How to Effectively Discipline a Cat

Anyone who has lived around a cat will tell you they are clever animals that learn quickly and have a mind of their own. If they are misbehaving, it may be that you need to show them how you want them to behave. But there are ways to do this that will work and other ways that will simply cause more problems. Here we look at some of them.

Understanding behaviour

Firstly, owners need to understand why a cat does what it does. While a kitten may seem like a little furry human in some ways, one area they aren’t like us is that they won’t act out. They won’t do something just to irritate you or to get back at you. So if they are urinating outside their litter box, it isn’t to wind you up but because there is some instinct that tells them to do this. This can range from not liking the litter box or the litter to be unsettled by its location or even having a medical condition that means it doesn’t have time to reach the box. So understanding why they are doing what they do helps to know how to discipline them effectively.

Dos and don’ts

One of the most common problems is what is called litter box avoidance. This is where the cat doesn’t use their litter box for some reason and deposits their waste elsewhere. To solve this problem, you need to play detective. Is it, as mentioned, the litter box or litter that has been changed? Is the box in a new location in a high traffic area of the house that makes the cat feel uncomfortable? Or is the cat showing any other symptoms that may indicate a health problem, such as blood in the urine, crying when going to the toilet or weight loss. Once you have figured out what the problem is, the cat will go back to using the litter box again. Don’t ever wipe their nose in the waste eliminated in the wrong place, as this means nothing to them.

Scratching the furniture is another frequently encountered problem. This stems from the cat’s urge to maintain their claws and the furniture takes the place of a tree that their ancestors would have used. The best way to stop this is to provide a scratching post. Whenever the cat begins to scratch the furniture, take them to the scratching post instead. A sharp clap of the hands will also put them off their scratching but never smack them as this won’t mean anything to them and will lead to a fear of your hands.

Fighting can be broken up in much the same way, a sharp clap of the hands or a loud shout of ‘no’. Cats often fight with others in the house, but it is key to recognise play and aggression to know if there is a bigger problem. Look for signs of anger or fear in their body language to indicate the fighting is serious, rather than just rough play.

Kittens particularly bite everything to investigate it and because their teeth hurt, much as a toddler goes through teething. Learning them not to include hands in their biting range is important from a young age. If you are bitten, don’t pull your hand away quickly as this will seem like playing. Again, a sharp ‘no’ will make them jump and release the hand. When playing, avoid using your hand as the focus, instead use a toy on a stick or rope so that your hands don’t come to be seen as a toy.