Don’t despair! Hope is here!
Bad habits. We all have some, and they can be pretty tough to break. When a cat or dog develops a bad habit or unwanted behavior, it can be even tougher to discourage it from continuing.Take my own cat, Lovey Lovebug, for example. Lovey is a large Ocicat. He is tall and muscular, weighing in at a lean 15 pounds. When he sits on your lap, you feel it. He is extremely intelligent and very high energy. When he wants your attention, you know it!
My handsome boy is a little possessive of me, and living in a Cat Sanctuary of a home with my 17 others, he can sometimes be a little demanding about getting my undivided attention. Don’t get me wrong, they all get love and affection. Lovey just needs more at times.
He developed a new habit to get me alone; when I would go into the catbox room to scoop the litter, up this puma of a cat would jump onto my back and shoulders as I was crouched down scooping. Then he would begin to bite the top of my head as his giant paws would kneed my shoulders. Sweet and affectionate yes. But also very painful!
This went on night after night for about a week, and I really needed to stop this behavior. It was getting increasingly intense, and he was beginning to scare the other cats out of the room when we were alone in there together. A few of my friends suggested I shut him out of the room when I would scoop. Yes that sounds like a solution, but separating a cat from the litter box is not something I want to do at any time. That could easily result in marking issues and litter box avoidance, a far harder issue to deal with. (See When Kitty Won’t Use The Litter.)
The solution was to break that habit, and here is how we accomplished it:
- I had mistakenly started off laughing and reaching up to pet Lovey whenever he would jump up. Big mistake! As long as a cat gets a payoff for a behavior, he is going to repeat it to obtain that reward. He pounced. I gave him love. This reinforced the behavior. So step one, I stopped giving him praise and affection when he jumped onto my back and shoulders.
- Likewise, I used to let him stay there which again reinforced his action. I began standing up, which forced him to jump off my shoulders because I would do it in an unstable way. I threw his balance off, so down he would jump.
- I then left the area, and did not talk to him. I simply left the room and did not give him any attention. Had I offered him affection someplace else at that moment, that again would have reinforced to him that he would get what he wanted by acting in this unwanted manner.
Simple actions derailed his behavior, and within a week he stopped cornering me in the litter box room, stopped pouncing onto my shoulders, and stopped chasing the other cats out of the vicinity when I was around.
Subtle shifts in your own behavior is often all it takes to break a bad habit, be it your own bad habit or that of you cat.
John Memory says
I have two great cats, Lion (brother) and Cali (sister) 20 months old. In a house I am preparing to sell, they destroyed the carpet at my bedroom and office doors when they really wanted to get in to be with me. I’m moving to a different city and a house with new carpet. If I can’t prevent this behavior, I will have to get rid of them. They are very affectionate to me and are perfectly well house trained. Any suggestions?
Rita Reimers says
Cats love to need to scratch for good foot and nail health, so redirecting them to appropriate places to do are is the key. Offering scratching posts and other such items. Choosing the right type depends on what feels good to your cats’ feet, if they like horizontal or vertical scratching (rugs vs furniture). You might want to watch this video I did for petcha.com that addresses choosing the right item: http://petcha.com/pet_care/videogallery/how-to-choose-a-scratching-post-for-your-cat-2/.
Also, whenever your cats do scratch inappropriately. move them over to the acceptable place so they begin to catch on. You can also distract them with a sound like clapping your hands, or by tossing a soft toy for them to chase.
It may take some work, but it’s well worth the effort. Being consistent is the key. and if all else fails, you could look into putting nail caps, such a soft paws, on their nails so they won’t do any damage do your rugs.
Let me know how it’s going!
I have 4 cats and a dog in a large house. About 4 years ago, stray cats got into our crawl space and urinated all over the place and destroyed our vents. Since then, two of our cats started off by urinating down the vents, now all over the house. We have 6 litter boxes for the 4 cats and they are cleaned often. This problem is driving us crazy, and beginning to affect our marriage as my husband wants to get rid of the worst offender, a male cat who leaves drops of urine that are hard to find and sprays way up on the walls and furniture. Our living room smells like a toilet. Please help!
Rita Reimers says
The smell of the other cats is making your male reclaim his territory by marking. Is it possible to get your air ducts professional cleaned? After that, anyplace your cat has marked inside, clean it with an enzyme killing solution, such as Nature’s Miracle or Zero Odor. Sometimes you have to completely saturate the area with this type of solution then allow it to dry. The solution literally eats the enzymes that cause odors, even those that only cats can smell. Try placing a dish of hard food or treats on his favorite marking spots, as cats usually will not do that where they eat. Breaking his habit of going to those spots will be key, so anytime you see him approaching those places and getting into “position” to spray or pee, distract him with a toy or a clap of your hands. It’s also a good idea to have him checked out by your vet to rule our medical issues which cause cats to pee outside the box or spray. It will take some time to break this habit, but it can be done with consistency and patience. Let me know how things go over the next few weeks. Rita
Funny cats 2016 says
I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉
Rita The Cat Analyst says
Thank you for stopping by!
Fran sacchi says
I have a lovely black cat called Lola,abt 2 years old,and she was always a bit ‘dirty’ messing as a means of protest..
Since rescuing a foster cat,who is quite feisty,instead of using the tray,(and there are 4 of them!!)she defacates on the windowsill,under the bed,on the bed,outside the tray..just abt anywhere!!
She never leaves my bedroom,and there are times I would like to have ‘company’ but I darent!!
This is not healthy either,she has been health checked,and she is fit,no urine infections etc..I refuse to rehome her, but I put food where she has messed,use enzyme cleaners..but it’s relentless!
Thanks in advance,xx
Marcie Smith says
I have a cat that keeps urinating and pooping on the basement landing that is carpet. The litter box is literally a few feet away but he won’t stop going on the carpet even after I spend countless hours steam
Cleaning it. Help!!
I adopted a kitten and he is almost perfect. The problem is, since we got him he’s always had a knack for people food. He gets on our counters and table looking for anything he can find. He gets onto my 1 yr old’s high chair and eats whatever she’s left behind. We’ve even caught him getting on her high chair while she’s eating and stealing her food when we step out of the kitchen for a minute. He got a package of meat I had thawing in the sink, ate through the plastic and started going to town on the meat. The other day my husband was gathering all the trashes and he got into one when my husband stepped out of the room, tore it up and made a huge mess looking for more food. His bowl is always full of food and water. He eats a lot, so he’s not lacking anything. We’re at a loss. He is progressively getting worse and worse. It’s to the point where we have to put him in a kennel when anyone eats because he will try to steal our food. We had to purchase a locking trash can and we can’t leave anything out to thaw. We’re considering giving him back to the adoption agency we got him from. Do you have any advice to break these terrible habits?
Eugenie Boughamer says
This blog Breaking Bad Habits in Your Cat has helped me a lot with my dog.
Also, I used this training course https://s96.me/dog-training-course and now my dog follows everything I ask.
Kiss you All!
Rita Reimers says
Thanks Eugenie!! I am so happy you and your dog have been helped! My parents have 8 dogs, yikes! So I am not unfamiliar with K9 behavior 😉