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Cats And Discipline Don't Mix

Nov 4, 2011 · Updated Dec 1, 2013 · ·
  1. Anne

    Why You Should Never Punish Your Cat

    The words discipline and cats should never be used in the same sentence. A cat does not respond to discipline in a positive learning fashion. Rubbing a cat's nose in a recent urine stain on your carpet is liable to get you either bit or scratched or start a resentment streak in your normally laid-back cat. Cats when restrained, even briefly will fight back vigorously. They have no way of knowing that they have displeased you. All they know is something bigger than they are is holding them against their will.

    Every time I surf into a cat board and read that members are using squirt bottles on their cats, I cringe. If you are using a squirt bottle to achieve a behavior modification, I urge you to stop. All you are doing is instilling fear into your cat. You are traveling from friend to predator in your cat's mind because you are scaring her with something by nature most cats hate (unless she is a Turkish Van or another special breed) and that is water. Heaven help you if you have administered this form of punishment on your cat and then find you have to bathe her for medical reasons. Bathing a cat is difficult enough, but bathing a cat that has good reason to be terrified of water is twice as tough. Add to the scare factor of the squirt bottle the scenario of you shooting your cat with spray as she is running from you, and you accidentally get water in her ear, then you are faced with a problem. Getting water in a cat's ear will upset the PH balance and make your cat vulnerable to ear infections. This may lead to hefty vet bills before it clears up.

    Cats need guidance, teaching tempered with love, and patience. You need to understand their basic nature and their instincts. If, for example, you have a cat that is peeing outside the litter box, the most important thing to do first of all, is to get the cat to a vet to rule out a health problem. Don't head for the squirt bottle, or the noisy can full of rocks, head for the phone and call your vet.

    Once the cat has been given the "all clear" health-wise then you need to look at the environment and ask yourself what has changed? Have you added something new to the household, changed the furniture added a second or third kitty, or a new puppy? Is the litter pan clean? Is it big enough? Did you put enough litter in it? If you have one cat, you should have two litter pans. Have you changed cat foods recently?

    Think of your situation as a giant jigsaw puzzle and start putting the pieces together until they fit.

    There will always be a reason why a cat is acting out. Acting out is not a good enough reason to reach for a squirt bottle. Instead, reach inside yourself and find the right solution and solve the problem that way. In the long run it is the best way to stay friends with your cat. She will thank you for taking the time to work out the problem, instead of creating more problems in the long run for her.

    Written by Mary Anne Miller
    Mary Anne Miller is a free-lance writer, and member of the Cat Writers' Association. She is a web copy writer, and passionate about feral cats/kittens and bottle babies. You can read more by Mary Anne at her Feral Cat Behavior Blog.

    Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

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  1. madamenordica
    I ditched the bottle after the first time or two because I felt the cat emotionally pull away from me. HOWEVER....I'm still trying to get him to quit the biting - it's the most bizarre thing I've ever seen - he'll rub his head against you for petting, get your hand on him, then bite.
  2. diann wilson
    I agree about not using the squirt bottle.  I used one to stop my kitten from drawing blood but all it did was make her afraid of the squirt bottle.
  3. juliek1975
    I don't agree with this article, I've always used the squirt bottle for training my cats not to jump on counters and tables and it only took once or twice and they never did it again. My cats never hated me for it or feared me, they are the most loving cats, as said above, I think it depends on the cat. As said above, its like spanking children, controversial, but not wrong when used correctly.
      hfotch purraised this.
  4. belle8bete
    Actually, after trying everything else, I used the squirt bottle to stop my cat from getting on the table (I did adhesive for a month, odor sprays, booby traps, pennies in the can, clapping/loud noise, etc). I've only had to squirt him twice and he got the message. He still cuddles, purrs, and sleeps in my bed at night.
    I think it really depends upon the cat. This kitty was an orphan and I became the only mother he's ever had. Since, unlike a momma cat, I will not whack him on the head, I had to use a squirt bottle. The only other time I used it was when he jumped up and latched onto my arms, not understanding to inhibit his bite (because he had no litter mates, he doesn't understand when to stop). After struggling with him being bitey for almost a whole year (having tried a variety of methods), the squirt bottle incident has put a stop to that behavior.
    In short: the squirt bottle is a last resort, and you need to know your cat, and you need to be really specific when you use it. Perhaps it is akin to spanking a child, which is another area of contention for some people.
    I would never use the squirt bottle on my other cat, who was on the streets before I adopted her...she is much more sensitive. She also doesn't jump on the counters though: she did once, but I clapped my hands and never went back.
    Oh, and yes, he has a lot of vertical areas to use....including, but not limited to, his own "three story" box fort with about seven "rooms" to explore and climb on.
  5. Anne
    Kavita, please post your question to the Cat Behavior forums. It's not something that can be answered in comments to an article.
  6. kavita amrita
    so what do you suggest to do for a kitty that hisses and bites and growls? :(
  7. bigperm20
    I agree about not disciplining cats with a squirt bottle. I'm not a new cat owner, but I am back in the cat game after a a 5 year hiatus. I just wish there was a sure-fire way to stop bad behavior (i.e. acting out) when it seems that more bad behavior only begats more bad behavior.
  8. pamela derouen
    I totally agree!
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