The type of behaviors that your cat exhibits that you want to change will depend on where you live as well as your own personal preferences. It’s different in different households. However, one cat behavior most people agree is irritating is scratching. We’re not just talking scratching furniture here, either (although that is annoying, too, but can be taken care of with a scratching post). We’re talking scratching YOU.
While it won’t be possible to completely avoid ever getting scratched by your cat–unless you de-claw him, which is cruel and should never be done to a feline animal–you can reduce the instance of it with some basic behavior training. Making sure your cat always feels safe around you and everyone else in the household will prevent a lot of scratches, because cats scratch, in part, to defend themselves. Cats also scratch inadvertently when they play, and you can discourage this by firmly pushing your cat’s paws away from you and saying “No” whenever he scratches in play. You can also put plastic caps called Soft Paws on your cat’s claws. These are glued on and last several weeks before needing to be replaced, and can prevent scratches of all kinds while allowing your cat to flex his claws like he wants to.
Most people also dislike spraying, which is mainly a problem with un-neutered male cats, but can be done by any cat under the right circumstances. Cats spray to mark their territory, and this is quite natural. Even female cats will do this. You can discourage spraying in the home by buying a synthetic spray from the pet store. This spray will mimic the pheromones of another cat and will discourage your cat from spraying where he thinks another cat has sprayed.
Cats also like to jump up on high places, but many humans dislike it when the cat jumps up on the kitchen counters. You can discourage this by placing sticky strips or tin foil wherever you don’t want your cat to jump. The cat will not like the stickiness or the noise the foil makes, and will eventually stop jumping up where you don’t want him.
Finally, you will want to (most likely) discourage your cat from biting. Biting is a natural cat behavior, but it can be painful to you. Cats usually only do it in play, unless they’ve been de-clawed (in which case it becomes a neurotic or defensive behavior). Just push him gently away from you or put him on the floor whenever he bites and he will soon learn that this is not an acceptable behavior for him to perform with you.
It’s important to remember that our natural habitat is not the same as our cat’s. Therefore, in order for us to live harmoniously together, we must establish ground rules for the cat to live by while it’s in our territory while still allowing it to behave as a cat. Your cat needs to be able to engage in all of its normal behaviors, or it could become neurotic. However, that does not mean that bad behavior should be tolerated. You need to change bad behavior into good behavior, and do it in a way that keeps the bond between you and your pet strong. You don’t want your cat to view you as the enemy, which can happen during training sessions if you’re not careful.
So how can you train your cat so that his behavior is acceptable in your world and still remain friends? The answer is to make sure it is clear that YOU are the boss, but to establish your authority with affection and kindness. Cats won‘t respect you if they feel like they are in charge or that you‘re equals. They need to know you‘re in charge. You establish your authority by rewarding your cat handsomely with treats and affection when he does good things, and by being patient but firm in getting him to change negative behaviors without resorting to abuse, such as yelling or hitting.
It is natural for cats to follow authority. From the time they are born, they are conditioned to obey their mothers. So, you have to become the de facto mother to your cat. You can establish yourself in this role by picking your cat up by the scruff of the neck. This is how mother cats carry their kittens. The skin on the scruff is loose, so it is easy to hold onto and doesn’t hurt the cat. Try it. Your cat will likely go limp and just hang there as he would with is mother. You can do this with adult cats as well as kittens, and it is one of the most important things you can do in starting to train your cat.
Once you’ve learned to pick up your cat by the scruff of the neck, simply do so whenever you see him doing something he shouldn’t do. Just pick him up by the scruff and move him to another location. It won’t be long before he gets the message.
Of course, you’ll need some sort of alternative stimulation for your cat so he doesn’t keep going back to the same bad behaviors. Keep him entertained with plush and squeaky toys, catnip, moving toys, and paper bags. Cats love these things, and you’ll soon find your cat is engaging himself in the right way, rather than the wrong way to get along with you in your home.
Cats are cute. However, they’re also bossy. As humans, we can’t seem to resist the cuteness of our feline friends, and we end up letting them run the house. The cute, cuddly cat catches on quickly that we’ll give him anything he wants, and the next thing you know, your entire life is being run by his whims. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, and you can’t really have a happy life with your cat when the cat is in charge. Therefore, every cat needs some basic training for a more harmonious life with its human companions.
The first, most basic thing you need to teach your cat is how to use the litter box. Believe it or not, cats are not born with an innate knowledge of how to use the box. If you bring kitty home and neglect litter box training, you’ll soon be coming home from work or school to some unpleasant surprises. Fortunately, it’s easy to teach your cat to use the litter box, as using it conforms to some of their most natural instincts.
The easiest way to teach your cat to use the box is to place him in it after each meal until he gets the hint. It shouldn’t take long. Cats evolved in the desert, and have a natural instinct to “go” in the sand. Most cat litter has the consistency of sand, so it isn’t a huge leap for kitty to figure out the box is where to leave his waste. Since cats are very clean creatures who want to mask their presense from other cats, they already have the instinct to cover up what they leave in the box, so your cat’s box should never get too messy if you clean it often enough. If there IS a consistent mess, your pet may have a health problem, such as diabetes, and should be checked by a vet.
If you’re bringing home an adult cat who has already been litter box trained, getting him to use the box at your house is as simple as showing him where it is immediately upon bringing him home for the first time. He’ll remember where it is the next time he needs it.
The next most important thing for house cats to learn is to not scratch up your furniture. Scratching is a natural instinct for a cat. It helps them relieve stress, as well as assists them in shedding the outer sheath of their claws to keep them sharp. Your cat is GOING to scratch. You can’t stop it. But you CAN give him a better place to do it.
There’s no excuse to not have at least one, and preferably more than one, scratching post for your pet. Then, if you see your cat scratching your furniture, immediately pick him up and take him to his scratching post, placing his claws gently against the post. This will teach him that this is the appropriate place to scratch, and he’ll eventually go straight for the nearest scratching post when he feels the need to scratch. In the meantime, you can buy certain sprays from the pet store that you can spritz on your furniture to deter kitty from scratching there.
Next, you need to teach your cat to ride in a carrier. If you take vacations and want to bring your cat along (or if you don’t have anyone at home to take care of him when you’re away), carrier training is essential. It’s also necessary for your cat to travel in a carrier if you’re moving to a new home, or taking him to the vet. Start with this training as early as possible, putting a favorite blanket or toy and a treat in the carrier. Then, gently coax kitty inside. Make the first few trips pleasant ones, just drives around town, so your cat won’t associate the carrier with something unpleasant. Soon, your cat will run straight into the carrier whenever you open it up for him.
The most important thing to remember when training a cat is that the earlier you start, the more likely the training is to stick. The older and more set in his ways a cat gets, the harder it will be to break him of any bad habits or teach him anything new. That’s not to say an older cat can’t be trained, because they can. It will just take longer and require more effort on your part. But if your cat is doing anything that’s unacceptable to you, teaching him good behavior for your household is key to you living happily together. Training time can even become bonding time and bring the two of you closer together if you do it nicely and gently (and there’s never any reason why you shouldn’t).