals live in the moment, waiting too long will have them confused as to what behavior you’re upset about. If it’s too late then there’s nothing you can do — if you find out your cat peed on your shoes after it already happened, and then you go yell at them, they’re not going to make that connection.

Yelling is the quickest and easiest way to discipline a cat, especially considering how time-sensitive it is. But you can also try a spray bottle or some type of loud noise. NEVER hit a cat. A light pat on their back might be fine, but best to avoid any form of physical punishment.

If your cat is showing long-term negative behavior, such as refusing to stop doing something no matter how much you yell or spray, or doing many different bad things for an extended period of time, you will want to give them a more long-term punishment — best option to lock them in a large cage or room by themselves for a short time.

Once the punishment has been expressed, wait a short time, and then express admiration to your cat — like petting them or saying “sorry for yelling” so that you’re assured your cat knows you still love them. Remember that cats live in the moment, so this will not negate the punishment from earlier.

Maintain eye contact

This may sound like a strange one, but it works! It’s common for cats to stare at their owners, and it’s generally harmless and a sign of sweet affection. But in the wild, hunters use staring for intimidation, and cats know this on an instinctual level. So when you lock eyes with your cat, do not look away until your cat looks away first. Otherwise, you are subconsciously sending a message that you are the prey and your cat is the predator, when you need this to be reversed. Keep on staring and eventually your cat will slow-blink (their way of saying “I trust you”) and look away. When a cat looks away from you, it’s a sign that they can trust you.

Silent treatment as last resort

If your cat is being especially bad, to the point that they repeat the same negative behavior over and over, no matter how much you punish them, then the silent treatment is last resort. Sometimes cats take discipline as a positive thing when they are feeling desperate for attention. Sometimes they seek whatever reaction they can get from you, even if it’s punishment. So you may have no choice to do your best to tune them out and continue working on your task until they stop or leave.

However, be sure that shortly after, you give your cat positive reassurance — of course not until after they have stopped. But cats act out for attention, sometimes even because of a serious health issue, so don’t ignore it for too long. Maybe your cat is sick, or just hungry, or you haven’t changed its litter box for a while, or you haven’t been giving them any attention at all lately. And lastly, there’s a slight chance that they were truly being bratty. So while the silent treatment is sometimes necessary, only use it as last resort, and be sure that your cat is okay. Remember, neglect is a form of abuse, and neglecting is usually more hurtful than punishment.

Give your cat “not allowed” areas

Cats need to explore, it’s in their genes — which is why all cats deserve freedom to roam, especially kooky and unconventional spots (like closets.) But all cats need at least one, or several, places you keep off limits — whether it’s outside, or a certain room, or inside the cabinets, or on the tabletops, etc.

Keep your eye on them

Make sure you know where your cat is at all times. Cats like to hide in strange places, often dissappearing for hours at a time to take a nap. If you’re home, and you’re not sure where your cat is, look around and figure out, or call them. This sends a clear message to your cat that you care for them and miss them when they’re gone. While it’s good to keep your cat independent, try maintaining close proximity to them, especially if you have a large home or it’s an outdoor cat. Feel free to pick them up and bring them to your room. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen or living room etc, make sure there is a cozy area for them to relax in. Cats feel safe and protected when you keep your eye on them.

You are in control of playtime

Playing with your cat is absolutely vital for bonding, keeping them healthy and happily stimulated. But play time can also become out of control, so make sure it’s on your own terms.

Be the one who initiates playtime — do not let them initiate it first. No one wants to deal with a cat pouncing or pawing at you while you’re trying to pay bills or make an important phone call, etc. But you do need to make sure your cat is getting enough play. So it helps to keep playtime on a routine schedule — at least once a day. Example: once before you leave for work, when you return from work, and before sleep; or once before dinner and once after, etc.

You also want to be the one who ends playtime, and make it clear that playing is over. As cats become aggressive during play, become more gentle with them — speak softly, give them a pet, and maybe give some treats. And then walk away, and be done with it.

You are in control of feeding time

Similar to playtime — feeding time should be kept on a consistent schedule, and only done on your terms. Many people like to feed their cats in the morning — be sure that you do not feed them the second you wake up, especially if your cat likes to jump on you while you’re still waking up in bed. Make your cat wait for you to get ready first and do what you need to do, then go ahead and feed.

Most importantly when it comes to treats — only use treats as a reward for good behavior, and never while your cat is nagging at you for some.

Pick them up & carry them often

Unlike dogs, it can be nearly impossible to make your cat come to you after calling them. You can try it, as some cats respond well to this, but it will be difficult most of the time. Cats are very smart and when they refuse to come to you it’s not because they don’t know what you’re saying — it’s done on purpose, as their way of challenging your authority.

So instead, go after them (without chasing — unless it’s playtime), pick them up, place them in your lap, and carry them around often. This sends a clear message that you are stronger than them and more in control. Alongside, it also sends an affectionate message that you care for them and want their attention just as much as they want yours.

Remember, you’re the boss!

Do not feel bad for being dominant — rather, understand that this is what makes your cat trust you more and strengthens your bond. It’s the same way you are supposed to show dominance with a dog. Just because your cat fights back much stronger than most dogs, does not mean you should give up. This is why cats are such great pets — they’re low-maintenence but also challenge you at the same time!


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