How to Train a Cat to Stop Doing Almost Anything

Three Parts:Determining the Cause of the Bad BehaviorCorrecting Your Cat’s BehaviorAdjusting Your Cat’s Environment and Routine

You may love your cat more than anything in the world, but there are certain behaviors, such as tearing up furniture, scratching people, and getting into areas you don’t want her to access, that are simple unacceptable. You will need to practice patience and persistence to deter your cat’s bad behavior. With certain adjustments to her routine and the use of correcting techniques, you should be able to stop your cat from practicing bad behavior.

Part 1
Determining the Cause of the Bad Behavior

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    Understand the most common behavioral problems in cats. Though every cat is unique and may have specific issues or specific bad behaviors, most cats act out in seven ways:[1]
    • Avoiding the litter box or refusing to use the litter box.
    • Marking furniture and other objects with their urine.
    • Scratching furniture and other objects in your home. Your cat may also scratch you or others when play fighting.
    • Acting aggressive towards other people or towards their owner.
    • Acting aggressive towards other cats in the home.
    • Displaying stress or anxiety.
    • Acting fearful of objects or people.
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    Bring your cat to the vet for a checkup to rule out any medical issues. Sometimes cats will respond act out or display behavioral issues because they are struggling with a medical issue. For example, your cat may refuse to use his litter box due to a urinary tract infection, or he may act aggressive towards you because he is experiencing physical pain that is not immediately apparent to you. Some cats become fearful of people or objects due to vision issues and over groom themselves due to hyperthyroidism.[2]
    • Taking your cat to the vet for a checkup will help identify any medical problems that could be causing your cat’s bad behavior and treat it promptly so it does not get worse. If your vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, you can focus on issues in your cat’s environment that may be causing his bad behavior.
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    Recognize any environmental causes for your cat’s bad behavior. Once your cat is cleared of any medical issues, you can consider why your cat might be displaying one or several of these bad behaviors. Look at his environment for any triggers of bad behavior, including:[3]
    • A dirty or poorly kept litter box, which can lead to litter box avoidance.
    • Another cat who is bullying your cat in the home, leading to litter box avoidance and aggression.
    • A new cat in the home, which can cause your cat to urine mark. A new dog in the home can also cause your cat to act fearful or aggressive.
    • A lack of scratching posts, which can lead to your cat scratching furniture and other objects in the home.

Part 2
Correcting Your Cat’s Behavior

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    Avoid physically or verbally punishing your cat. Physically or verbally reprimanding your cat is one of the least successful ways to correct your cat’s bad behavior. In fact, hitting your cat or yelling at him can lead your cat to act more fearful around you, be less willing to play with other people, and display more aggressive scratching and biting. Your cat will likely continue to act out when you are out of sight as he knows he can perform the behavior without punishment if you cannot see him.[4]
    • Physical or verbal punishment are generally ineffective, short term solutions to your cat’s issues and will not stop your cat from acting out. Instead, it will create a more stressful environment for you and for your cat. Though it can be hard not to yell or hit your cat when they do something bad, like urine mark your furniture or go to the bathroom on the carpet instead of the litter box, it’s important that you take a deep breath as an owner and try to use a more effective correcting technique.
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    Use remote correction. This technique connects an unpleasant texture, smell, taste, or sound with a certain bad behavior to deter your cat from doing them. You can use home supplies to do remote correction, for example:[5]
    • Texture: You can put sticky paper, aluminum foil, or heavy plastic carpet runners on areas that you would like your cat to avoid. Cats generally dislike walking on any of these textures.
    • Smell: You can use smells cats tend to dislike in areas you do not want your cat to access. For example, placing cloth or cotton balls soaked in citronella, perfume, air freshener, citrus, aloe, eucalyptus oil, and oil of wintergreen on objects or surfaces.
    • Taste: You can rub certain foods on surfaces that your cat likes to chew on or scratch, such as bitter apple, citrus products, hot sauces, cayenne pepper, or aloe gel. Over time, your cat will associate the bad taste with the object or surface and avoid it.
    • Sound: Using noises that startle your cat can deter him from doing a behavior or going on a surface. This could be blowing a whistle, ringing a bell, or shaking a can with some coins inside. Try to use the sound, instead of your voice, to startle him just as he is about to do something you consider bad behavior and he will come to associate the behavior with a negative sound.
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    Ignore your cat when he acts out during a play session. If you notice your cat engaging in rough or aggressive play during a play session, you can try to correct this behavior by withdrawing your attentions from him.[6]
    • Do this by walking to another room and closing the door. Wait until he calms down before you touch him or address him. This will show him that his bad behavior is upsetting during playtime, and discourage him from acting out again.

Part 3
Adjusting Your Cat’s Environment and Routine

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    Practice good litter box hygiene. If your cat is displaying litter box avoidance, it’s important that you practice good litter box hygiene to encourage him to use the litter box. This means scooping and changing the litter every day, cleaning the litter box once a week, and making sure the litter box is appealing to your cat. Most cats do not like litter boxes with hoods or liner, as it can be uncomfortable for them, so avoid using a litter box with a hood or a liner.[7]
    • If there are multiple cats in your household, there should be a litter box for each cat, plus an extra litter box. Try to spread out the litter boxes so each cat has enough room and privacy to do their business. Look for a quiet area in the home where your cat can still look around and see if anyone is coming up behind her.
    • Make sure the litter box is big enough for your cat to sit in comfortably and have one to two inches of litter in the box. Cats dislike litter boxes that are too deep with litter.
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    Provide scratching posts and daily play sessions. Most cats act out due to boredom or under stimulation, so it is important that you commit to daily play sessions with your cat. Use a toy, or several toys, when playing with your cat to deter him from playing rough with your hands or arms. Focus his attention on the toys during the play sessions and switch up the toys each week so he does not get bored.[8]
    • Scratching posts are also good for deterring your cat from scratching furniture or other fabric objects. Place scratching posts in communal areas of your home or your cat’s favorite spots.
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    Use cat pheromones to reduce stress in the home. If your cat is urine marking or urine spraying, it can help to use a synthetic cat pheromone in the home. It can reduce stress and prevent your cat from urine marking if he is feeling anxious or fearful.[9]
    • This pheromone is usually delivered through a diffuser or a spray and can be found at your local pet store.

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