How do I discipline my cat?

Cats are a lot harder to discipline and train than dogs. You can't use the same methods - mainly because cats dislike different things and respond to different things. So what are the do's and don'ts of cat discipline?


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The Do's

Cats dislike sudden, surprising things. For cat behavioral training, you can try a number of tactics - water spray bottles are a good one. Don't soak the cat, but shock it by spraying it once as a punishment for whatever you're trying to discourage. You can also use sudden, loud sounds - saying "NO", slamming your hand on the table, clapping, etc.

Remember that the point of what you're trying to do is behavior training - you want to train the cat to associate the sudden, negative surprise with the bad behavior so the cat won't do it. Make sure the "penalty" is immediate and not delayed. If your cat chews up the plants and you find it three hours later, yelling at him or spraying him isn't going to register. He won't get why, and he won't associate it with chewing on plants. It may actually hurt the training because the punishment seems random to the cat. Sometimes it happens when she is doing the bad behavior, sometimes it happens for no reason apparent to the cat. The cat needs to learn cause and effect - bad behavior leads to noise or wetness.

Also - train when they are young. It's easiest then - don't put it off until later.

The Don'ts

Don't use physical force of any kind - spanking, etc., and don't rely on trying to intimidate your cat. Many people do this because it's the way some people train dogs. Dogs are pack animals. They have strict hierarchies - alpha male, beta male, omega male. The lower males defer to the alpha male - that's why you can train a dog by intimidating it into doing what you want. Intimidation makes them think you are higher up than them in the "pack." Cats don't do this - they are lone animals in the wild and they aren't going to understand you being the "master." They just see you being a threat.

You can also look into a number of books on the subject:

How to Get Your Cat to Do What You Want by Warren and Fay Eckstein

This is a book by a pet behaviorist and a pet psychologist husband and wife. They cover the basic training problems (eating plants, house training, travel, etc.) along with more advanced stuff like walking cats on a leash.

50 Ways to Train Your Cat by Sally Franklin

This is another good book - a lot shorter, but it's focused on methodology. It also shows you some ways to teach your cats basic tricks like sitting and rolling over. Harder to do than with dogs, but a lot more satisfying if you successfully get them to do it.

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