18 Mar 2009

A Lesson in Parenting

Submitted by Paul Brown

Last Tuesday Holly and I were getting ready to lay down in bed (two twin mattresses on the floor, at the time), and we noticed that there was a wet spot on the sheets in the middle of the bed. Then we pulled back the covers to find several more wet spots. Not just wet, but also smelly—smelly like cat pee. We were thoroughly tired from a few busy days after getting back from the honeymoon, and having to spend half and hour changing sheets and blankets just as we were ready to go to sleep was really frustrating. At least one of our two cute cats had decided that the bed was a nice place to relieve herself.

What to do?! Holly said that the cats would not learn from any discipline since they weren't caught in the act and wouldn't remember what they had done, but I was frustrated and tired, and what would keep the offending cat from doing it again if they didn't learn something from it? So I spanked the cats. Both of them. It was not nearly as satisfying as one might think it would be. Aspen and Derby just ran off and shied away from me for the rest of the night and into the next day.

When we went to bed the following night, we again noticed that there was a wet spot on the blanket. Ugh! This time I didn't spank them, but I did kick them out of the bedroom and didn't let them on the bed. I'm sure they were able to pick up that I was upset with them, no doubt about it. Since then, we have been keeping the bedroom door shut and not allowing the cats in unless one of us is available to supervise them.

I did some research the latter part of last week about "inappropriate elimination" in cats—just a fancy way of saying "peeing where they aren't supposed to"—and found that almost every time a cat pees where she isn't supposed to, there is something wrong. They are naturally clean creatures and will only do something like that if they have a urinary tract infection that makes it painful to pee or they are stressed out and out of sorts or something similar. Experts in cat behavior said that punishment like what I had done is almost always actually counter-productive since it tends to make the cats fearful of you and exacerbate the problem that is causing the inappropriate elimination.

After learning more about what might be going on, Holly and I have been careful to give the cats plenty of attention and affection, and I have found ways to move them when they are getting into somewhere that I don't want them to be that demonstrate care rather than frustration. The cats are easier than toddlers, I think; I can just pick them up and pet them and move them somewhere else and they quickly find something else that catches their attention—no kicking and screaming.

This experience with the cats has provided some lessons that I think will be valuable as I look to becoming a daddy in the future. I learned that sometimes there is something going on behind misbehavior besides just plain disobedience. Doing something besides punishment might work better to correct the bad behavior. And getting angry is easy but won't help. (Thanks to my sister Sarah and her two cute kids, I have some idea of what could be coming with children!)

Praise God for these little frustrations that help me grow to be more of the man that God calls me to be!


I've been around our Tigger for 9 years, and I still don't know how to effectively deter certain misbehaviors. Oddly enough we have to send her away because our daughter is allergic. Do you know anybody without kids or pets looking to take on an established cat?