A very close friend of mine treats his cat meanly and it’s really starting to worry me. He always talks badly to him and doesn’t seem to realize that, as a kitten, he’s going to be ornery for a while. He scolds, yells, and outright spanks the cat for normal kitten behavior. I’ve tried to talk to him about this, but he gets angry and tells me I shouldn’t tell him how he should treat his cat. It really bothers me to see him treating his kitten like this. He plans on getting the cat declawed soon rather than take the time to teach the cat to use a scratching post and not his couch. When I ask him why, his response is always somewhere along the lines of, “I shouldn’t have to deal with this!”
How do I address this issue with my friend without damaging our friendship?
This is a really tough one and I applaud you for not clawing your friend’s eyes out yet for this kind of behavior. Almost every writer on the Kate-Book team is a cat owner/lover, so I think I can vouch for us all when I say this guy sounds like a jerk.
People can get very testy when it comes to being told how to treat their pets (or their children) but sometimes it is so tough to just sit back and watch someone seemingly abuse their pet when you know that there is a better and more productive way of training the little critter.
Firstly, I would open the conversation in a non-accusatory way by saying something like “I know, ugh, training is the worst! But you know – there are some cool tricks I’ve learned that really curb the behavior and aren’t hard to do…” etc, etc. Just try and approach it from a little-white-lie perspective of “Yeah I totally understand where you are coming from.” I have found that, almost across the board, irrational and seemingly insensitive people like to be coddled a bit and told that their feelings and reactions are valid. Once you show them that you understand, they miraculously soften and become more manageable. Having this attitude towards them takes tons of patience – so be mindful that while saying “yes, totally” you might actually be thinking “I hate you right now.”
You could print some literature for him to browse through and get some good tips from – refer to these links:
- And this one which is pure gold – it’s practically an encyclopedia
As far as the declawing is concerned, I think you can be a bit more firm about the rights and wrongs. Declawing is now considered completely inhumane, and when you adopt a kitty from a shelter, they provide you with tons of information of why you should never, ever declaw a cat.
Read up on these articles before talking to your friend so that you can come to the table fully prepared and ready to combat any reason he might have in favor of declawing. Cats don’t just like their claws, they need them. It is a necessary part of their healthy brain and body development to be able to scratch things. In the wild they scratch the bark on the trunk of trees. It would be akin to taking the tips of someone’s fingers away – sure you could still live and survive – but is that the way you are supposed to?
“As part of their daily rituals, cats instinctually pull the claws on their front paws through surfaces that offer resistance. Explanations for this behavior include that they are marking territory, exercising muscles normally used in hunting, relieving stress and removing worn sheaths from their nails.” – ASPCA website
Both the Humane Society and the ASPCA have taken firm and outspoken stands against declawing.
The ASPCA is strongly opposed to declawing cats for the convenience of their guardians. The only circumstance in which the procedure could be condoned would be if the health and safety of the guardian would be put at risk, as in the case of individuals with compromised immune systems or illnesses that cause them to be unusually susceptible to serious infections.”
That right there should be enough to deter your friend – but if it’s not, you can read some more here: http://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/declawing-cats-positives-negatives-alternatives, and here: http://www.aspca.org/about-us/policy-positions/declawing-cats.aspx
If he doesn’t listen, and he’s still treating the kitty poorly – you do have options and you can report the abuse. See here for how to do that: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/abuse_neglect/tips/cruelty_action.html
You have to decide if keeping your friendship with this person is more important than protecting the animal that cannot speak for itself. If it gets bad enough, I would speak up. Some people just aren’t meant to be pet owners – it doesn’t mean they are bad people.
Make sure to remind him that you just can’t curtail a cat’s natural behavior…
Best of luck with a tricky situation,
Dear Kate is a column that runs on Kate-book.com every other Thursday at noon. It is written by the wise Katharine Luckinbill, who you should follow on Twitter. Got a life, friendship, family, dating, or relationship question that you’d like Dear Kate to answer? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will help you out!