You’re in bed, about to drift off to sleep, when you hear the unfortunate sound of your cat ripping you're brand new furniture into shreds. Or, you walk past the dining room table and your cat attacks you out of nowhere. Or, even worse, your kitty decides the litter box is the only place it won’t pee in. What is up with your cat? Why does it keep misbehaving? And even more importantly, what can you do about it?
Unfortunately, cats don’t respond to lecturing or typical forms of discipline. They aren’t like dogs who see you as the leader of their pack and are generally easier to train. Instead, cats mostly do what they want, whenever they want. Many of the “bad behaviors” cats display are just expressions of their natural instincts.
So how are you supposed to keep the peace with your feline friend? Well, it’s all about repetition and rewards. Here are a few simple steps for disciplining your misbehaving cat:
- Set up an Ideal Environment
- Play with Your Cat
- Give Positive Rewards
- Ignore Bad Behavior
- Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
To help you manage your cat’s bad behavior, here’s a detailed breakdown of all 5 steps:
Step 1: Set up an Ideal Environment
Many cats cause mischief by scratching furniture or biting people, actions which are all part of their natural instincts as prey animals. Instead of fighting a losing battle by condemning this type of behavior, embrace it! Give your cat plenty of places to explore, jump, play and scratch safely. Things like indoor cat trees, scratching posts, and other cat furniture provides an ideal environment for your pet. Your cat will be less likely to climb and destroy furniture if your furry friend has its own places to scratch and play instead.
Along with indoor scratching posts and cat trees, you can put cat pheromone diffusers around your home to help calm your cat’s aggressive behavior.
Step 2: Play with Your Cat
Once you’ve set up your cat-friendly tools all over your home, set up a playtime schedule for your cat. Try a rigorous 20-minute play session before bed. The extra exercise will make the cat more likely to snooze through 3 a.m. rather than waking you up in the middle of the night. Plus, you’ll both have fun and deepen the bond you share. Cats can’t resist enticing toys like kitty teasers, laser pointers, or toy mice (there’s even an electronic mouse).
Step 3: Give Positive Rewards
Whenever you see your cat display good behavior, such as scratching the cat tree instead of your furniture or using the litter box, give the cat some positive attention or a reward. According to the Humane Society, “If you want your cat to repeat a behavior, reward that behavior.” A reward might be 10 to 15 minutes of playtime. Or, make it a point to shower your cat with attention and praise. Occasionally, you can even give your four-legged friend a nice treat.
Step 4: Ignore Bad Behavior
If your cat is misbehaving, just ignore the behavior. But, by all means, do not yell or hit the cat. According to VCA Hospitals, hitting only leads to fear and it doesn’t work in reducing unwanted behavior. Instead, walk away from your cat for a while. Don’t talk to the cat as this might come across as positive attention. Over time, your cat will start to associate behaviors with either a negative (ignoring) or a positive reward (attention and a treat). The cat will begin to avoid the behaviors that invoke a negative response and do more of the behaviors that give it positive attention.
Step 5: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Achieving this kind of training takes a lot of repetition, but eventually, it will work. My Cat Training says repetition is key, so remember to continue this cat discipline plan and your cat should start getting the hang of it! If you can take some time to teach your cat how to behave, you’ll have a much happier relationship with your cat. Remember to stick to the plan, and in a few months, you’ll see major improvements in your kitty’s behaviors.