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View Full Version : Behavior: "Rewarding" a fight?


Brian Link
October 8th 06, 12:27 AM
Chloe is more or less integrated into our household now, but she has
some psychological issues that mean occasional spats with the
long-term residents, Tiger and Louis (as well as us).

It's been months since an eruption, but just a bit ago she and Louis
the Bengal mixed it up. Louis is very high strung, and was obviously
disturbed, so I gave him his favorite treat (Benito Flakes) to calm
him down.

Suddenly I realized - cats respond to food as reinforcement. Given
that the treat followed the bad behavior by about a minute, was I
reinforcing his urge to fight with Chloe?

Thanks

BLink
--------------------------
"The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"

Gail
October 8th 06, 01:39 AM
No, I think it distracted him.....
Gail
"Brian Link" > wrote in message
...
> Chloe is more or less integrated into our household now, but she has
> some psychological issues that mean occasional spats with the
> long-term residents, Tiger and Louis (as well as us).
>
> It's been months since an eruption, but just a bit ago she and Louis
> the Bengal mixed it up. Louis is very high strung, and was obviously
> disturbed, so I gave him his favorite treat (Benito Flakes) to calm
> him down.
>
> Suddenly I realized - cats respond to food as reinforcement. Given
> that the treat followed the bad behavior by about a minute, was I
> reinforcing his urge to fight with Chloe?
>
> Thanks
>
> BLink
> --------------------------
> "The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"

Lynne
October 8th 06, 02:13 AM
Brian Link wrote:
> Chloe is more or less integrated into our household now, but she has
> some psychological issues that mean occasional spats with the
> long-term residents, Tiger and Louis (as well as us).
>
> It's been months since an eruption, but just a bit ago she and Louis
> the Bengal mixed it up. Louis is very high strung, and was obviously
> disturbed, so I gave him his favorite treat (Benito Flakes) to calm
> him down.
>
> Suddenly I realized - cats respond to food as reinforcement. Given
> that the treat followed the bad behavior by about a minute, was I
> reinforcing his urge to fight with Chloe?
>
> Thanks
>
> BLink
> --------------------------
> "The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"

My big boy, Rudy, freaks out once in a while and attacks me. I'm sure
I've done something in his mind to deserve this, but I can never figure
out what. He was a feral so I don't know if this has anything to do
with it. Anyway, for a while I was disciplining him by holding him
down on the ground, shaking my finger in his face and telling him no,
but he would remain ****ed off. For about the past year I've been
picking him up when he attacks (I'm obvlivious to pain), holding him on
his back like a baby, and pretending to mother him by "licking" him
(really just rubbing my lips all over his face and head and chin. He
loves this, and almost immediately relaxes and starts purring. This is
something I've been doing with him for a long time, not just when he's
misbehaving. I don't look at it as a reward but as a distraction.
Either way, it works, so I think you are okay with what you are doing.

Charlie Wilkes
October 8th 06, 04:28 AM
On Sat, 07 Oct 2006 18:27:30 -0500, Brian Link > wrote:

>Chloe is more or less integrated into our household now, but she has
>some psychological issues that mean occasional spats with the
>long-term residents, Tiger and Louis (as well as us).
>
>It's been months since an eruption, but just a bit ago she and Louis
>the Bengal mixed it up. Louis is very high strung, and was obviously
>disturbed, so I gave him his favorite treat (Benito Flakes) to calm
>him down.
>
>Suddenly I realized - cats respond to food as reinforcement. Given
>that the treat followed the bad behavior by about a minute, was I
>reinforcing his urge to fight with Chloe?
>
>Thanks
>
>BLink

I think you handled it fine. I have used food treats to get feuding
animals to focus their attention on me. I'd say, give both cats a
treat when either one acts up. Dangle little strips of cold cuts from
your fingers and make a ceremony out of it. Get them used to this
ceremony when they aren't fighting, and then pull it out of your hat
when the conflict arises. If my experience is any guide, you'll soon
have the animals in close proximity, ignoring each other and focusing
on you.. I think this reinforces the value of calm, sociable behavior
amongst the animals. The caveat is that I have mainly used this
approach to calm feuding dogs or dogs who are harrassing a cat.

The thing you don't wanna do, as you probably know already, is yell at
the animals. That reinforces their antagonism. I've read it, seen
it, and experienced it through my own mistakes.

Charlie

>--------------------------
>"The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"

Brian Link
October 9th 06, 10:11 PM
On Sun, 08 Oct 2006 03:28:52 GMT, Charlie Wilkes
> wrote:

>On Sat, 07 Oct 2006 18:27:30 -0500, Brian Link > wrote:
>
>>Chloe is more or less integrated into our household now, but she has
>>some psychological issues that mean occasional spats with the
>>long-term residents, Tiger and Louis (as well as us).
>>
>>It's been months since an eruption, but just a bit ago she and Louis
>>the Bengal mixed it up. Louis is very high strung, and was obviously
>>disturbed, so I gave him his favorite treat (Benito Flakes) to calm
>>him down.
>>
>>Suddenly I realized - cats respond to food as reinforcement. Given
>>that the treat followed the bad behavior by about a minute, was I
>>reinforcing his urge to fight with Chloe?
>>
>>Thanks
>>
>>BLink
>
>I think you handled it fine. I have used food treats to get feuding
>animals to focus their attention on me. I'd say, give both cats a
>treat when either one acts up. Dangle little strips of cold cuts from
>your fingers and make a ceremony out of it. Get them used to this
>ceremony when they aren't fighting, and then pull it out of your hat
>when the conflict arises. If my experience is any guide, you'll soon
>have the animals in close proximity, ignoring each other and focusing
>on you.. I think this reinforces the value of calm, sociable behavior
>amongst the animals. The caveat is that I have mainly used this
>approach to calm feuding dogs or dogs who are harrassing a cat.
>
>The thing you don't wanna do, as you probably know already, is yell at
>the animals. That reinforces their antagonism. I've read it, seen
>it, and experienced it through my own mistakes.
>
>Charlie
>
>>--------------------------
>>"The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"

Thanks - I really loved watching Megan work with cats about to get
upset with each other - she'd walk over cooing and pat them both,
giving them positive reinforcement, echoing your insight about taking
the focus off of their adversary and putting it on the human - though
I've read in the Temple Grandin books that cats are less concerned
with approval (like dogs) than a food reward.

That's why I was so concerned about the quick treat - we're often
tempted to anthropomorphize our cats, but that's less about their
similarity to us than their ability to adapt in any given situation.

Side-note - I may have mentioned this before, but last year we took
Chloe with us up to the North Shore (Lake Superior) for a family
retreat. We spent a week in a very nice lodge with a fireplace and the
roaring Great Lake outside. She never once had a moment of aggression,
and was happy as a duck in water. I think her occasional outbursts
would vanish if she were in a single-cat household, an experience I've
had with almost all the female cats I've owned.

BLink
--------------------------
"The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"

Brian Link
October 9th 06, 10:12 PM
On 7 Oct 2006 18:13:01 -0700, "Lynne" >
wrote:

>
>Brian Link wrote:
>> Chloe is more or less integrated into our household now, but she has
>> some psychological issues that mean occasional spats with the
>> long-term residents, Tiger and Louis (as well as us).
>>
>> It's been months since an eruption, but just a bit ago she and Louis
>> the Bengal mixed it up. Louis is very high strung, and was obviously
>> disturbed, so I gave him his favorite treat (Benito Flakes) to calm
>> him down.
>>
>> Suddenly I realized - cats respond to food as reinforcement. Given
>> that the treat followed the bad behavior by about a minute, was I
>> reinforcing his urge to fight with Chloe?
>>
>> Thanks
>>
>> BLink
>> --------------------------
>> "The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"
>
>My big boy, Rudy, freaks out once in a while and attacks me. I'm sure
>I've done something in his mind to deserve this, but I can never figure
>out what. He was a feral so I don't know if this has anything to do
>with it. Anyway, for a while I was disciplining him by holding him
>down on the ground, shaking my finger in his face and telling him no,
>but he would remain ****ed off. For about the past year I've been
>picking him up when he attacks (I'm obvlivious to pain), holding him on
>his back like a baby, and pretending to mother him by "licking" him
>(really just rubbing my lips all over his face and head and chin. He
>loves this, and almost immediately relaxes and starts purring. This is
>something I've been doing with him for a long time, not just when he's
>misbehaving. I don't look at it as a reward but as a distraction.
>Either way, it works, so I think you are okay with what you are doing.

That's a very interesting strategy - I'll give it a shot. Louis would
never object to that, but I'm afraid if Chloe has her dander up they'd
be calling me scarface.

BLink
--------------------------
"The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"