Getting Your Cat to Behave
It’s easier than you think to stop unwanted cat behaviors
by Linda Hall and Rita Reimers, Cat Behavior Experts
Cats amaze and delight us every day. We are fascinated with each behavior, and the reasons behind those behaviors. Then there are those OTHER behaviors. You know what we’re talking about! The pee that didn’t make it in the litter box and the scratched up arm on the sofa are two of the most common “bad” behaviors.
What do we do? How do we get stop those nasty unwanted cat behaviors?
Punishing Cats Is Not Effective
The most important thing to know is that punishment doesn’t work with cats! This fact is especially difficult for those who had dogs in the past, but are now living with their first feline. We (Rita and Linda) are both respected cat behavior experts, yet we were each raised with dogs. Becoming a cat parent was a learning experience for both of us.
Every dog seems to share the same philosophy. They are completely devoted to their human, and their humans are alpha. If a dog knows you are mad, he will try to stop the behavior. His desire to please you is stronger than any other desire! If you call your dog, right now, she will come to you, regardless of where she is or what she is doing.
Cats are very different. Your cat does love you and wants you to be happy! However, your desires do not automatically overrule his. Just like dogs, cats know their names and will come when called, IF it suits them. Unlike dogs, cats won’t come if they don’t want to. If they are eating, using the litter box or snuggled up on a warm blanket, they will decline your invitation. This lack of blind devotion is the exact reason punishment doesn’t work. He does not feel that your needs are more important than his. If you squirt your cat with a water bottle, the cat sees it in your hand, and all he knows is that you are a jerk who just sprayed him with water. It won’t connect to the fact that he was on the stove.
Best Ways to Stop Unwanted Cat Behaviors
Okay, so we get it! Don’t punish the cat. So do we just let the cat do whatever he wants? No! We just go at it from a different direction. The most important thing to know about cats is that there are no “bad” cats. They act on their instincts and see things differently. If you know how your cat thinks, you can address the behavior.
Two things need to be done to discourage those “bad” behaviors:
- Make the undesired behavior less attractive, and
- Provide a suitable alternative for his behavior.
Let’s use the example of the cat getting on your stove. That’s Princess Sweetie Pie here on Rita’s new stove. Cats LOVE high up places where they can observe the world yet be safe from danger. Your stove is awesome for this. How do we make Sweetie feel this is not a cool place?
Make the undesired behavior less attractive
First, let’s make it undesirable. You can get two sided sticky tape to put in places where you want the cat to avoid. The cat won’t like that feeling and won’t enjoy the stove as much. People have also used tinfoil and other deterrents like scents to discourage cats. If your cat doesn’t like someplace, he won’t go there.
Provide a suitable alternative for unwanted behavior
Now, we need to provide that alternative. Your cat NEEDS high places so if we remove your stove from the equation, what will we put in it’s place? A nice, tall cat tree is a great option! You can also put up cat shelves or any other surface that he can hang out on, high up!
Another common issue for cat parents is the scratching of the sofa! A cat’s gotta scratch, we get it! So provide a scratcher for kitty and place it near the sofa to give him the readily available option. Use catnip spray to attract him to the scratcher. You can slowly move the scratcher to another area if you don’t want it to stay there later. You can also make the sofa unappealing by putting the two sided tape on it, or get an a-meow-zing sofa cover that is tape on one side and vinyl on the other. They won’t get the desirable scratching sensation, so they will stop trying to use those places.
Are you ready?
So, are you ready for your challenge? Think of a behavior you don’t appreciate. Think like a cat, and decide how to make that behavior undesirable for kitty. Then, provide an alternative to that “bad” behavior. You will have a happy cat and a happy home!!!
Let us know in the comments what behaviors you want to change and how you plan to turn that “bad” cat into a PURR-fect angel!