July 15, 2009

You Versus Your Cat: Who's In Charge?

Remember how I warned y'all that we have visitors in town and I that I'm taking time off from health and fitness blogging? Well, I wasn't kidding!

Today's topic: Who calls the shots in your house, you or Fluffy?

As it happens, there's some new research relevant to the question, and some silly pictures, but I'm mainly curious about what you do about the whole training and discipline question. Do you let your pets boss you around?

(And note: while this post happens to feature cats, I'm very curious how this issue plays out for dog owners as well).

Cat's Rule

In our house, the cat is much more skilled at behavior modification than we are. She has trained us to feed her what she wants to eat; to wake up when she thinks we've had enough sleep; to carry her up and down the stairs when her arthritis is acting up--she can even get us to turn on water faucets and wait for her to finish drinking by boycotting the water dish. We, on the other hand, have trained her... to do absolutely nothing she doesn't feel like doing.

"Lie Down, Maile! ... What a Good Girl!"

How does get away with it? Well, for one, we are mere humans and she is a cat. However, one of our favorite commenters, Mary Anne from Kentucky (who blogs over at Solarity) sent in a study revealing how cats vocally manipulate us. One of a cat's secret weapons? It's called "solicitation purring." They apparently have a very specific purr they use to get our asses out of bed and do their bidding.

Is anyone surprised?

But Some Humans Fight Back!

Got a cat who jumps on counters? Here's one hilariously geeky solution: The Blender Defender. It's either really clever or really crazy. Probably both.

And I keep hearing that cats can be trained to use toilets,

Photo: trainedcat

and even to do circus tricks!

Photo: ehfisher

Alas, not in the Crab/Lobster household. Cuddling and purring, though, she's pretty good at. I guess we can't complain!

How about you folks? Is your pet in charge or are you? Any cute tricks or helpful tips?


  1. Our dog is well trained, the 7 children mind most of the time, but the cat rules the roost!

    Even if we are relaxing at the dinner table, all the cat has to do is arch his back, meow a bit, and at least 3 of us immediately jump up to let him out! Who's trained?

  2. Hands down, it's the cat.When I hear his "looky see what I just left in the litterbox, near the litterbox or maybe near your shoes" meow, I'll stop whatever I'm doing and immediately clean out the litterbox.

  3. The cats most definitely rule the home. If they aren't satisfied with their litter box cleanliness they will poop somewhere else, nevermind that they have a huge rubbermaid under the bed "sweater box" that we converted into a litterbox for them, if they don't like the cleanliness, well look out. And what do we do? We go and change the litter, despite only having two little poops in it. Or if they don't like the door shut while you are doing your own business in the bathroom, they will open it, if only to say, it's my house I only allow you to be here.

  4. dragonmamma/naomiJuly 15, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    Well, you can't really blame them. I also get grossed out if poop is floating around in the toilet.

  5. Well that was a silly question. Of course it's the cat.

  6. One look at our floor and you can tell it's all about the dogs! Toys everywhere. I'd like to think that we have them trained a little (when I loudly sigh on the couch my one dog runs right up to cuddle, when I cry she comes to me to comfort me, she knows how to go play dead when we say bang bang with our hands up, etc.), but really...they have us trained for sure!

  7. Humans and dogs just haven't perfected that You Are SO Lame look that cats are born knowing.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  8. Even before there was scientific evidence telling me so, I knew I was helpless to my kitty Quincy's dulcet meows. He has my husband and me in the palm of his paw and we love it.

  9. I have two half-grown cats who are too busy playfighting and pulling the books out of the bookshelves to bother about controlling my brain.

    The dog, though, is another story. He gets so nervous when they're around (even though he's 115 lbs to their combined 17) that he has to go back outside and relax.

  10. Too funny post & loved the pics!!! No animals in this house but had everything under the sun when we were kids. Dogs slept in the bed with us, the cat roamed & owned the house the birds & hamsters all got our attention. I would ay that we did not do too great with being the boss! :-)

  11. The cat. It's not even ours. The neighbour's cat is so often out and about that when it's not at our place we worry.

  12. I have a great cat! Who cares who's in charge, she's a benevolent dictator :-)

  13. No contest. The cats are in charge.

  14. I don't have a cat - despite my kids begging for one (they can have one once they can all wipe their own butts) - but I grew up with several and the only person those cats listened to was my mom. Cats 1, Charlotte 0.

  15. We don't have pets right now. Growing up, we had a cat for a bit, and she did try to rule the house. She succeeded with the dogs, and some of the humans, but about 3 humans didn't care. I was one of them. She once bit my face (she aimed for the eye, I jumped and she got my cheek) because I remained doing my homework when she wanted to be petted.

  16. Our pupper is trained as far as litter box, sit, stay, shake stuff like that - but every once in a while when he isn't getting enough attention he poos in a high traffic area. Talk about grrrrr.

  17. Hi. Yes, when we had our dogs, they dictated almost everything.... WE were the trained ones! Next pets and next home ... definitely, we'll have a doggy door! Vee at www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

  18. We have one big goofy black lab dog and she's pretty happy to do our bidding. The only time she rebelled against authority (me) was when she didn't want to go back to her pen (she stays outside). After I chased her around the house a couple of times, she jumped into the pond and just stood staring at me like, "Neener neener! you can't get me!". She then jumped out of the pond, ran a few yards, turned around, looked at me and I swear that look was the equivalent of her flipping me the bird! She then took off across a big field to the neighbor's pond. She came back later that night (when she was good and ready, d@mmit!).

  19. These are just too funny! I glad I'm not alone in exerting absolutely no control over my animal's behavior!

    Love the way they seem to KNOW they have the final say too.

  20. I have four cats. Two of them stormed the house and held us at clawpoint until we fed them. They've formed a gang with the two older cats we foolishly invited into the house voluntarily. The dogs (both weigh more than 80 pounds) cower in fear when they enter the room.

    I am their slave.

    I have to type this quickly; I think they're monitoring my Internet activity...

  21. My cat does what she wants when she wants. If she wants loves at 3 am, she'll walk softly into my bedroom, run as fast as she can to leap onto the bed, giving her more chance of waking me up (a sleeping Julie gives no pets). She really likes to help me type by standing on the keyboard, or just blocking my view. She has figured out how to use the dog door upstairs (dog recently died), and steal the upstairs cat food, which causes that cat to poop on the rug. Now I have to buy her the same food as upstairs since I don't know how to prevent her from doing that, until he gets another dog. But she's so cute!

  22. My dog has the patience and focus that a good trainer needs. It's much easier for her to train me than vice versa.

  23. The cats used to rule. Then we adopted a rescue dog. Then we had 3 kids. Somebody had to rescue me!

    The dog passed away a couple of years ago. We recently added a German Shepherd puppy to our family and immediately kennel trained him (stays in there when we leave and at night...although he may eventually have more freedom)and obedience-trained him. The cats have their own room that they will share with my oldest child soon. They come out during the day. I rigged the door so they can come and go but the puppy can't get in. Then we keep them in there for the night. For now, we rule.

    Everyone has their own space to chill out. Very nice. I've had 6 dogs before, and this is the first kennel-trained one...I wish I had done that with the others (less destruction, less resentment, more joy).

    Happy to have my bed back and finally get some sleep.

  24. All I had to do was read the title of your post to know the answer - cats are ALWAYS in charge. (I did read the rest of the post for my minimum daily requirement of laughs)

    Being half Sicilian (from the waist up), I don't take to being bossed around by anyone, much less a creature that eats and sleeps for a living. But I might actually be envious of this existence since the college thing hasn't really worked out so great for me.

    In my world dogs rule - they are affectionate and loyal beyond belief and yes, it may have to do with the fact that I'm his feeding machine but still - unconditional love goes a long way.

  25. I'd say we're in charge...but it's all an illusion.

    My only defense? The squirt bottle. Because I love my cats (all 3 of 'em) like my kids, but I also love my sleep. They are welcome to sleep on the bed at night. But start getting into stuff in our room or climbing around on my head? One rapid fire shot. Because I need my sleep. Of course the squirt bottle is no help for the 17 year old who's losing his mind and howls half the night. *sigh*

    And I trained my hubby. He wanted kids now. So he gets litter box duty for 5 years. *smirk*

  26. Definitely my cat. She even goes so far as dictating which side I sleep on. If I happen to be sleeping on my left side when she wants to cuddle, she will meow and command me to turn over. If I dare ignore her, she'll start pawing my head.

  27. Of course they're in charge. What self-respecting feline isn't?

    I absolutely know that wake-up purr. I sometimes get it in stereo. One of the cats also sticks his nose right in mine just in case I don't notice his weight on my chest. He has a way of not displacing his weight as they ordinarily do on all four paws, but instead he makes his two front paws very heavy and pointy when he wants me to wake up.

    There's no point in turning over. Boing!.. he's in front of me again. This can go on as long as I can stand it, or until I've worn a trench into my mattress from continuously turning over to avoid him.

    When he's decided to stop chasing me, he'll lift his weight off of his paws and use them to bat at my face and try to pull it toward him. Or he'll tunnel his way under the blanket with what becomes a very powerful super-head. That cat has an incredibly strong neck.

    Eventually I give up and feed them. Shortly after that, he's back. By then, I'm at the computer and so he has to wedge his furry little body between my eyes and the monitor.. just in case I didn't notice him otherwise. And he'll start the same purring, snuggling, nose-in-my-face thing until he gets sufficient attention.

    Then I can go bug him when he naps. ;)

  28. The cat. Morning alarm clock, meal time alarm, "time to go to work" notice, "aren't you going to bed yet" notice. Also, he was always underfoot & annoying while I filled his bowl, so I trained him to sit on command. So now he thinks I'm trained to feed him when he sits down by his bowl (if he's hungry at an off time) or I'm running late with the food.

  29. When I had a cat, she was definitely in charge. Now we have a dog who is part corgi, so she can be bossy. But she's more of a caretaker, especially where the kids are concerned.

    A few years ago we live in an apartment complex and had a different dog. An Alaskan malamute, who was pretty big. But he was DEFINITELY afraid of our neighbor's cat!

  30. I am in charge because my dog thinks I am his Mommy. I am in charge of him as much as I am of my children. Uh....

    Just as my little girl gives me that flashy smile and twinkles her blue eyes at me and flips her wavy blonde hair around and I buy her a Polly Pocket, the dog wags and stares with his big button eyes until I give him a treat or throw his fetchy toy for him.

    I am not so sure who is in charge...

  31. Our cat Luella (her angel cat name) or Lucifur (her devel cat name) has us trained. Every time we come home she lays down for some belly scratching. Have I ever ignored this? No. Not even when I have my hands/arms full of groceries. Oh lord.

  32. i trained my aunt's cat to jump from a chair to a stool through a hoop. i was 8 at the time. never bothered trying with my own cats. now, i only have the big black dogs. if i get another cat, though, i plan on doing I-CAT agility, since i can't do agility any more with my dog.

  33. Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.

  34. Our cats have us well-trained after several years of hard work. They have, for instance, caused the hubs to leave the house in pajamas to get a fresh bag of treats.

    We just got a dog and are quickly learning that dogs are controlling, but in a passive aggressive way. One roll of the classic puppy dog eyes and we're like pod people out of Body Snatchers, blindly doing their bidding.


  35. Our whole household revolves around our two cats. They definitely rule the roost, although my husband does try to negotiate with them... As if THAT is ever going to work!

  36. I refuse to get another cat. I like other people's cats just fine, but can't handle hair everywhere and cat feet on the kitchen counters or a cat box in my own house. I don't mind the bossiness of a cat so much, but I do like how fairly malleable and codependent dogs are! I know if it was me vs. a cat, I'd have crap in my shoes and be covered in sticky cat hair.

    That said I own a Poodle, and uh, he owns me. Poodles are half cat (a good compromise for cat lovers who want a dog), 1/4 French, and 1/4 primate; in my boy's case the primate part is monkey as much as person. He is so upset that he does not have opposable thumbs but he manages quite well with his "monkey paws". I've taught him a lot of great tricks which he is happy to perform on command, and he's taught me a few too. He contests my dominance every now and then but I give him a lot of latitude as long as he pretty much minds me.

    I like cats who are talkers like Siamese, and Poodles seem to be great vocalizers. I'm trying to teach him a small vocabulary, he can say a pretty good "mama" and "I love you", and once he said "I dunno" all on his own in response to a question. If he really wants my attention or my food *right now" he'll use his "I love you!" voice and/or make up "words". When he's resigned to something he'll say "Oof", when ruminating to himself he says "Herm". Consistently, so they mean something specific to him. I'm trying to get him to say "out" when he wants to go outside, but he trained me instead that when he paces back and forth with his toenails going click click click he needs out; so that *I* then say "Outside?" and he runs for the door, looking repeatedly back over his shoulder like Lassie leading a rescue party to the well.

    He's benefiting from the 3rd Poodle/child syndrome; he gets away with stuff the other kids wouldn't have, but he also has a bit less freedom, like today's kids. He's the first dog I have crate trained. I'm older now, and much more tired, and I need the time outs!

  37. I'm in charge.
    My dog has a wonderful life and lots of fun, but she knows that I AM IN CHARGE.

    When I'm in the kitchen cooking, and she "forgets" and comes to stand right in front of me waiting for me to drop something, one look and a, "Go!" or "Go to your spot" and she runs over to "her spot" next to the wall (so I don't step on her).

    The reason she listens though is that when she does what I tell her to / what she's supposed to, she gets what SHE WANTS too... if she stays in her spot in the kitchen, I'll toss her ends of carrots or bits of other veggies as I cook. If she lays nicely by the dining table instead of begging during a meal, I'm 100x more likely to drop her a little treat.

  38. Once upon a time our cat thought he could be fed whenever he wanted - and this included very early morning - before anyone wanted to get out of bed.

    After a few torturous mornings or pre-dawn harassment, we have trained him to accept the fact that food ONLY appears in his dish in the evening before bed, and that this feeding may or may not include delicious wet food. I think breaking a cat out of habit is the biggest trick to not bending to their every whim!

  39. Sorry... was this a question?

    Animals ALWAYS rule the roost ;)

  40. My cat scratches on the closet door where his treats are.... he has me well trained!

    The dog is the master of the house, though. She has a routine, and heaven help the person who screws it up!
    That's why I call her the Princess - that isn't even her name!

  41. I sooooo want a cat, so that it can rule my house ;)

  42. The cat is definately in charge and eliminates any threats to his supremacy.

    I got a fish for my children and it didn't even get to see Day 2 at our house. Fuzzy (cat) had fished it out of the fish bowl, which I had placed 'out of reach'. He then had fun playing with it on the floor. We found the little fish on the cold hard floor in the morning. So our cat is #1 once more!

  43. I'm not really in either category, as my evil overlord is a Lagomorph. (That's Bunny rabbit, to us peasant-types.)

    She likes to growl her displeasure...or pleasure if things don't go her way. Should I grovel sufficiently she might lick my hand, and then prance away. So far the only things I have trained her to do is (eventually) go back in her cage if I beg and plead "bunny, go home!" and eventually she will. And if I don't quickly give her a treat - god help us all! :)

    She's nuts and cranky as hell but I love her anyways and am willing to do her evil bidding. <3

  44. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




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