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Correcting Misbehavior in Cats

Does your cat jump on furniture and the kitchen counter? Regularly claw your new couch? Urinate away from the litter box? You shouldn’t have to put up with it. A few simple behavior modification techniques can help curb your feline’s destructive behavior.

Just as you praise your cat when he does something proper, it’s important to discipline him when he does something wrong. When disciplinary action is taken, it must be delivered immediately for the cat to relate the punishment to the crime. As soon as you catch your cat misbehaving, voice your disapproval with a firm “no”! Cats hate loud noises, so accompany your vocal reprimand with a loud clapping of your hands or the smacking of a rolled newspaper across your palm. (Never hit your cat!) If this doesn’t work, a few squirts of water from a spray bottle or water pistol can be effective.

The best way to deal with furniture clawing is to train your cat to use a scratching post. It should be sturdy and tall enough to let the cat stretch to his full height to claw. If the cat still persists in scratching the furniture, try placing a few balloons or pieces of aluminum foil around the area. The noise of a bursting balloon or crackling foil should frighten him off without hurting him. To keep your cat off the kitchen counter, stack a few baking pans or other noise-making devices along the edge of the counter so that they fall down when the cat jumps up.

Persistent spraying is another common behavioral problem. It mainly occurs in unneutered males as a form of territory marking. But some unspayed females spray also. Neutering should stop the spraying habit in most cast — especially if done while the cat is still young.

Every cat misbehaves occasionally. But sometimes behavioral problems are caused by illness. If your cat constantly misbehaves, you probably should take him in for a checkup to determine if the condition is caused by pain, rather than disobedience. Urinating away from the litter box, for instance, can be caused by cystitis, diabetes or other illness. So when in doubt, check it out.