Just like children, cats are sometimes naughty and we need to find appropriate techniques to help them modify their behavior. Time-outs [otherwise known as ‘sin-binning’] are a useful tool for managing feline behavioural issues.
When Should I Use Time-Out?
Time-out is effective when a cat is biting and scratching you, playing aggressively, bullying the timid cat in the family, or hissing and spitting at your baby. Time-out is not appropriate for cats with anxiety issues, phobias or toileting issues.
How Does the Time-Out Technique Work?
Time-out involves calmly placing your cat somewhere on its own where it is isolated and deprived of attention. The laundry or bathroom is an ideal location. When placing your cat in time-out be sure not to play, pet or talk to your cat as this could be perceived as a reward for bad behaviour. Make sure you do not chase your cat into the time-out room. Cats love to chase and be chased and this attention could unintentionally reinforce the behaviour that you are looking to change.
The Time Should Fit the Crime
10 minutes is usually an appropriate amount of time for a time-out. In 10 minutes your cat will have made the connection between their bad behaviour and their isolation which is no fun. It is unfair to punish your cat for an extended length of time by shutting it away without access to food, water or a litter tray.
Letting Your Cat Out
Give you cat the appropriate amount of time to calm down, especially if they were angry when placed in the time-out room. Cats know when they have been naughty, and they also know that they will have to relax, lie down and patiently wait to be let out again. 10 minutes in the time-out room is usually sufficient. Too long in the time-out room can cause added stress to your cat. If you think you might forget to let your cat out of the time-out room, set the alarm on your mobile phone to remind you.
Cats are smart and they learn quickly. Placing a cat in the time-out room works as an effective deterrent and can correct many destructive or aggressive tendencies if used moderately and consistently.
Image: ganesha_isis via Flickr