Cat Behavior Problems: How You Can Help
Does the phrase "train your cat" make you laugh aloud?
Training cats to curb their behavior problems may seem impossible, especially with the wide range of bad behaviors they display. But it's not impossible to stop your cat's cat behavior problems.
Most bad cat behaviors are instinctive and vary from cat to cat, which is why training is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, you have to tailor your training to reinforce your positive relationship with your cat. Armed with gentle and consistent cat training tips and a lot of patience, you and your cat can live in harmony and your furniture will remain intact.
How to Deter Jumping
Cats love to be in high places, and therefore, one common complaint for many pet parents is how to keep their furry friends off countertops. Inquisitive cats love to nose around the kitchen for food or sneak a drink from the sink.
The first step to deterrence? Clear your counters of enticing items. Store the catnip and treats in an enclosed pantry. Don't underestimate your cat: she's capable of opening doors and grabbing her own snack if she wants to, so child-proof locks on doors and drawers is another good option. Also, ensure that your kitchen sink does not drip and never leave the tap running for her (this goes for bathroom sinks, too) or you'll have to do it forever, not to mention that it is wasteful. Always have a bowl of fresh, clean drinking water available on the ground.
If your fur baby still enjoys her daily stroll along your counters and tables, layer the tops with double-sided tape, aluminum foil or shelf lining paper. This is a very effective training method because cats dislike these textures, as well as the sound foil makes when tread upon. Over time, cats will be conditioned to stop jumping on these perches.
Tips to Stop Scratching
Laying out unpleasant textures can work for furniture scratching too, but be mindful of using materials that can damage textiles. You can purchase tape specifically designed to deter cats from scratching furniture. Climbing and scratching are natural behaviors for a cat, so don't punish her for following these instincts. Instead, offer her alternatives, such as a cat condo, which combines height and rough surfaces, or try an easy DIY scratching post.
An option to deter bad cat behavior is to use a spray bottle filled with water, with which you can mist your kitty when she exhibits a bad behavior. Motion-sensor air canisters that emit a loud noise can do the trick, too, as Vetstreet points out, especially for cats who aren't deterred by the water sprayer. "For the more determined cat, you can look at harmless automatic devices that discourage counter cruising by making sounds cats dislike when they trigger a pressure pad or electronic eye by jumping up."
Your feline friend is very intelligent and will catch on quickly when you reach for your spray bottle or air canister, which can back-fire because she'll figure out she can go on counters or scratch the couch when you aren't home. But when these tools are used in conjunction with other methods, this cat training tip can work well.
Marking or Spraying
If you notice your cat urinating outside of her litter box she is not trying to get back at you. Instead it's likely due to some sort of health problem. One common cause for cats spraying is a urinary tract infection. If you notice that your cat is exhibiting this behavior, it is best to take her to the vet to get checked out. Once healthy, she should return to normal and use the litter box again.
Howling or Excessive Noise
If your cat is much more vocal than she has been in the past she is likely experiencing some discomfort. Similar to spraying, howling can be a sign of a urinary issue or some other health problem. If your cat is more vocal than normal, it is worth a visit to the veterinarian to have her checked out. The vet can help clear her of any health issues or provide you with treatment options. If your vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, you might just have a vocal cat that is looking for more attention. Providing her with exercise and stimulus to keep her mind active is a good way to keep her entertained. Also, lots of love is a good remedy for a cat that feels like you're not giving her your full attention.
If your cat is acting more aggressive than normal like hissing, bearing her teeth, hair standing up or biting, it is best to ask yourself if anything in her environment has changed. Cats can be come territorial, so a new cat or pet could make her feel threatened. This can be true of new family members too like children. Aggression can also be a symptom of her masking her pain. Cats are great at hiding their pain but may become defensive if they are experiencing discomfort. It is a good idea to discuss her new aggression with your vet to rule out any health problems here too. If none of these factors seem to be contributing to her aggressive behavior, training can help correct this bad behavior. Rewarding her for good actions will reinforce the good and stop the bad.
Deterring bad cat behavior takes patience and time, from weeks to even months, and can be frustrating. Resist the urge to shout at your animal. It is not an effective or productive method of training and instead raised voices can harm your relationship with your cat. She'll begin to associate you with hostility.
Reinforce good behavior constantly and consistently — start with cat treats then switch to non-food treats such as extra pets, snuggles or a new toy. In time, your fur baby's bad cat behavior should decrease or disappear, keeping your relationship and your home peaceful.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.