Kitty Bribery

Call it motivation, call it incentive — we do what it takes to encourage cats.

So you brought home a fancy new cat bed, and your cat has shunned it. Or you got a fresh, new cat tree – and your cats refuse to vacate the old, ratty one so you can throw it out. Like many people, cats prefer the old and familiar to the new and novel. If you want them to give that new bed or cat tree a try, there’s only one thing to do: bribe them.

Like your typical politician, cats not only appreciate bribes, they thrive on them. And unlike politicians, cats are boldly transparent about this fact. You don’t have to resort to dirty backroom deals – all you need to do is sprinkle a little nip on the bed or the tree to give your fussy feline a reason to check it out. That is, if nip is an acceptable bribe to your cat. You do know what your cat’s sweet spots are, right? If not, you’d better learn or you’ll have a house full of pristine, untouched cat beds, cat towers, cushions and toys!

Keep track of the things your cat likes best, whether it’s catnip, treats, brushing (Sparkle’s preferred bribe) or something unique to your kitty, such as, perhaps, dirty socks. Yeah, I think dirty socks are gross too, but some cats love to roll around on them or play with them. So placing one on a new cat lounger or cat tree, or better yet, rubbing the sock all over it (I agree – ew, but cats thrive on scent), will make it more appealing, at least if you are feline.

You can also bribe a cat visually. Is there a window that your cats enjoy sitting near? That’s where you put the new cat tree – give them the best seat in the house. Or do it by feel. Is there a sun puddle where they like catching some rays? Take the new cushion you bought them and place it there. Sweeten the deal by putting the nip/ treat/ dirty sock/ etc. on top of it. Brush your cat on top of it, if that’s her thing.

You can also bribe a cat by mixing the old with the new. In fact, I pulled a reverse bribe on Binga with that technique when I first brought home a cat tree. When I presented it to the cats on Christmas Day, 2003, Binga liked it a little too much. She commandeered it and would not let Boodie or Sparkle anywhere near it. In fact, when Boodie tried to give it a tentative scratch, Binga chased her into another room, howling all the way. So I locked Binga away from the tree and set Sparkle on it. She sniffed Binga’s familiar scent and did the only logical cat thing: she scratched the tree all over, thus remarking it with her own eau de kitty. When I released Binga from her temporary confinement, she immediately went back to “her” tree and discovered Sparkle’s sent intermingled with hers. I could almost see the light bulb go on over her head: “Oh, the tree is for all of us!” And after that, everybody got to share.

Do you have any special bribes to get your cat to accept new things?

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