Why you shouldn’t punish your cats for nibbling on your plants

A cat nibbling on his plant victim

Cats love to nibble on plants. And for good reason! A small amount of leafy greens is an important part of the cats diet.

While it may be true that nibbling on a leaf is healthy for your cat, it’s your leaf he or she’s nibbling on! Your plant.

Oh no! Bad kitty!

– You, when you find your cat nibbling on your plant’s leaves

Some of you may have encountered the idea that you can punish your cat for bad behaviour. Yell at them, drag them away, or spray them with water. This may seem like a good idea at first, reinforce the idea in your cat’s brain that “eat plant => punishment => don’t eat plant in future”.

Unfortunately for you, cats are more complicated than this. Here is why you shouldn’t do this.

You will teach your cat to fear you instead of love you

Cats are stubborn, so you will have to repeat the punishment many times over. Every time you scare and push them away from the plants, cats slowly learn to associate you with punishment.

While they may become more cautious around the plant, they’ll likely become more cautious around you. This is not great if you want a loving bond with your fluffy purry friend.

Punishment can make cats anxious

Like humans, cats feel at their best when they’re in an environment they feel is safe. Unpredictability and punishment adds additional danger to their environment.

This won’t affect all cats in the same way, but if you have a cat with a more anxious personality walking around they might become more wary of everything that might happen.

Punishing cats won’t actually stop them

If you think making your cats anxious and less loving is worth it as long as they leave your prized petunias alone, I have bad news for you.

Cats will always find a way to do what they want.

I’ll repeat that

Cats will always find a way to do what they want.

Check out this article for proof

Remember the association you wanted to reinforce in your cat by punishing them? “eat plant => punishment => don’t eat plant in future”.

What will actually happen is “eat plant while human is around => punishment => don’t eat plant when human is around”

Uh-oh. Your cat has evolved, instead of calmly nibbling on a leaf when you’re around, they’ll nibble on the leaves when you’re at work, or when you’re sleeping.

I’m an anxious person myself, at this point my cat started to condition me to be anxious and vigilant while in bed.

Remember, Cats will always find a way to do what they want. Punishing is not the right solution.

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