Cats are super cute; TikTok videos and Instagram posts prove that much. Most cat people would agree they find their pets doing something curious or unexpected on a regular basis. Sometimes what pet parents see as peculiar behavior is really just natural kitty behavior, but cats can develop misbehavior that needs to be remedied through training and discipline. For cat parents who are dealing with the latter, it can be difficult to decide how to go about modifying your furbaby's behavior.
Common Cat Behavior Issues
While no two cats are the same; certain bad behaviors are standard across cats as a species. Some of the most common misbehavior in cats are:
- Picture this: your agile feline friend gracefully leaping onto your kitchen counters knocking an item off and causing it to shatter.
- Cats possess an innate need to scratch, and sometimes, their choice of scratching post isn't exactly pet-parent-approved. Shoes, curtains, and couches beware!
- Cats express their fondness in distinctive ways, and at times, it involves a playful nibble. While they are showing love, it can catch us off guard.
- Has your cat decided that the litterbox is optional? Discovering unexpected 'gifts' outside the box can leave you pondering the mysteries of feline bathroom etiquette.
Other behaviors, like middle-of-the-night-zoomies, and early morning yowling, aren't misbehavior, even if they are annoying for the pet parent to deal with. Cats are natural hunters, most cat parents wouldn't be surprised if their kitty hunted prey and brought it home as a gift. If you're lucky, the only thing your cat can catch is a fall leaf, if your cat has more luck, you might come home to a bird in your home.
The Best Ways to Discipline Cats
If you are looking to discipline your cat, stick with tried-and-true methods that are more likely to have a long-term effect on their behavior. Let's look at some of the top disciplinary options for cats now!
Sometimes, when you're cat is misbehaving, all you really have to do is have a word with them. Literally. Choose a word that you will say to your cat, every time they begin a bad behavior. You can choose anything; "no," "stop," "freeze." Just use a firm voice, and be consistent; every time they act out, you have to signal that you don't like it. This will help them make the connection.
How many videos have you seen of a cat jumping into the air? What percent of those cats were reacting to a loud sound they didn't like? Cats are known for being jumpy and don’t really like loud noises. This makes one method of discipline pretty obvious. Clapping! Clap loudly every time your cat starts misbehaving. This will likely get startled and cut it out pretty quickly.
Deter Your Cat
Some people prefer to use deterrents in areas their cats aren't allowed so the cat will avoid the area even when home alone. The most popular deterrent is actually something you probably already own: aluminum foil. Place foil over the area where you don’t want your cat, the kitchen counter, your couch etc. Most cats absolutely hate aluminum foil and will turn around and leave the minute they touch it.
After a few attempts, your kitty will give up on hanging out in the area. While this isn't a pretty fix, it is typically a temporary (and sometimes funny!) solution. Just until you're sure your cat has made the association!
Put Your Cat in Time Out
Time out works for kids, why can't it work for cats? Actually, it does! If you catch your kitty getting up to no good, put them in time-out in a small room for a few minutes. Most cats won't enjoy this, so they should make the connection fairly quickly! However, don’t leave them locked up for more than 20 to 30 minutes, no matter the crime!
Get a Spray Bottle and Don't Be Afraid to Use It
It’s no secret that most cats hate water. So it makes sense to use water as a deterrent to bad behavior. Give your cat one spritz of water every time they act out. One note though, it’s important that your cat doesn’t realize that the water is coming from you. You want them to connect the bad behavior to the water bottle, not to you!
Reward Good Behavior
While correcting your cat’s bad behavior, make sure to also reward any of their good behavior. Give them a treat or affection when they do something good. You may be surprised how well cats respond to positive reinforcement. Once your cat understands that good behavior leads to treats and affection, they’re more likely to make the effort to behave in that way.
Consistency is Key
Any of the tips above can help you correct your cat’s bad behavior, but only if you are consistent. Disciplining your cat half-the-time they misbehave won’t lead to any changes. They won’t make the association between the behavior and being disciplined. The only way you can successfully change your cat’s behavior is through consistent conditioning.
Why Do Cats Misbehave?
Okay, so now you know what to do to fix your cat’s naughty behavior. That’s great! If you're curious why the bad behaviors started, we review some of the most common reasons below.
Health Concerns: If your cat’s behavior changes suddenly, there could be underlying health issues or stressors driving the change. So, if your cat suddenly starts acting out schedule a checkup with your vet.
Not Enough Cat Furniture: Scratching is a natural instinct for cats, and they need outlets for the behavior. If you’re having an issue with your cat scratching up furniture, provide scratching posts or pads, to redirect the behavior.
Playtime Deficiency: Boredom in cats can lead to misbehavior. Have playtime with your cat daily, or provide interactive toys and engaging activities to help them burn their energy and keep their minds active.
Loneliness: Some cats act out when they’re lonely, especially if they’re alone for extended periods of time. If you think that’s the case with your cat, consider getting them a feline companion. Getting a new pet can be a great solution, but plan carefully and make slow introductions to give your cat time to adjust.
What if None of This Works?
If none of the tips we provided are successful in helping you change your cat’s behavior, it is probably time to look for help from a professional. Vets and trainers can offer you training tips tailored to your unique cat, their personality, and their behavior.
We understand that it can be frustrating to deal with a cat that is misbehaving, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Behavior can change! Be patient and stay consistent and over time you will see your cat’s behavior start to change.