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How To Discipline a Cat: 6 Proven Ways to Prevent Unwanted Behavior in Your Feline Roommates

How To Discipline a Cat: 6 Proven Ways to Prevent Unwanted Behavior in Your Feline Roommates

✔ This article was reviewed for accuracy by a licensed veterinarian.

We know that each cat will misbehave at some point, and it’s often due to the pet’s lack of idea of what is required of it. For example, a cat doesn’t know it shouldn’t claw your furniture or pee on your bed until it does it and is reprimanded for it. But many people don’t know how to discipline a cat effectively and can get frustrated over their misbehaving cat.

My cats have effectively redesigned my couch into a very expensive scratching post. My family had to learn the hard way, so we’re sharing these tips to help you prevent such issues in your own home.

In this article, you will learn how to discipline your cat, how to change your cat’s attitude, and how to eliminate unwanted behaviors such as clawing, scratching, or peeing outside the litterbox. We think of this more as a prevention guide than a disciplinary guide.

We cover the following items in this post:

How To Discipline a Cat: 6 Proven Ways

Some methods are more effective than others, and some may only be useful in certain circumstances.

Remember this: physical punishment doesn’t work with cats! They don’t understand why you punished them, and there is a chance they will repeat the behavior. Not only do they not understand why you hit them, but they will also start being afraid of you and stressed (and will keep misbehaving anyway). So, rather than correct the unwanted behavior, you’ve just created a fearful environment for your cat.

Here are our recommended techniques for effectively disciplining your cat.

Method #1: The Noise Machine

A set of cat ears

Cats have a sense of hearing which is much more sensitive than humans and a multitude of other animals, like dogs. If they hear an unpleasant sound, it’s likely that sound can bother a cat tremendously due to their enhanced hearing capabilities.

Noise machines work by startling cats with loud noises when they enter an area (automatic sound), or when you press a button (manual sound). You will need to install the noise machine in a location where your cat can either trigger it or where you can watch your pet without being seen.

These gadgets have varying noise levels and are frequently used for specific tasks, such as scratch prevention and preventing your cat from waiting by the door to try and exit as you open it.

However, some are motion-detected. They are usually used when cat owners want to keep their pets out of a particular area. They are ineffective when used to penalize bad behavior, but they’re very effective at preventing the behavior if you proactively place them in areas where bad behavior is expected.

Method #2: Spraying Your Cat With a Water Bottle

How to discipline a cat with a spray water bottle

Cats hate to be sprayed with water. A cat’s tactile and olfactory sensations are heightened compared to ours, so think of how much you don’t like being sprayed with water, and essentially triple that discomfort for a cat.

You can obtain a cheap squirt bottle, or look for automated spray collars or spray bottles. You can find some that can be triggered remotely and you can use them when your cat exhibits undesirable behavior.

It’s best to use a device that doesn’t allow your cat to see you spraying them, as it leads to your cat having a hard time determining where they’re getting sprayed for and why, and they begin to associate the activity they’re performing with an unwanted response. This leads to a smaller chance that the behavior is repeated.

The PetSafe SSSCAT Motion-Activated Dog & Cat Spray is a great option if you want something automated. People use it to stop cats from jumping on counters, hanging out by the door, or scratching furniture or things they shouldn’t.

Method #3: Booby Trap

You may set up a booby trap for your cat if you have an outlet plug-in that you can trigger remotely. For instance, you can connect a blow dryer to a remote-activated outlet plug and turn it on when your cat exhibits unacceptable behavior.

However, you can accomplish it in a variety of ways. Based on your home setup, what you have accessible to you, and the misbehavior you want to discourage, you can place booby traps in various places. You can get very creative with this approach, but be sure that you’re not going overboard in a way that will hurt your cat, or lead to any destruction of your property.

Method #4: Use Of Your Firm Voice

You should teach your cat the command “leave it.” While some cats can be easier to train than others, they can still be taught basic commands. The “leave it” command is especially beneficial since you may use it whenever you don’t want your cat to do something. You can pair this technique with one of the other 4 recommendations for better results, so when you use this command, your cat knows it’s time to stop.

It would help if you issued the command whenever you detect your cat engaging in destructive behavior. But, remember to only use that tone and the language with unwanted behavior. You need to be consistent so you don’t create any confusion in your cat. Be consistent but fair, and ensure your guests also follow these rules as they can also confuse your cat.

Method #5: Clap Your Hands

How to discipline a cat by clapping your hands

You have to make noise to stop your cat from doing what it is doing. If you catch your cat doing something nasty and clap your hands, it will most likely stop. But it usually only works the first time. If your cat has already formed a bad behavior, this will most likely not be enough to break it.

It is one of the least beneficial choices because it can be handy in the beginning when you have just recently acquired your cat and all of its routines have not yet been formed. Therefore, this procedure is usually used successfully once or twice. Finally, if your cat continues to do this, you may need to try a new strategy. For example, buy a scratching post and trim your cat’s nails if it keeps clawing at the furniture and doesn’t stop when you clap your hands.

Method #6: Using Aluminum Foil

You can place aluminum foil or double-sided tape on counters and other surface areas you don’t want cats on. The crinkling of aluminum foil, when stepped on, is a very bothersome sound to your cat, which will lead them to adjust their behavior to avoid the discomforting sound. The below video shows you just how effective this approach is!

How To Discipline a Cat That Is Biting

Cats must learn from a young age that biting people is not acceptable, even in a fun manner. Of course, kittens will naturally bite on tickling fingers. But it’s preferable to let out a short shriek to make them aware that you don’t enjoy it and stop playing with them and walk away. It’s always best to walk away so they know that behavior leads to the end of socialization. It’s always better to walk away than to react in an aggressive manner.

While a kitten that bites your fingers is adorable, an adult cat that hasn’t learned that biting hurts isn’t as cute. Interacting and playing with your cat should keep it interested while encouraging good behavior. This can be achieved by using positive reinforcement when your cat does something good.

For example, praise your cat and give it a treat or its favorite cat food when it stopped biting after you said “No” or “Leave it”.

A cat biting a person's hand

How To Discipline a Cat That Is Attacking

If your cat starts unleashing some of their patented cat bites on your legs as you walk by, it is most likely attempting to communicate with you and needs attention, or it’s just trying to play with you.

Make no loud sounds or force it away since this will incite further aggressive behavior. Instead, let out a tiny shriek and step away for about five minutes, then spend some time caressing and playing with your cat. Ensure your cat has toys to play with and encourage it to utilize them by playing together. Playtime is essential in a cat’s life and to the special bond you two have.

If your cat attacks a new person in your home, it is most likely not happy with its presence. Allow the person to spend some time with your cat so they get used to each other.

If your cat is hiding from that individual, you can have that person place some treats nearby them, or they can place them in your cat’s food bowl and move the bowl next to the person. This will allow your cat to become accustomed to the new scent in an environment where it feels safe.

Pick Your Battles

Remember that you’ve invited this animal to live in your home. Your life is going to change, and it should change. Because you now have this incredible family member to care for, that needs special care. Pick your battles with your cat. This means that not everything should be an issue, and you should learn some things have changed for good, and that’s okay.

For example, our cats like to be on counters and tables when we’re hanging out in the kitchen. I used to fret about it, but I started to appreciate that they like to see what’s going on, and they want to be near us. So, I don’t really mind when they’re up there.

However, if food is being served, or people are at the dinner table, they aren’t allowed up. We don’t overreact either, we just course correct if they challenge us. Worst case scenario, they get put in time out, which is just being placed upstairs to roam around until dinner is done.

And you’ll find that the people in your life won’t, or at least shouldn’t be bothered. If they are, pass them another drink and let them cool off! If they aren’t cat people yet, they will be after a few drinks.

Foster an Environment With More Attractive Options

Buy cat trees, cat toys, catnip, and cat treats to help build the environment you want. Try out different toys with your cat, and place them in areas where you’d like the cat to be.

So if your cat shouldn’t be running around the kitchen, put all of their goodies in another room. Play with them in that room too. You will create a positive association there, and away from the areas you don’t want your cat or the areas where unwanted behavior is more prevalent.

Bottom Line

In a nutshell, there is no silver-bullet method for addressing inappropriate cat behavior. However, you must choose the most effective method based on your pet’s unwanted behavior. But do not abuse these methods because you will scare and stress your cat.

Personally, I prefer a cat that doesn’t understand that it is not allowed to scratch the couch to a scared and stressed cat that hides under the furniture all day. You can always replace a couch, but the bond between you and your cat is much more fragile. As such, I always do my best not to reprimand my cats.

Do you want to address any strange behaviors in your cat? Perhaps you are successfully re-training your cat after it had gone “wild” once. Let us know what you think in the comments.