Cattermole, 22, was sent off for the second time in four games this season and the fifth time in his career at Wigan on Saturday, and his total number of bookings is rapidly approaching 50.
Even for a player of Cattermole's combative nature, Bruce admits that is not good enough, and has told him to look at how Vieira, now at Manchester City, had to adapt his game after also falling foul of referees following his arrival at Arsenal.
Bruce told the Sunderland Echo: "I think Lee has reached a defining moment in his career and it's up to him now to make sure he responds the right way.
"He's a good player and an absolutely fantastic competitor, but you simply can't go around picking up the number of yellow cards he has in the last few seasons and be an effective force at this level.
"I think Lee is at a similar stage of his career to the one that Patrick Vieira found himself in relatively early in his time at Arsenal.
"Vieira has been a wonderful midfield player, someone who can control and dictate a game, but I remember he had terrible disciplinary problems and at one stage, he got two reds in almost back-to-back games.
"He had to go away and think about his game, and he did exactly that and came back a better player for it.
"I think Lee needs to do exactly that. It's vital he does, because he can't keep on going the way he's going."