Cat Tips

How to Discipline a Cat 

June 22, 2022

How to Discipline a Cat 

Although cats are super cute, they definitely have a mind of their own. This can lead to misbehaving. Some habits are simply how your cat acts; others are bad behaviors that need to be broken through discipline. However, it can be hard to figure out the best way to discipline your cat in a way that will change their behavior. Fortunately, we have some great tips for you! 

Common Cat Behavior Issues 

First, let’s look at cat behaviors that need to be corrected. All cats are different, but there are some bad behaviors that are common in the majority of cats. Here’s a look at the most common misbehaviors in cats: 

  • Jumping onto areas they aren’t allowed, like counters 

  • Chewing or scratching on items 

  • Biting people or items 

  • Peeing outside of their litterbox 

Other cat behaviors aren’t necessarily misbehaviors, even though they can be irritating. These include playing at night and meowing a lot. They can also hunt animals of prey and give them to you as gifts. You can try to correct these behaviors as well, but they are less likely to cause larger issues down the line when left undisciplined.  

Best Ways to Discipline Cats 

When it comes to disciplines that actually work with cats, it’s best to use methods that have been tested and proven to help change your cat’s behavior in a more permanent way. Let’s look at some of the top discipline options for cats now! 


Sometimes all it takes having a word that you say to your cat to get them to stop doing a behavior. If you catch your cat being bad, telling them “no” or “stop” in a firm voice every time will help them to make the connection that what they’re doing isn’t allowed. This is usually the first disciplinary act people try with their cats.  


Cats don’t really like loud noises. Because of this, another option for disciplining your cat is to clap your hands a couple of times loudly. This will likely startle your cat and cause them to stop doing their destructive behavior.  

Deter Your Cat 

Some people prefer to use deterrents in areas that their cat isn’t allowed so that they can be kept out of the area even while you aren’t home. One of the most popular ones is putting aluminum foil over an area that you don’t want your cat to be, such as the kitchen counter or couch. Most cats absolutely hate aluminum foil! Placing it out and leaving it out will allow your cat to realize they don’t want to jump up to that area. While not very sightly, this is typically a temporary (and sometimes funny!) fix, just until you are sure your cat has made the association!  

Place Them in Time Out! 

If you catch your cat doing something bad, you can choose to put them into time out for a period of time. For example, if you catch your cat scratching your furniture, you can immediately lock them in the bathroom for a few minutes. Most cats don’t like being locked in a small space, so they will make the connection fairly quickly, hopefully! However, don’t leave them locked up for more than 20 to 30 minutes, no matter the crime!  

Spray Them with Water 

It’s no secret that most cats hate water. Therefore, it makes sense to use water as a deterrent to bad behavior. When you catch your cat doing something they aren’t supposed to, give them a spritz of water from a water bottle. With this disciplinary action, 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 

Cats respond to positive reinforcement much as people do. A great way to incorporate it into your cat’s life is by giving them a treat or some extra pets when they do something good. After your cat makes the connection that good things come with their good behavior, they’re more likely to make an effort to act good! Even if it’s for treats, it will still get you the results you want!   

Consistency is Key 

The truth is, any of the above disciplinary actions will work but only if you stick with them. If you’re only disciplining your cat half the time they misbehave, they aren’t likely to make the connection of discipline with bad behavior. The only way to change your cat’s behavior is through this conditioning process, so it’s imperative you make it a priority!  

Why Cats Misbehave 

Now that you have tips on how to discipline your cat, you may be wondering why your cat is misbehaving in the first place. There are a few different common causes for cat misbehavior. Recognizing them and getting to the root of them with your cat can help your discipline experience with your cat.   

Health Issues 

If your cat is suddenly misbehaving, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition or stressor that they are experiencing. This is especially true if you find your cat suddenly using the bathroom outside of their litterbox. If your cat has a sudden change in behavior, it’s best to start at the vet for a checkup before trying to implement disciplinary actions.  

Not Enough Cat Furniture 

If your cat is scratching your furniture, it may be because they don’t have enough of their own furniture to scratch on. It’s a good idea to give your cat something they’re allowed to scratch in every room they have access to in your home. If that’s not feasible, putting a scratching post next to the furniture they like to scratch up can help them scratch the right places!  

Not Enough Play Time 

Many cats will exhibit poor behavior because of boredom or too much pent-up energy. Make sure that you are spending time every day playing with your cat. This can look like using a laser pointer or feather toy and letting them chase it! It’s also important to make sure they have enough interactive toys to play with while you’re gone, so they aren’t holding their energy in the whole day!   


Some cats act up because they’re lonely. While this ties into having enough play time and their mental well-being, it deserves its own section. If you are worried that your cat is acting up only when you’re out of the house, it may be time to consider getting them another cat to play with while you’re gone! This will solve the loneliness and also give your cat an outlet for playing whether you’re home or not!   

What If None of This Works? 

If none of the above tips help your cat stray away from their bad behavior, your next step is to reach out to their vet. Sometimes cats are suffering from conditions that we aren’t able to detect, so having your cat go through a full checkup can help rule the quiet ailments out. Plus, their vet can give you some expert tips on how to help your cat’s behavior turn around, tailored more specifically to your unique kitty 


Cat misbehavior can be very frustrating, but it doesn’t have to stay that way! Being consistent with your discipline and getting to the root of the bad behavior can help change your cat’s behavior around, conditioning them to want to act correctly instead!  


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