Tag Archives: training

How to keep your cat from jumping on the table while you’re eating

So, what do you do if your cat demands you let him join you not just at the table, but on it, during meals? That was the question a reader asked, and I turned it over to my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, for an answer!

Q: Our 10-year-old cat has recently begun demanding table food. When we sit down to eat at the dinner table, he jumps on top of it. I immediately pick him up and put him on the floor. This is repeated several times. Today, I was eating soup and ignored him, so he pawed my ear. What do you suggest for behavior modification? I’m thinking of putting him in the bathroom while we eat.

A: You are fighting a battle on two fronts: the feline love of being up high, and your cat’s desire to share your food, which is obviously more interesting than his own. You’re on the right track as far as being consistent about putting him back on the floor right away when he jumps up on the table. Don’t do it in an angry manner; be matter-of-fact, but don’t let him get away with it. I have some other suggestions as well.

One is to feed him before you sit down to eat. If he has already eaten, he may be less interested in checking out your food.

You may also try teaching him to go to an alternative space, such as a nearby perch — where he can be up off the ground and still see you — or the sofa or his bed. Reinforce your cat being in this spot by rewarding him intermittently with a treat, attention or play.

Conversely, make the tabletop unpleasant by covering it with aluminum foil. Cats don’t like the feel of it beneath their paws.

There’s also nothing wrong with putting your cat in a different area, such as the bathroom, while you eat. It’s a valid way of managing the problem and can be a great strategy until your cat learns to stay off the table during meals. — Mikkel Becker

Read more, including how to help pets fight the battle of the pudge, in this week’s Pet Connection!

Do dogs do things out of spite?

Do dogs misbehave out of spite or anger? That’s a question I get asked a lot, including recently by a reader. I turned to my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, for an answer.

Q: My boyfriend was two hours late getting home to feed his corgis, and one of them pooped on the kitchen floor. They had access to the yard, and it was a nice day. I think the dog knew that pooping in the house was wrong (he even looked guilty) and was being spiteful because he didn’t get dinner on time, but my boyfriend insists that dogs aren’t spiteful. Who’s right?

A: We are so close to our dogs, and so often they communicate with us so perfectly that it’s easy to think that they share not only our great qualities but also our less admirable motivations, like “getting even” or “being spiteful.” Those are complex emotions, though, and as wonderful as our dogs are, they aren’t capable of those sentiments.

That guilty expression isn’t an actual acknowledgment of wrongdoing, but what psychologists call an “appeasement behavior.” Our dogs can tell when we’re upset with them, even though they have no idea what might have caused our angry expression or tone of voice. In response to what they perceive as intimidating or threatening body language, they do their best to try to diffuse the situation by offering behaviors that signal submission or peaceful intentions. To us, though, it looks as if they’re saying, “Yes, I did it, and I’m sorry.”

In reality, dogs have no idea why we’re angry. They can’t connect the act of pooping in the house two hours previously with your current dismay over the mess. A dog who poops in the house while his humans are away isn’t trying to get back at them for leaving him alone or for being late with dinner. It’s more likely that he is anxious because his routine has been disrupted. – Mikkel Becker

Read more, including an update on feline mammary cancer, in this week’s Pet Connection!