For years, I've had a cat who likes to walk through the kitchen at night and then wake me up by knocking over cups or glasses on her way out. When she does this, I grab her collar and pull her away as quickly as possible. If left alone, she'll keep doing it until there are broken dishes everywhere. This happens every time we go on vacation. It drives me nuts!
The other day, however, when we came home and were cleaning up the mess, she decided to take a break from playing in the dishwasher and walked calmly into the living room where she proceeded to tear apart one of our new throw pillows. She chewed off half of it before I stopped her. After looking around for a while, I noticed some holes in the couch fabric that looked suspiciously like she'd taken chunks out with her teeth.
Now, I know cats aren't supposed to be able to chew fabric, but I also know how much damage a cat can cause in an hour especially if he's bored or stressed. So why did my cat do this? Is she trying to tell me something about what happened during the trip? Was she showing me that her family was uncomfortable with the whole situation? Did she just want to destroy everything because she didn't get enough attention? Whatever the reason, I'm worried about my furniture and possessions being destroyed without any warning.
I don't think I could handle another case like this. One thing leads to another, and pretty soon you're dealing with a dozen different issues instead of just one. What am I going to do? I love my animals, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by them.
If you find yourself asking these questions, rest assured that many people deal with similar situations on a daily basis.
Pets are known for their bad behavior and often times we may attribute it to boredom. But is it really? Could it be that your animal-human bond isn't quite strong enough to cope with change or stress? Perhaps your pet needs more stimulation, interaction, affection, and exercise.
The good news is that you can learn how to better control your pet and help him cope with environmental changes. In order to understand what causes your pet to act poorly, we need to first identify behavioral problems and make sure they're treated accordingly. Next, let's look at common reasons why pets destroy household items.
What you should do if your pet destroys something
Your pet probably knows exactly what he's done wrong, which means you only need to teach him a lesson. However, you might consider using punishment sessions sparingly. Punishment techniques include yelling, screaming, hitting, and even locking your pet out of areas. These methods are effective, but they can also lead to further aggression and conflict between you and your pet. Instead, try teaching your pet a lesson by taking away his privileges, such as food, water, and toys. You can also use treats to reward appropriate behaviors.
Another technique is to train your pet to perform certain tricks. For example, you can teach your pet to shake its paw after chewing something (such as your slippers), sit down, or lie down when asked. Although training classes can help you strengthen your relationship with your pet, remember that your pet will always retain some instinctual behaviors.
When considering whether or not to punish your pet, ask yourself if you would punish your child or pet in the same manner. Would you yell at your kid for running out onto busy streets or hit your pet when he jumps up on counters? Probably not. Yet, most parents do. We, humans, tend to use punishment more than positive reinforcement when raising children. Why is that?
In order to answer this question, psychologists studied how kids react to punishments versus rewards. Their findings showed that punishment resulted in greater aggressive behaviors than praise. In addition, researchers found that children learned best when taught with praise. That means rewarding desirable behaviors makes learning easier and helps kids develop self-esteem.
Punishments can work well when used as a last resort. If your pet is destroying your belongings, however, punishment may not be suitable. Your pet may already be feeling insecure due to separation anxiety or depression. On top of that, punishment can also reinforce negative emotions and behaviors.
Instead, consider alternative solutions to replace damaging activities. Try removing objects that encourage undesirable behaviors, such as newspapers or plastic bags.
Also, place your pet in environments that stimulate him naturally. Consider getting your pet a toy or treat ball and spending more time interacting with him inside rather than outside. Take walks together and play fetch. By providing your pet with plenty of opportunities to engage in active, pleasant experiences, you'll reduce the chances that he'll decide to destroy your belongings.
You can also give your pet space to explore and relax. A calm environment will help your pet release tension and prevent unwanted actions. Some animals may benefit from professional counseling or medication to manage severe cases of separation anxiety or depression.
Common Culprits of Pet Destruction
Although you might wonder why your pet is destroying your possessions, there are several possibilities that come to mind. Sometimes animals are simply bored or anxious. Other times, they may be confused or frustrated. Whatever the reason, you can resolve the issue by making sure your pet gets proper care and attention.
It's easy to assume that a pet's inappropriate behavior is caused by a poor diet or lack of exercise. But the truth is that many animals receive sufficient nutrition and exercise. Therefore, it's unlikely that your pet is suffering from a nutritional deficiency or physical illness. As a general rule, excessive chewing, scratching, and digging should always be investigated by a veterinarian.
Chewing is a natural instinctive activity for dogs and cats. Chew toys provide relief for their sensitive oral senses, relieve boredom and enhance dental hygiene. Unfortunately, dogs and cats often end up eating table scraps, carpet fibers, bedding, clothing, electrical cords, and anything else within reach. Chewing can become a serious health hazard if the object ingested contains toxic chemicals, bacteria or parasites.
Scratching provides comfort for both nervous and arthritic animals. Animals usually scratch themselves on hard surfaces, such as wood floors, concrete, or metal bars. Scratches can also result from rough handling, confinement, or frustration.
Digging is a natural response to boredom, escape, or loneliness. Digging can also serve as an attempt to mark territory, locate buried bones and sharpen claws. A final common reason for pet destruction is territorial marking. Most animals use urine, feces, dung, droppings, hair, dirt, saliva, and gland secretions to communicate important messages.
Territorial markers are among the strongest forms of communication. Animals urinate and defecate near sources of infrequent contact or ownership. For instance, male cats spray their scent marks on doorways leading into their territories or along boundaries between two properties. Females mark locations near their dens and litter boxes. Mating males and females leave pheromones behind to attract potential mates. Finally, predators leave distinctive tracks or scat to signal to rivals that they've recently passed through.