There is a woman called Jo Frost who is known as the “Supernanny”. She has television shows where she assists parents in learning how to communicate and guide (or discipline) their children.
I really like the methods she presents. She advocates giving choices to children, using time out as a way to respond to unwanted behaviour, and explaining to children why they were put in time out and the impact their behaviour had on other people, and asking them to apologise. It’s amazing how well this works. Many of the children in the families Jo works with go from destructive and rude behaviour (even to the point of hitting or swearing at their parents/caregivers) to happy children who love their lives. They are not necessarily perfect, but their parents can communicate with them, whereas before they were at their wits end.
Kirby and I always planned to use Jo’s methods with our kids, and we do.
We use them with our cat, Felix. Well – a version of them anyway. Our cat, Felix, can be so kind and loving and give his feline sisters, Minerva and Frankie, kisses. But sometimes he turns into evil psycho cat and stalks his sisters, jumps on them, and goads them into battle. The girls hate it. He is a lot bigger than they are and easily pins them down. The girls meow and hiss and we know Felix is up to no good.
Well, we knew that until recently. I was watching Frankie one day, without her knowing I was there, and Felix walked past her. She hissed and meowed and carried on like he had attacked her. But, he hadn’t. Before I would have disciplined him, but I now knew he wasn’t always to blame.
I’ve realised the tell-tale sign of whether Felix has actually attacked his sisters is whether his tale is all fluffy. If it is – he’s been naughty.
That’s when I step in – and Felix runs and tries to hide, because he knows what’s coming next. Generally it is a game of corner the Felix until I can catch him. Without a word, I pick him up and carry him towards the bathroom.
He puts out his front paws to try and latch on to every door frame that we pass in a vain attempt to stop me taking him to the bathroom, but that doesn’t really work. He’s bigger than Min and Frankie, but I’m bigger than him!
I put him in the bathroom, put on the fan, close the door, and leave him in there for a few minutes. He hates it. I hear his pitiful meows, and I must admit it is quite funny.
After his “time out” has passed I open the door a fraction and ask him to apologise. He has to meow and then he is allowed out again. He has generally calmed down and is a little bit sorry for himself.
He never, ever attacks the girls again – at least not until the next day…
Who would have thought that Jo Frost’s methods of disciplining children would work for a cat as well?