Tip 54 – Punishing or disciplining your cat – stopping bad behaviour
Sometimes cats engage in behaviour that we the owners don’t appreciate. In order to make our cats behave in the way we want them to, we may try to punish them for their bad behaviour. Common reasons for wanting to punish a cat include marking behaviours (spraying), urination/defecation problems and scratching issues.
The number one rule of cat punishment or discipline is;
You can only punish a cat if you catch it in the act.
Let’s say you want to punish your cat for scratching furniture. You come home and find your new couch scratched up. It’s too late to punish your cat and punishment is COMPLETELY ineffective because the cat doesn’t know why it’s being punished. Putting a cats nose in its urine is a sure way to get the cat to think that YOU are the bad one. Using any means of punishment after the fact, will only confuse the cat and might well damage the relationship you have with it.
Rule two of cat punishment or discipline is;
Never hit your cat (or dog for that matter)
Cats do not respond well to hitting and doing so can damage the bond between you and your cat. First off, hitting a cat can hurt a cat and it may well bite you back in self defense if you attempt to hit it. Very quickly, the cat may learn to fear you. It is an old school approach that is outdated because better methods are available.
Dealing with problems:
When we talk about punishing, ultimately what we are trying to do is reduce or eliminate an undesirable behaviour. We accomplish this by getting the cat to associate a particular behaviour with something unpleasant. Make sure the cat also thinks it’s unpleasant. The first thing that we may think of is a squirt gun. If we catch the cat scratching the sofa, a blast of water will make it run away. If kept up regularly it won’t take long until the cat stops scratching the sofa. Keep in mind that this technique is effective only when the cat doesn’t see that you are the squirter. If kitty sees you, it will continue the behaviour when you aren’t there.
In order to avoid possible offending behaviours we must give our cats outlets to act like a cats! For example they need to scratch. Punishing them for scratching in a particular area means providing them with good places where they ARE allowed to scratch. Sometimes cats will act or play rough with their owners and this is partly due to their predatory natures. Therefore cats should have appropriate toys to play with, toys they can chase and hunt. You need to play with them as well.
Other methods of reducing unwanted behaviours include placing certain smells that the cat doesn’t like in areas that you want it to avoid. Cat’s aren’t big fans of orange peel smell and many commercially available types of pet repellents. You can also try using double sided tape. Cats don’t like sticky sensations on their paws and will avoid this type of booby trap. Tin cans, plastic cups and other noise making items are good for convincing your cat that a jump on that counter is a bad idea. There are also motion detecting aerosol cans (one brand name is ssscat) that shoot a blast of air at the cat when the cat passes the can. This works very well for some cats.
Urination and defecation issues require that you try to figure out WHY the cat is doing this. Is the litter box too dirty? Is the cat spayed/neutered? Is it a multi-cat household? Can the cat see other cats from a window? Can the cat have some type of urinary infection? Is this a new behaviour? You may well need the advice of your vet to help you answer your particular dilemma.