Sometimes, my cat paws me while playing, with his nails out, and it hurts. Sometimes, he's a jerk and doesn't let me brush off litter dust from his paws.

If I say ow, and make a sad face, he probably won't understand much.

What can I do to say "ow, stop" in cat language? What about "I am sad that you did what you just did"? What about "please stop being mean"?


If you flinch and say "ow', that's a pretty universal mammalian signal... If it isn't that bad, I've had pretty good success in persuading my cats by reaching around and lifting the tips of their toes whenever they do this. If they persist after that warning the get evicted from the lap. I don't know whether they actually understand, but they find this annoying enough that they eventually associate it with their kneeding and learn to kneed more gently. As with any cat training, it takes a while for them to figure out what you're asking for , and then a bit longer for them to decide to cooperate.

  • You can make it even easier to understand by "meowing" like another cat would if being hurt. This is especially effective in rough play where another cat would do the same. Kneading claws are harder to combat since they are 'in the zone' and think you have fur. Putting a cloth between is the best for that. – Oldcat Jan 15 '15 at 22:44
  • I find that my cats do understand protesting noises even if not in their native tongue. Understanding human tone of voice is a survival skill ... they have no idea what "hey get off the rasafrassin table!" means as words but they know it means that they didn't get away with breaking the rule because you're shouting at them. Same with "ow!". – keshlam Jan 16 '15 at 2:25

Important point: like most animals, cats need immediate feedback to understand what you're responding to. Effectively, they don't remember what they did a few minutes ago, or at least don't consider it important or why you'd be objecting now. So you need to anticipate their actions and look for the "teachable moment", or create those moments.

(This is why the "rub their nose in it" idea is abusive rather than useful. They really don't understand the message. )


Actually cats are very sensitive to emotions, especially towards the human that the cat had decided to be his/her "leader" of the pack (known as owner, cat do not acknowledge us as their "owner", rather they see us as their "leader"). My cat took me as her "leader of the pack" and will follow me around the house when she's not sleeping. With the normal cats' instinct built-in, she does sometimes do things that "hurt" us, like example what you had mentioned : "nails/claws out while playing with us".

Cats can be trained, and depend how you going to "communicate" with your cat. For me, I treats my cat like a kid, which needs to be taught on things that are correct or wrong. Which means I teach her like how we teach a human baby, like example while a baby is drinking milk, we repeatedly tell them "milk milk", or while defecating we repeatedly tell them you "poo poo". Babies and cats/dogs can learn simple sound (repeated sound) and able to associate the sound with the thing they are doing at the moment after several times of repetition.

Example what my cat had learnt:

  • When she play with us and unintentionally pull out her claws, "Ouch!" does not always helps as she don't understand. I repeat the word "pain pain", whenever she dug her claws on me, after a while she understood that "pain pain" means she's hurting me; and automatically she'll pull back her claws.
  • While seeing her jumping onto a chair or table, I'll repeat the word "jump jump" The next time I saw her below a chair or table, I say the magic word again, she will understand and followed my "instructions".
  • I made her do some trick to get her favorite treat, I'll say "hand hand"; which means I want her to raise her paws for me to get the treat. It does work! (but only for her FAV treats, Haha).

Different breed of cats does have different level of intelligence which I watch from "Cats 101" though. You may wish to try it out for a few times, and hopes that your cat could finally understand and able to "communication" with you.

  • 1
    "Owner"? "Leader"? I always thought it'd be "servant". – Mario Jan 15 '15 at 23:33
  • Haha.. true but depend the level of affection your cat have with u. Probably they likes to treat their leader as servants. – Win.T Jan 15 '15 at 23:37

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