How To Train Your Cat

If you have a cat, especially with behavior problems such as scratching, not using the litter box, or meowing all night long, you may be wondering how to train her to get her to do what you want.

  1. Positive reinforcement is better than negative. It's better to catch your cat using the litter box or using the scratching post and reward her with positive words, petting and a treat, than it is to yell at your cat when you find urine on your carpet. If your cat is meowing for attention, yelling at her gives her what she wants. Don't yell at her, but give her a toy to play with until you can play with her. Cats are smart and if she's learned you'll yell at her for misbehavior, she'll just misbehave when you're not around, or in a spot you're not likely to catch for a while.
  2. Give your cat something to do. Many cats misbehave because they're bored, especially if they're indoor cats. Make sure your cat has plenty of toys to play with, and that you spend time with her, playing and petting her. Cats are more similar to dogs than many people will admit. Like dogs, cats like attention, bond to their owners and enjoy playing. If you don't have a lot of time to spend with your cat, you may want to consider getting another cat for your cat to play with.

  3. Make the misbehavior less appealing. If your cat is urinating on the carpet or a piece of furniture, clean up the stain and the smell so your cat has to find a new spot, hopefully the litter box (tips to clean cat urine). You can also cover the area with aluminum foil--most cats don't like the texture and sound of aluminum foil. If your cat is scratching furniture or drapes, perhaps putting double-sided sticky tape on the area, spritzing a citrus scent, or taping aluminum foil to the area would discourage them. If you don't want your cat on the counter, spritz a citrus scent on your counters or cover them with aluminum foil.
  4. Set your cat up for success. If your cat meows or is destructive when she's out of water or food, make sure your cat doesn't run out of these things. Feed and water your pet before you leave the house and before you go to bed. Keep your cat busy with toys and attention. If your cat has a litter box problem, make sure you're cleaning the litter box twice a day. If your cat has a scratching problem, make sure you have a scratching post your cat wants to use.
  5. Negative reinforcement. Some experts recommend shaking a noisy item such as coins in an aluminum can or squirting your cat quickly with a squirt bottle when she misbehaves. Unfortunately, this usually teaches your cat to misbehave when you can't see it and doesn't eliminate the problem. Time-outs may work for some cats, but many cats will retaliate by misbehaving when you can't see it.
  6. Other tips to encourage to your cat not to misbehave:
    • Dried red peppers or citrus peels in your flower beds or potted plants to prevent digging and using these areas as litter boxes.
    • Bitter apple (product in pet stores) or citrus scents squirted in the areas your cat urinates on or scratches.
    • Sometimes a buzzing sound or a loud pitched sound can startle your cat into stopping the poor behavior. Do not use this method constantly because your cat will become used to it.
    • Consider getting another cat so your cat isn't bored during the day when you're working or if you can't spend a lot of time with your cat.
  7. Be consistent when you're trying to train your cat.


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