It’s pretty much a well-known fact that cats are curious creatures. As such, they are always getting into things they shouldn’t be and doing things they know they shouldn’t be doing. Like every good pet parent, you have to discipline your pets from time to time to let them know that this is unacceptable behavior.
*** Where to Start ***
First of all, realize that a cat is NOT like a dog. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “oh my cat acts just like a dog!” That’s all fine and good if Tabby can fetch a toy mouse or loves to swim, but disciplining a dog and disciplining a cat are as different as night and day.
Once you realize this fact, you are good to go.
*** Methods ***
1. Loud noises
If you see your cat clawing up the carpet or your favorite piece of furniture, resist the urge to chase him away. He might mistake this for a chasing game and it will encourage his bad behavior. Instead, make a loud noise. This will cause him to flee and let him know that what he’s doing will simply not be tolerated in the house.
Some examples of my favorite loud noises:
-Yelling a one syllable word, such as “no” (a classic), “ah”, “hey”, etc. Make sure that your voice is loud enough to startle him.
-Snapping/clapping. Accompanying this with a loud noise is even more effective. It’s getting to the point now where I can just snap my fingers without making the loud noise and my younger cat knows to stop what he’s doing.
-A can full of coins, small rocks, etc. Filling up a small can with a lid (for example, one that used to hold mixed nuts) with coins or small rocks makes a really loud noise when you shake it. Step up next to your kitty and shake the can in his ear. This will send him running in the other direction. Soon, when you even bring the can out, he will know to stop and run away without you even making a noise.
Mimicking the hissing sound that his mother made will sometimes work well to keep him from getting into trouble. This method will not always work. Try it to see if it does; if not, you can incorporate the loud noise in conjunction with the hissing to make it more effective.
3. Spray bottle
My favorite method of disciplining my cats! Find a cheapo spray bottle (I got mine in the dollar bin at Target) and fill it with tap water. When your cat starts messing around, shake the bottle a few times (very important) and give him a squirt or two. Make sure the nozzle is set to “stream”; it’s more effective than just a light mist. After all, you want to discipline your cat, not cool him off on a hot day. After a few squirts of the spray bottle, just shaking it will make your cat stop acting up.
*** Accidents Happen ***
What do you do if your cat has an accident on the carpet? Remember what I said before: a cat is not a dog. Rubbing his nose in it will not work.
-Urine and Feces-
What you want to do is clean up the spot as best you can using an enzymatic cleaner. Be sure to get one that “prevents resoiling”. This type of cleaner includes scents (such as citrus) that your cat will find repulsive. Keep an eye on your cat for awhile to see if he starts sniffing around the area. The second you see him start to squat into position, use one of my methods above to startle him and let him know what he’s doing is not appropriate.
You might want to get your cat checked out at his vet. Sometimes inappropriate elimination is indicative of a bigger problem, such as a urinary tract infection or diabetes. He might also have territorial issues; in which case, consult your vet for solutions to this problem.
-Spaying or neutering your cat will help with inappropriate elimination more than you’d think. If it’s territorial, getting rid of the cat’s sex hormones will help nip this in the bud.
-Another way to keep your cat from inappropriately eliminating in the house is to close off the area where the soiling took place. Keep an eye on your cat to make sure he doesn’t nose around the area and try to enter it.
-Keep his litterbox clean. A lot of times, cats go outside their boxes because they aren’t clean enough. Think about it, you hate going when someone else has left a “present” in the toilet and think it’s gross. Cats do, too! Even if it is their own waste.
I feel absolutely awful for cats that have to experience hairballs. These have to be the most painful things to ever experience; I’d equate them to a kidney stone in humans.
If your cat happens to let a hairball on the carpet, please don’t discipline him for this. He can’t help it. Think about when you had the uncontrollable urge to vomit and no toilet was around. Cats don’t understand the concept of neatness to that level.
The best thing to do when a cat has a hairball is clean it up and let him know that it’s okay. There is a different between elimination and hairballs. I believe cats are smart enough to know the difference. Groom your cat on a regular basis and, if at all possible, provide him with hairball remedies. There are several remedies available at pet stores; in addition, there are several home cures you can provide to your cat to help with hairball control. In addition to remedies, many pet foods offer a “hairball” formula that can help your cat break down hairballs and pass them through the stool.
-Biting While Playing-
If your cat is young, he will more than likely have a ton of energy to burn off. Besides running around the house and climbing all over everything and anything, your cat loves playtime with you. More often than not, a cat will get overstimulated and start biting and possibly clawing.
When he starts to get rambunctious, say “no” loudly and back away. Stop playtime immediately. He will look confused, but he will learn that behaving like that is not part of playtime. Encourage other members of the household to not play like this with your cat.
-Jumping on Tables/Countertops, etc-
I cannot stand when my cats are on our coffee table, begging for food if we’re having a snack. I also can’t stand finding cat hair on the counter when I’m trying to cook dinner.
A simple push of their butt and “no” will let them know that they can’t keep jumping up on the counter or table. My cats are usually very good about this whenever we’re home, but I think they have a field day whenever we’re away.
The shaker method and the water bottle method also work good here, too.
Your cat will give you plenty of reasons to love him and plenty of reasons to curse his name. Letting him know what behavior is acceptable and what behavior just won’t fly will help both of you live together in harmony (or at least, some kind of peace).
Always remember to use these “hands off” methods for disciplining your cat. Cats don’t understand physical discipline, and doing something like slapping his butt or flicking him on the nose will damage the human-animal bond.