Cat Behavior Problems [What to do and what not to do]

Cat Behavior Problems [What to do and what not to do]Are you frustrated by your cat's behavior? Thinks that your cat may have a behavior problem? Does she scratch that expensive leather sofa? Does he bite the hand that pets? Or maybe they're pooping outside the litter box?

Do you think you want to correct the behavior but aren't sure how? You've come to the right place!

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In this article, we'll discuss cat behavior problems - what they are, and what you need to do to fix them. We'll also talk about what you should not do to try and modify feline behavior issues.

Here are the top 9 cat behavior problems that people bring up in the cat behavior forum - 

  1. Litter box problems
  2. Cat aggression toward people
  3. Cat attacking other cats
  4. Scratching furniture
  5. Cat waking owner up at night
  6. Not being friendly enough (or being too friendly)
  7. An overly vocal cat
  8. Chewing household objects
  9. Excessive self-grooming

We'll go over these, what the causes may be and what solutions you need to apply. We'll also discuss behavior modification techniques and why you should never ever punish your cat.

The key here is to understand how a cat "works." If you understand that and accommodate Kitty's needs adequately, you have a much better chance of enjoying a happy and problem-free pet.

Common Cat Problems

Let's take a quick list of common complaints that we hear from cat owners who post in our cat behavior forum. Some of these are natural cat behaviors that need to be redirected. Others are actual problems derived from medical issues or stress. With some, it's a mix.

1. Litter box problems

Furry cat walking around litter box

The most frustrating of all cat behavior problems are the ones that involve inappropriate elimination. Most kitties are very good about using the litter box, which is part of their allure as a house pet. There's no need to take your cat out for daily walks. All you need to do is provide them with a litter box, right?

Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

When a cat begins to pee or poop outside the litter box, you have a problem on your hand. The key to solving it? Figuring out why your cat stopped using the box. There are three main possible reasons -

a. Kitty has a medical problem

There are a variety of medical conditions that could lead to pain during urination or defecation. When that happens, your cat will begin to associate the litter box with pain, making him or her avoid that spot.

Urinary tract issues can be particularly persistent and recurrent. More often than not, if a cat begins to pee outside the box, he or she has developed a form of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder or FLUTD. What you have on your hands is a medical problem. You need to make an appointment with your vet ASAP.

In the case of a male cat that is straining to urinate, generating only small amounts of urine at a time, you could be dealing with a medical emergency: urinary tract blockage.

In addition to the pain and discomfort, this could be a life-threatening situation within a matter of hours. Call your vet immediately.

Do not attempt to correct the behavioral problem before you have the “all clear” from the vet. A sick kitty has no control over its elimination pattern. Anything other than quietly cleaning up after your cat is pointless. Even reprimanding the cat would do nothing but add to its stress, potentially complicating both the medical and behavioral problems.

The solution

Take your cat to the veterinarian. They will diagnose the condition and treat it. Only once the cat is no longer in pain, can you start re-training her to use the litter box again.

b. The litter box is not set up properly

Your cat should have a large, easily accessible, and clean litter box available to them at all times. Many cats do better with two boxes, especially in a larger home. If you have more than one cat, you should have even more litter pans. Ideally, one per cat, plus one additional box. So, for two cats, you should set out three litter boxes. Four cats? You need five litter boxes. And so on.

The solution

Learn more about how to properly set up the litter box and fix any issues you might have.

c. Your cat is stressed out

Stress can affect cats in many ways. In some cats, stress can trigger a medical condition called Feline Idiopathic Cystitis, where Kitty's bladder is inflamed. The stress could lead to peeing outside the box. While the condition is medical, it's often triggered by anxiety.

The solution

Try to reduce the stress in your cat's life. You could do this by making some changes around the home. In some cases, a veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety drugs to treat the problem.

Fixing litter box problems

With so many potential reasons for litter box avoidance, where do you begin?

Start by talking to your veterinarian. Medical issues must be ruled out (or diagnosed and treated) before you can begin to address this particular problem. Next, you have to take a close look at how the litter box is set up, as well as at Kitty's overall stress levels.

To help you out, we've created this guide to litter box problems in cats. It will take you through the various steps you need to take to fix this issue.

2. Cat aggression toward people

Cat attacking owner biting cloth

Our beloved kitties come equipped with teeth and claws. When they use these against other people in our home or us, the result can be painful. In some cases, it can even be dangerous, at these wounds tend to become infected.

However, not every cat scratch or bite is an indication of an actual aggression problem.

Playtime aggression in kittens is perfectly normal. You just need to learn how to redirect it to an appropriate toy. Read here on how to stop playtime aggression in cats.

Some cats practice love bites occasionally. These are perfectly harmless, but if they bother you, there are ways to teach Kitty to stop. Read here about cat love bites.

And yes, sometimes, you have an actual problem of severe cat aggression. And again, the key here is to figure out why Kitty bit or scratched you.

Other times, a cat may be displaying redirected aggression. Something else scared Kitty. Sometimes all it takes is seeing (or even smelling) a strange cat outside the home. Fear then drives the cat into a "Fight or Flight" mode, at which point, anyone attempting to touch or pick her up, may be on the receiving end of a full-blown "Fight response".

Rule out physical problems first

Your cat may have attacked because she is in pain due to injury or illness. When an unsuspecting owner touches a sore spot, a cat may instinctively lash out to stop the pain. This may be the first - or even only - clue that lets you know that Kitty is not well.

Aggressive behavior, in general, whether directed at humans, dogs, or other cats, can be a sign of a physical problem. Pain-induced aggression is a genuine thing. If your otherwise calm and playful kitty suddenly becomes “nasty,” she could be in pain. The cause may be an abscessed tooth, an earache, or another ailment, not necessarily related to being touched. It could also be a neurological condition, affecting the cat’s perception of its surroundings and making it lash out. When unexpected or unusual aggression starts, head to the vet for a checkup.

Again, do not try to address the issue using behavioral measures before you get the “all clear” from the vet. You won’t be able to change the cat’s behavior, and you could be neglecting a medical problem that needs immediate attention.

The solution

When cats attack, the key to the solution is to identify the cause and address whatever it is that triggers the attacks. To help you out, we've created several in-depth guides on aggressive behaviors. You should start by reading this one: Why do cats attack?

3. Cat attacking other cats

Cats aggressively fighting each other

Next on our list of common complaints is another form of feline aggression. This time we're talking about cats that attack other cats and sometimes other pets in your home. You might be dealing with sporadic attacks, often following a visit to the veterinarian.

Or you could be dealing with an ongoing war between two or more of your kitties. Sometimes cats simply don't get along with one another, especially if they were not properly introduced or if they need to compete over access to food or litter boxes.

These situations can be very stressful for the cats involved, as well as for the owner.

The solution

Again, you need to figure out what's wrong and address the root of the problem. Make sure the cats have enough space, including access to enough food and an adequate number of litter boxes.

If the cats were not properly introduced, you might need to temporarily separate them and then go through the introductions phase again.

These guides may help you solve the issue:

Why do cats attack

Redirected aggression in cats

How To Deal With Non-recognition Aggression In Cats

How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction

4. Scratching furniture

Cat digging its claws into couch

Felines have a natural urge to scratch certain objects in their territories. Lions, for example, claw at trees. This is a form of territorial marking, but the act in itself provides the cat (big or small) with a sense of contentment and stress release. It also helps keep the claws sharp and healthy.

In a way, scratching the furniture or carpets is not a behavior problem. It certainly does not indicate that there's something wrong with the cat. You could say the problem is with us humans, who prefer to keep our furniture intact.

The solution

Let's start by saying what is NOT an acceptable solution. Declawing your cat is a painful and cruel procedure that is illegal in most countries. The American Association of Feline Practioners also strongly opposes declawing. Even if it happens to be legal where you live, please do not declaw your cat. Check out our article about declawing and its alternatives to learn more about the topic.

So, what can you do?

You need to provide Kitty with adequate scratching posts. The scratching posts should be sturdy, heavy, large enough, and stable. You should offer more than one, preferably using varied types, some horizontal and some vertical, and with a variety of textures.

Once your cat has a suitable scratching post that they seem to like, you can start blocking access to the furniture that you want to protect, gradually teaching your cat where scratching is allowed.

Read more here: 23 Proven Ways To Stop A Cat From Scratching Furniture

5. Cat waking you up at night

Cat owner waking up because of cat meowing

Getting a good night's sleep can be challenging for many people. So when Kitty comes over to wake you up at 4 AM, it's perfectly natural not to be happy about it.

It's natural for your cat to be awake when you're trying to get some shuteye. Humans and felines live by different biological clocks. While we're diurnal creatures, designed to sleep when it's dark outside, our cats are crepuscular animals. That means they tend to be most active during dusk and dawn.

Up and about, bored, and possibly hungry, your cat may try to wake you up. After all, from the feline point of view, their owner has a behavior problem. Why else would they be sleeping in at these critical times of the day!

The solution

Solving this particular problem calls for making adjustments. You'll need to make sure your cat is getting enough stimuli when you're up and about, and then teach the cat that waking you up at night doesn't pay off.

Read more: our detailed step-by-step plan for breaking Kitty's habit of waking you up at night.

6. Not being friendly enough (or being too friendly)Cat staring at camera making weird face

When adopting a cat, most people have their expectations as to how friendly the cat should be. However, just like humans, cats have their own personalities, with some being more social than others.

That's when we hear complaints from both ends of the spectrum. Some owners complain that their cat is shy, reserved, or "doesn't love them," while others complain that their cat is too clingy.

The solution

In most cases, there is no real "cat behavior problem" here. Cat owners just need to accept that their cat may have a different personality than they had hoped for. With time, they learn to get to know their new furry friend, and both sides adjust to each other's needs and preferences.

If you're dealing with a particularly shy cat, the kind that tends to hide under the bed, there are ways to make him or her more comfortable. Take a minute to read these tips for living with a shy cat to learn more.

7. An overly vocal catCat staring and meowing making an angry face

Kitty going around your home, meowing loudly? For some people, that can become a real problem.

When and how often your cat tends to make these loud sounds matters. Some cats tend to meow often, and loudly. Others are quieter by nature. If you know your cat, he or she seems otherwise happy, and they're just talkative, that's fine. However, if your cat has changed their vocalization patterns and has begun to meow more, possibly even howl, you need to pay attention.

The solution

Sudden onset of extreme vocalization requires medical attention. It could be a sign that your cat is either in pain or disoriented. With young unspayed females, loud meowing and howling could mean your cat is coming into heat, in which case, please get her spayed asap.

8. Chewing household objects

Cute white cat biting into basket possibly hungry

Kitty chewing on stuff? Maybe even making holes in your favorite sweater or blanket? When a cat sucks or chews on things, this could be normal behavior. Especially in kittens.

Kittens, much like babies, experience a teething phase. As they lose their baby teeth and grow a set of permanent teeth, chewing on things can help them alleviate the discomfort.

In some rare cases, cats suffer from a disorder called pica. That's when a cat chews and ingests things that aren't food. Pica in cats often involves wool and may be a sign of nutritional deficiencies, or stress.

The solution

If you suspect your cat has pica, talk to your veterinarian. Otherwise, if you have a kitten or young cat that keeps chewing on household items, read this article on how to stop destructive chewing behavior in cats.

9. Excessive self-grooming

Cat licking its body extensively

Cats are known for being clean animals, primarily due to their habit of grooming themselves by licking the fur. Sometimes, self-grooming can become excessive, to the point of creating bald spots.

Excessive self-grooming is often caused by stress, though some cats are more prone to the behavior. Other times, fleas or some skin issues could be at the root of this habit.

The solution

Start by talking to your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems. Once medical issues have been treated - or ruled out - it's time to consider stress reduction techniques.

Other issues

The conditions covered above reflect some of the more common complaints we see from cat owners in the cat behavior forum. There are many others, though. If you think that you have a cat behavior problem on your hand, we encourage you to join our community and post your question in that forum.

How to address any cat behavior problem

Moving beyond specific issues, let's discuss the right approach for dealing with any feline behavioral issue.

Are you faced with a cat behavior problem? Here are the steps you need to follow.

  1. Find out if this a typical feline behavior
  2. Discuss the problem with your veterinarian
  3. Offer Kitty a solution to the need or problem
  4. Use positive reinforcement techniques to eliminate the cat's unwanted behavior

You must follow all four steps, in that order. Don't try to stop the behavior without understanding it first and providing viable solutions to your cat's needs. And whatever you do - never punish your cat.

Let's take a close look at each of these steps.

1. Find out if this a common kitty behavior

The first order of the day is to understand the behavior.

More often than not, the behavior is perfectly normal for a cat. Here are some examples -

  1. Scratching objects in our home is natural behavior for any cat.
  2. Biting the hand that reaches out to her during playtime is just what any kitten would do.

That does not mean you have to accept bite marks on your hands or ruined couches. Understanding the behavior helps you understand the motivation or need behind it. Providing a suitable outlet for that need would be the first step towards fixing the problem.

What if this isn't a typical feline behavior?

Not all behaviors fall under the "this is what cats do" category.

For example, peeing outside the litter box is not something that should be happening. If this is what's happening, there's cause for concern. You're going to have to check for medical problems first, and then employ various techniques to get your cat to revert to employing that natural cat instinct of using the litter.

Not sure if your cat's behavioral issue is normal feline behavior, a developmental stage, or an actual problem? Visit our cat behavior articles section and learn more on the topic, or visit our cat behavior forum and ask.

2. Work with Your Veterinarian

If your cat appears to have a behavior problem, consider medical issues. Check out our list of 35 things that may be a sign that your cat in pain. You'll notice that most of these are behavioral.

Your vet should rule out any physical problems before you can move on to address behavioral ones. While many vets are not experts on feline behavior, they can often refer you to a behaviorist and also help with stress-reducing medications, either as a temporary measure during behavior modification or a permanent solution. Read more about Anti-Anxiety Medication for Cats.

3. Provide Solutions

You can't teach your cat to behave in a certain way unless you address the root cause of the behavior. In the case of litter box issues, for example, you should use our guide to How To Stop Your Cat From Scratching The Furniture.

Remember, solutions and alternatives always come before correcting the behavior.

4. Use Positive Reinforcement Techniques

Depending on the type of behavior you're dealing with, positive reinforcement using praise and treats may work. Specific techniques are described in our various cat behavior guides and articles.

Stay Calm and Positive

Whatever your cat is doing, don't lose your temper. Cats do not do things "for spite" or out of vengeance. They are incapable of such complex motivations. Your cat is doing what she's doing either because she is physically ill or because one of her basic needs isn't met. That's it. So don't get angry and don't take this personally.

What Not to do when your cat has a behavior problem

Unfortunately, when facing what they consider to be a problem behavior, some owners try to punish the cat. They assume that the cat will somehow understand what he or she is doing "wrong" and change their ways. This isn't how modifying cat behavior works.

With that in mind, we wanted to cover the "Don't's" of cat behavior modification too.

Don't ever hit or otherwise physically hurt your cat.

Hitting or hurting your cat is pet abuse, plain and simple. It achieves nothing except distrust and potential stress-related problems.

Don't punish your cat

Cats don't understand the concept of punishment. Withholding food, confining a cat to a room, or any other method of punishment is a recipe for stress and stress-induced problems. It is possible to use confinement to a room as a way to allow the cat to calm down in a stimuli-free environment, but it should never be used as punishment.

Avoid shouting at your cat

Shouting can make a nervous cat even more nervous and more prone to behavior problems. Annoyed as you may be, avoid shouting at or near a cat.

Don't use spray bottles or air pressure cans

These are likely to startle and scare nervous cats and cause more problems. Moreover, they make the cat associate you - the owner - with something scary and unpleasant.

Read more: 5 reasons to never spray your cat with water.

Don't DeclawCat crawling at cotton showing its claws

Declawing is not a solution to either furniture clawing or aggressive behavior. It is a painful procedure that could potentially cause more behavior problems down the road.

Read more about declawing here - Declawing and Alternatives

Have patience - solving behavior problems takes time

When a cat doesn't behave in the way you expect them to, it can be extremely frustrating. It's up to us as responsible pet owners to overcome the frustration and work on fixing the problem.

Fortunately, cat experts have developed many useful techniques to help owners solve cat behavior problems. But here's the rub: Techniques are often not enough. You also need generous amounts of the magic ingredient:


Why patience is so important

Cats are creatures of habit.

Behavioral problems often mean a troublesome habit has been formed. Breaking that habit will involve making some changes that will address the underlying cause. Next, some amount of re-training may be required as well.

And that takes time.

During that time, you will probably need to create positive associations with the desired behavioral pattern (and possibly negative associations with the old pattern). Changing habits takes time simply because learning takes constant and consistent repetition, above everything else.

You will also have to reduce the overall amount of stress in your cat's life. Remember, stress can make any behavioral problem worse. If you get frustrated, you're far more likely to shout at your cat, groan and moan and otherwise show signs of anger. Your cat will pick up on that, and chances are it will stress him or her. This, in turn, can result in making the behavioral problem worse. Your own stress levels can affect your cat.

You may be asking yourself how it is possible keep patient while your cat is avoiding the litterbox or is otherwise misbehaving?

The key here is to understand that Kitty is not trying to aggravate you. He or she is not out there taking revenge on you or trying to do something "for spite". Your cat could be ill, stressed, disoriented or just unclear as to how to "be a cat" in your home.

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

24 comments on “Cat Behavior Problems [What to do and what not to do]

ELLIE MOHAMMED June 22, 2021
Find the purr-fect way to communicate with your cat—or understand why your kitty's already said its meow.
Afton Jackson March 29, 2021
Thank you so much for mentioning the excessive self-grooming tendencies of certain cats. This is something I've noticed my own pet cat doing for quite some time now, and I had no idea this can eventually cause bald spots. I'll take the cat to a nearby veterinarian in the area so we can figure out how to stop it from doing that before his fur gets worse.
BigRayFromNC January 28, 2021
I had a problem and issue with my 4 year old Main Coon Cat defecating and urinating all over my house. He never did this before and I was appalled and shocked he was doing this. His Cat pan was always strained and cleaned and always had fresh cat litter in it. There is nothing worst than the offensive odor and stench of Cat urine. One time on a Sunday afternoon, I had some company over and we all were in my living room having coffee and good conversation and all of a sudden my Cat had come walking down the hallway and into the living room and he stopped and then he defecated severe diarrhea right on my living room floor right in front of everyone. It was bad and I mean bad. The odor and stench from it was very offensive and I had to open a lot of windows in my house for the horrible odors to escape. It smelled like a 5 alarm fire at a Michelin tire factory. I was beyond embarrassed and immediately I cleaned it up. Some people got up and left because they couldn't handle the odor and sight of severe cat diarrhea on my living room floor. One Lady almost gagged and threw up from it. After they all left I was confused and puzzled why he was doing this. A light bulb came on above me head and I had changed his cat litter to a different brand and for some reason or another he didn't like it. I ran over to my local Walmart super center and I purchased two 35 pound pails of Tidy Cats cat litter the one I was using. When I got home I immediately dumped out all of the old cat litter in his cat pan, scrubbed and cleaned and then filled it up with the Tidy Cats cat litter I was using. Believe it or not, after I put the Tidy Cats cat litter I was using in his cat pan, he has not urinated or defecated anywhere in my house again. Thank God he stopped urinating and defecating all over my house...!
    DeeJay S. February 4, 2021
    Did you find out why he had diarrhea? Or was he having an allergic reaction to the litter before you changed it back?
ellen levy January 1, 2021
I have a 13 year old rescue cat, not feral. She would have gone to the pound if I didn't take her. It took her a while to come out of hiding, to cuddle and purr. Problem is that she can be comfortably snuggling, purring, bumping her big wet nose on my face (which I have learned to tolerate), and then start hissing, and sometimes biting, and once tried to swat my face with her claw. I've tried shewing her away, raising my voice and saying "NO, or ignoring her. She returns to cuddling and purring a few minutes later. I've had cats my entire adult life, I've never encountered this behavior before. What's up with this? I think she has a multiple personality disorder.
Furballsmom August 18, 2019
RadioactiveCat said:
Hello! I got a kitten at two months old November 29, 2018. Since then he has endured three house moves and now we have been settled for three months and he is acting very weird. As a baby at 2 mo he was very cuddly and since moving he has become more distant? He still tries to nurse on my other cat who is 3, he runs and is skittish and there’s no reason for so. He’s been loved, cuddled, fed, watered and played with. He loves to play with laser lights and eat canned food. When he wants to, he will snuggle up next to me on his own but when he is picked up he freaks out. It takes me at least 10-15 mins of holding him still for him to relax. My older cat who he nurses on is now weaning him (she doesn’t produce milk since she is fixed) so maybe this has a play on it? I’m not sure, let me know your thoughts!
Hi @RadioactiveCat! As is mentioned at the end of the article , you will want to post your question(s) in the forum Cat Behavior The forums are where members will see your posts and will provide you with suggestions, support and advice. If you aren't familiar with forums, there are articles here that can help :) Site Help | TheCatSite
    Furballsmom January 9, 2020
    There is an updated link for this;
RadioactiveCat February 25, 2019
Hello! I got a kitten at two months old November 29, 2018. Since then he has endured three house moves and now we have been settled for three months and he is acting very weird. As a baby at 2 mo he was very cuddly and since moving he has become more distant? He still tries to nurse on my other cat who is 3, he runs and is skittish and there’s no reason for so. He’s been loved, cuddled, fed, watered and played with. He loves to play with laser lights and eat canned food. When he wants to, he will snuggle up next to me on his own but when he is picked up he freaks out. It takes me at least 10-15 mins of holding him still for him to relax. My older cat who he nurses on is now weaning him (she doesn’t produce milk since she is fixed) so maybe this has a play on it? I’m not sure, let me know your thoughts!
nunnc84 December 2, 2018
Lately my older cat is beginning to growl and hiss at me when I pick her up, cut her nails, etc... She has bit me before, not breaking the skin. I got her 8 mo ago. Recently I adopted a rescue cat. The behavior has gotten worse. The new cat and her don’t get along. I don’t know if she is in pain. The vet said she is getting mean as she gets older. What can I do?
cindy j January 4, 2017
I said I do not use the water technique any longer as it does not work. I get how other cats may take it. It's not a big deal for us, no fear. My cats have no fear only love. This is not my first rodeo. My cats are extremely well cared for and well adjusted. . If the only bad thing the kitten does is get on the coffee table at the end of the day it's no big deal. But thank you for the ignore advice and or move her to a toy.
JMJimmy January 4, 2017
It may not be "that big of a deal" with your cat, I have seen the permanent trauma spraying with a water bottle caused in my sister's cat.  That was 25+ years ago, people spraying her to keep her off the counters.  She spent the next 15+ years of her life afraid of everyone but my sister (who never sprayed her), and was sent bolting away any time there was the sound of water.  From the shower to the kitchen faucet to pouring a drink.  The poor thing had a horrible life because we didn't understand what we were doing to her (and it never did keep her off the counters).    If she wants attention and you're not willing to give it at the time, try ignoring her until she goes away or redirect her with a toy.  Cats are creatures of habit so if TV time (or whatever) is cat free time, if you really stick to it (zero reaction to what they're doing) they'll learn they won't get attention during that time.  It'll take a couple weeks of no talking/laughing/staring/petting/pushing away/etc during those times to train them but it can be done.
cindy j January 4, 2017
Thank you.[emoji]128522[/emoji]
cindy j January 4, 2017
I don't see my cat as afraid of the wayer bottle by any means. Bottom line in all this is she wants attention. I already new that was the case. She gets equal attention as my 2 other cats as well. The other siggestions are not helful. I will work it out. Truly it's not that big of a deal.
JMJimmy January 4, 2017
Cindy: it's not a behaviour correction it's a fear response for many cats.  You are choosing to instill fear in your cats (if they are afraid) but the behaviour will continue as soon as you are gone.  They associate the fear with you/the bottle/the sound not the behaviour.  What is generally recommended these days is something like motion activated compressed air.  The reason is that the association is made with the place not the person.  That is the behaviour you're trying to correct, you don't want the cat in that place, by making the place a bad place to be they simply won't want to be there.  Other people suggest things like sticky tape or aluminum foil - the former is bad because the glue transfers then they lick it off, the latter is hit and miss and requires you to cover everything in aluminum foil. :)
cindy j January 4, 2017
What is wrong with using a c water bottle for behavior correction. Like keeping cat off coffee table. I would never squirt my cat in the face. Never. Foot or hind area only. Kitten seems to not care. I am not successful with this anyway. Any suggestions??
Anne October 27, 2016
Most experts think the clip as cruel, for the reasons you mentioned. I still think your suggested technique has more risks than benefits, especially since - like you said - it's very difficult for people to implement without the anger. In most cases, the result will be an even more stressed cat than before, who learns to shy away from his/her owners. Anyway, it's an interesting debate, so why not start a thread about it in the cat behavior forum? More of our active members are likely to see it there.
JMJimmy October 26, 2016
If you're doing it correctly, the only stress is the cat letting go of the anxiety that caused the behaviour in the first place.  I understand the caution though, many people wouldn't be able to stay calm or may shake/harm the cat despite good intentions.  I treat it as an act of compassion not anger.  While I disagree with using a clip like this, as you can't control the pressure and if the cat doesn't deactivate you've got a serious problem... it does illustrate that when you take the emotion out of it and it's strictly bio-mechanical it is something cats can respond to without harm.
Anne October 26, 2016
I'm glad this worked for you but with another cat it could have ended differently. With most cats, what you did would cause more stress than help.
JMJimmy October 26, 2016
I couldn't disagree with this more.  Selective punishment for actual misbehaviour is a very valuable tool.  Let me be clear, I am NOT talking about jumping up somewhere you don't want them, a past behaviour, peeing outside of the box, or anything but the most dangerous behaviours.  The sole instance we use 'punishment' is when one of the cats hunts another.  Not a cat fight, not a dominance issue, but where one cat is actively stalking another with the intent to cause harm.  We yell once.  If that doesn't stop the behaviour, we attempt to dominate by placing our hands behind our backs, no vocalization, and simply stare the cat down.  On rare occasions even that is not enough.  In those cases scruffing is required.  A simple, calm, scruff the back of the neck and slowly guide the cat to the ground.   There can be nothing aggressive in the action or you're just picking a fight with your cat which it will win. Once the cat is on the ground, immediately release.  If done correctly the cat will remain there for up to 5 seconds before getting up, shaking it off, and moving on.    We've used this tool to great effect in preventing our normally very passive Scotty from harming Juniour.  Junior is inexplicably fearful of Scotty and will ambush him.  99% of the time, Scotty avoids conflict and moves on, but every so often Junior will attack and then begin acting like prey and will corner himself.  Scotty would begin hunting him in these cases and it would become a very bad situation, usually ending in Junior defecating on himself.  We attempted every positive technique we could but nothing could stop Junior's fear (he'll eat 2 inches from Scotty every night just fine but still has these 'fear episodes').  The only thing we could do was deter Scotty from the hunting behaviour.  I've scruffed him 4 times in total, now days all we have to do is yell once and possibly approach and he'll come running and lay down near us because he now knows he's not supposed to be hunting him.  This is the result: 
  (Junior is the tabby on the left, Scotty is the fold)  We've gone from nearly daily problems to once every couple weeks and the severity has lessened to the point where Junior hasn't defecated on himself in months.  We can actually observe Scotty about to get into that mindset, pause to think it through, shake his head, and walk away.
Anne September 13, 2016
@Badems Human that's a great question. Why not post about it in the cat behavior forums where other members can help you find ways of keeping dangerous items away from your kitten? We also have an article on the topic here - How To Stop Problem Chewing In Cats
badems human September 13, 2016
So, I don't punish, hit (This I agree), no spray bottles and no shouting. But how will I teach the things that she's not supposed to do, like life threatening things? My kitten picks up things off of the floor and eats them. The other day I caught her trying to pick up a staple. I don't know where she found it. Because I vacuum the floors, every, single, day! Thank god I caught her and interrupted her from picking it up. Every time I see her trying, I try to approach slowly and then distract her. But I can't see her every move. I need to somehow able to teach her this is NOT acceptable. Yesterday she found a small piece f a grocery bag and ate it. I tried to open her mouth and get it out, but then I scared myself that I will hurt her. So, I couldn't manage to take it out of her mouth and she swallowed it in that split second. I really need help with this, if you have any suggestions! Vacuuming everyday apparently is not enough! 
loopycann June 9, 2015
I don't agree with cats nott having memory of unpleasant experiences.I've had cats a long time and I've used the water bottle deterrent.Im gonna get hate mail I'm pretty sure but to me a water bottle has the ability to avoid disaster for my baby.I only use in very dire circumstances.IE,once I had a cat that would dart between the legs out of hiding to reach the outside.She learned 2 years ago that when she's close to front door opening that a sprinkle of dreaded water will be there,thus she stays away from the front door.There are times when the water bottle is used and when it is not.If the behavior puts her in danger then it's used.I also don't see how using it brings blame to the user.If done away from the user(such as across the room)sparingly(once)with calm,quiet aim,she doesn't have ANY CLUE the origin or suffer anything more than an unpleasant light sprinkle.Everyone isn't worthy of this type of discipline because some people are aggressive whenever they have control,be it animal, child ,or spouse.
michifts mommy January 9, 2015
My cat is going through what I think is or could be separation anxiety he calls out and cries/whines a lot when I'm not home and sometimes even when I am home, he has even got 2 of them down to where you would think for sure he is saying mama and I love you and others have also commented on it as well, but after checking things like food, water and box he sometimes still just carries on
jtbo December 2, 2014
I did read sometime ago about a study which stated how cats seemed not to learn from bad experiences, but only from good experiences, it was a study where cat had to escape from a box and it was studied does cat learn how to escape by timing how long it took for cat to escape the box, way to escape was also changed as well as feedback from failed attempts and I think there was no difference of no feedback and negative feedback. It was mentioned that because cat has limited long term memory storage, it is not worth to keep unsuccessful experiences as such are not helping in getting food and they use their memory to get food, they don't need memory for self preservation, thus bad experiences tend not to stick to them, like yelling etc. Also there was mention that cat's short term memory is around 16 hours while human has it around 10-15 seconds, so after 16 hours cat is forgetting everything that is not worth to keep, like loud scary noises and such. I can't remember how many things cat could keep on short term memory, for human that was 4-9 with 7 being some kind of average, 4 being more common for older people. I guess that study shows quite well why negative feedback just does not work so well compared to positive feedback. But remember we are only humans

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