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Many times when I read about aggressive (or other undesirable) behavior in cats a common response is to distract and/or redirect the cats attention with toys.

Couldn't this technique ENCOURAGE the cats bad behavior? Cat does something "wrong", you start playing with it - cat thinks "if I do THIS, she'll play with me".

Is there usually a step between bad behavior and the distraction...like a moment of ignoring the cat - or waiting for the cat to stop for a moment - and rewarding the good behavior?

I ask because I'm in a situation where I have a cat who behaves badly, and I'm trying to help him learn not to do certain things, but I feel like I'm feeding right into the bad behavior by rewarding it with attention and toys.
 

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When my cats get too excited from playing, I walk away. I agree that it seems like redirecting is a reward. When they are misbehaving when I am doing something like clipping their nails or brushing their teeth I just firmly say "No" and continue the task.
 

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I think that interrupting the behaviour is an important step in changing it, or at least it was with Assumpta. Presumably, the length of the interruption would depend on the cat, so with a kitten's shorter attention span, a brief interruption might serve just as well as a longer one would in an older cat. JMO, though.
 
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