Maine Coon Cat Owner Mistakes

When it comes to cat behavior, Maine Coons owners can follow a few tips to have a well-behaved feline.

By Don Vaughan

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Maine Coon Cat Owner Advice
Despite the best of intentions, cat owners often make mistakes that worsen feline behavior problems rather than make them better. One of the biggest, is not being consistent and fair. “If you allow a cat to do something one time and not the next, it's very confusing for the cat,” says Pamela Reid, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist and vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Behavior Center in Urbana, Ill. “If it's a behavior you don't want, it's important to make your pet know consistently that there are consequences if it persists.”

Another mistake is not offering options for behaviors that come naturally. “You must provide plenty of alternatives in another context,” Reid says. “Too often, people want to suppress something without acknowledging that it's normal cat behavior, and if they don't allow it here, it will be expressed somewhere else.” Make sure you give your Maine Coon lots of opportunity to express its normal kitty behaviors.

“We're privileged to be able to share our lives with another species, but we have to respect that species, too, and allow them to be who they are,” Reid says.

A Gentle Hand
The desire to punish a cat for misbehaving can be strong, especially when it seems that the cat is being naughty on purpose. But when trying to correct a feline behavior problem, it's important to remember that redirection works much better than physical punishment.

According to Adam Goldfarb, an issues specialist with the Humane Society of the United States, striking a cat, throwing objects at a cat or otherwise behaving aggressively will only cause your pet to become frightened of you, and may actually make an unwanted behavior worse. Instead, Goldfarb suggests trying to understand why your cat is engaging in a particular behavior and find a gentle, nonpunitive way to redirect that behavior.  

Enabling Bad Behavior
Cat owners often unintentionally enable their pets' bad behaviors, subtly sabotaging the hard work they put into correcting them. By recognizing such enabling behavior correction will go more smoothly.

A good example, is getting up in the middle of the night to feed your cat because it pesters you until you do, notes Colleen Currigan, D.V.M., owner of the Cat Hospital of Chicago, “If you're upset by this behavior but react by getting up and giving food or something else that your cat perceives as positive, you're encouraging the disruptive behavior and your cat will continue because it knows it will be rewarded,” Dr. Currigan explains.

Cats learn from consistency, says Pamela Reid, Ph.D., vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Behavior Center in Urbana, Illinois. Once you've determined the most effective course of correction, it's vital that you not waiver. Allowing a cat to engage in an unwanted behavior even once without consequences sends a mixed message that will make correction even more difficult.

Don Vaughan is an award-winning freelance writer. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, Nanette, and their cat, Rhianna.
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