As a cat parent, I’m often equal parts charmed and exasperated at their uppity personalities. However, even if it looks like they are very stubborn, you can still train them and knowing how to discipline a cat is an integral part of that training. Cats misbehave just like children do sometimes, purely for the fun of it and without malicious intent.
However, children usually grow up and out of bad behavior, which pets do not. In order to stop bad cat behavior i.e. biting your fingers, scratching the leather couch, jumping up on the kitchen counter- you need to actually train them. There are right ways and wrong ways to discipline your fur baby, and sometimes there are ominous reasons behind their naughtiness. Let’s go learn all about these!
The Best Way to Discipline a Cat
You might think a good smack on the cat’s bum will do the trick, but no. That’s not the way to properly discipline a cat. In fact, that’s actually asking for more misbehavior from the adorable little gremlin. Want to know how to discipline a cat without hurting them? That’s where positive reinforcement comes in.
Think of it this way: would you work better if your superior yelled at you, or gave you a raise? The latter, obviously! That’s positive reinforcement. In the case of your cat, this comes in the form of treats, toys, cuddles and praises when she does something good.
How to incorporate this into her discipline training? For example, when Sansa, my 5 year old calico had a go at the scratching pole instead of clawing the life out of my couch, I praised her and let her have a treat. In time, this action weaned her off the habit of clawing the couch.
This method might seem like it takes a long time, and yes, it will test your patience. But in my years of being a cat mom, I’ve seen firsthand that positive reinforcement is the best way to get rid of cat behavior problems, once and for all. So you should always start with this method.
5 Proven Ways to Discipline a Cat
I’ve already told you how to discipline a cat the best, but while that method is slowly doing its magic, there are other ways you could try. How to discipline a cat safely? Come take a look at some alternative ways:
1. Nip It in the Bud
Never let bad behavior go unchecked. For example, the first time your cat tries to nibble on your fingers, stop playing with her and scoot her away, even move her from your lap. It’s easier and more efficient to discipline a kitten as this way the possibility of developing bad habits are diminished.
Similarly stop other signs of naughtiness, such as jumping on a couch, yowling, swiping at you with her paws etc. Remove yourself or the kitty from that space and stop playing instantly. That’ll give a clear signal that the behavior is unacceptable. Practice this while you’re raising a kitten.
2. Make Some Noise (but Not Too Much)
When you see your cat jump up on a surface they’re not allowed on, make sure to clap your hands so your cat startles. Similarly, you could put some pennies in a tin jar and shake them. They don’t provide too much noise but get the job done. Another way is to stack some tin cans next to off-limit areas.
Notice the space of the couch or counter where your cat likes to jump up, and stack the cans on that place. When the cat jumps up, they’ll rattle and prompt your cat to leave. However, when I say noise, I don’t mean yelling at the cat. Don’t raise your voice to chide them, it’ll stress them out and even cause anxiety, which will ultimately ruin your relationship with your beloved pet.
3. Make Some Environment Changes
Even without hitting or yelling you can make sure your cat becomes reluctant to scratch at furniture or jump up on counters. You could cleverly change some things in the house to correctly discipline a cat.
For example, you can put double sided tapes or cling films on furniture surfaces that your cat likes to scratch. The change in texture will demotivate such behavior. Similarly, you can place a slippery cloth on the couch where the cat likes to jump on, so they end up slipping back down.
4. Make Use of Deterrents
You probably know all about the things your cat dislikes. For example, Sansa absolutely hates any kind of citrus smell, be it lemon peels or a citrusy air-freshener. So if I want to keep her away from a space, I simply place some citrus peels over there; works like magic!
Some cats hate chili flakes, perhaps the taste or smell of it. You can even buy some safe sprays made for this exact purpose, so make use of those.
5. Give Her a Timeout
This method works better on kittens. When you notice your cat acting up, gently but firmly put her in a “cat jail”. You could put her in a small room or even your bathroom. Do make sure to ignore the pitiful meowing for about half an hour. After this, your cat will be behaving much better.
Also Read: Best Cat Shampoo – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews
Cat Discipline Training: What Not to Do
- Never get physically involved in the discipline process i.e shaking, hitting or picking your cat up by the scruff, especially in case of adult cats. Cats do not understand why you are hurting them, and it will cause their attitude to sour further towards you.
- Be consistent in your disciplinary actions. If you’re feeling indulgent and letting your cat rip up a cushion one day, and disciplining her for the same act the next day, this’ll be disastrous. Be firm and do not let your cat misbehave without consequences.
- Using a spray bottle to spray your cat should be a last resort. Many support this as a way to discipline your cat, but I’d suggest not doing so unless absolutely necessary. First, do not let your cat see that you’re the one who’s behind this spraying action. Second, do not let them see the spray bottle itself. Third, stop after the first spray.
Litter Related Issues
How to control a cat who’s not using her litter and excreting in improper places? Instead of being purely a behavioral issue, there could be other causes.
- First, when you get a kitty, make sure it is potty trained, or train her yourself. It’s a fairly easy process.
- Second, if the age is appropriate, make sure to neuter your cat. This’ll often eliminate the bad habit of spraying around the house.
- Third, if you recently changed your cat’s litter, check if they’re uncomfortable with it. Some cats don’t like how harsh crystal litter feels on their paws. On the other hand, some don’t like how clay litter sticks to their body. Try to see which litter they like best and provide it. Make sure to offer enough litter boxes and change the litter regularly, before it starts to stink.
- Lastly, this could be a medical issue. A cat with health problems or one that is aged might have incontinence problems and in cases like these, seeing a vet is the right thing to do.
- Additionally, a change environment such as a new pet or family member, a new home etc. might also prompt the cat to forgo the litter box. This is also something that you could consult a vet about.
In my opinion, cats do not misbehave without a reason and often that reason is seeking attention or to get rid of boredom. Have you been giving your cat enough playtime lately? If not, do so; it’ll solve so many problems! You wouldn’t even need to use your newfound knowledge of how to discipline a cat.
Offer your cat ample cuddles, praises and playtime. Tire her out with enough exercise so she wouldn’t go looking for ways to grab your attention. Use toys and provide her stimulation in the form of scratching posts and structures such as a cat tree to climb. These alternatives will occupy them and save your furniture.
Additionally, whenever the cat tries to bite or claw at you, make sure to offer a toy. Don’t offer your own fingers or toes, this’ll only perpetuate a bad habit. Sometimes, playing with the owner might not be enough and your rambunctious cat might need a companion. In such cases, if it is possible, do adopt another cat.
When to See a Vet
While you’re looking up information on how to discipline a cat, make sure you’re not ignoring your cat’s health.
- As I’ve already said, not using the litter box can be caused by health problems, such as UTI or bladder stones.
- Often, you’ll see a cat yowling a lot and get irritated over it. However, this could be a sign of your aged kitty going senile.
- A gentle cat suddenly growing aggressive and prone to biting and scratching could mean she’s in pain for some reason.
- Get your cat fixed and dewormed. This tends to calm them down a lot.
- Often fleas and ticks will cause cats to develop biting and scratching habits. Consult your vet and get your fur baby a flea collar.
- Your vet will be able to tell if your cat is having an allergic reaction which is causing crankiness and misbehavior. In cases like this, provide a proper diet.
It may be hard to train a cat to be well-behaved, but it’s not impossible! I hope my tips on how to discipline a cat will help you greatly in that case. Do remember that every cat has a distinct personality and the method for disciplining each of them will certainly vary! Be patient and see which of these methods work in disciplining your cat, and let me know the result in the comments!