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How To Tell Your Cat Not to Do Something

How To Tell Your Cat Not to Do Something

Cats don’t have a moral sense of right and wrong. On occasion, you may find your pet doing things that upset you. Perhaps your cat jumps on the counter, knocks things over or scratches your household items. They may even steal food, chew on wires or miss their litter box when going to the bathroom. And you may be tempted to discipline your cats by hitting them, yelling at them or spraying them with water, these forms of punishment will damage your relationship with your pet. Harsh discipline does not teach your cat to behave.  It simply teaches them to be afraid of you. In this blog, we will discuss how to tell your cats not to do something and how to help them understand when you don’t approve of their behaviour.

Do cats understand when you say no?

Cats don’t understand human language. This means that cats don’t understand the word no. However, they can be taught to understand that saying no means you want them to stop what they are doing. If your cat is performing a behaviour that you want them to stop, say no firmly with strong body language, remove them from the activity and move them onto something more preferable. Repeating this will help the cat get used to the sound associating it with being told off.  Make sure the sound of no carries some weight and identification, and highlight the displeasure in your voice by saying no firmly and authoritatively without shouting. As well as saying no looking the cat in the eye and hissing at them. When you give the command you might feel a bit silly doing this but cats understand this noise and behaviour and are more likely to realise that the word no has negative associations with their behaviour. Body language also has a significant part to play in how well your cat grasps the command.  Using your finger to point at your cat while saying no is an effective way to get your cat’s attention.

How do you stop bad behaviour?  

Sometimes saying the word no alone isn’t enough to stop your cat from doing what it shouldn’t.  Simply saying no won’t make them fully understand what they are doing wrong but rather just associate the behaviour with you directly. In other words, Your cat knows that when you are around they shouldn’t do the undesired behaviour but when you are not around they will. Likewise, if you use a spray bottle to redirect a cat’s bad behaviour it won’t associate being sprayed with the bad behaviour, it is likely to stop doing what it is doing by running away from being sprayed.  Your cat will be afraid of you but it won’t learn that jumping on the counter or scratching the furniture is a bad thing.  The key to successfully stopping undesirable behaviour is to associate an unpleasant consequence with the undesirable behaviour. For example, if you set up a motion-activated air spray that squirts air whenever your pet jumps on the counter, the cat will learn to associate jumping on the counter with something unpleasant. Keep in mind that the difference here is that you don’t spray the cat, the counter does it. Is this an effective no? Likewise, many cats don’t like double-sided tape or aluminium foil because of the way they feel or sound under their paws. If your cat is scratching your furniture a few strips of double-sided sticky tape will deter your pet and send them looking for another place to scratch. If your pet exhibits destructive behaviour such as chewing, you can use taste deterrents. Products such as bitter apple or bitter lime are often recommended as they are pet safe and unpleasant enough to deter the behaviour.

What should you do before disciplining your cat? 

Cats do not have malicious intent. They are not out to do bad things. Most times what you see as your cat misbehaving is just them expressing their natural instincts. as animals. If your cat scratches up your furniture ask yourself if they have access to enough cat scratching posts. Cats need to keep their claws sharp and exercise and stretch their muscles perhaps you should provide your feline with multiple scratching posts and encourage your pet to use those scratching posts using things such as catnip, treats or a wand toy.  If your cat is a big fan of running water out of a faucet and jumps on the counter to drink from the faucet make sure there is running water in the form of fountains in your home. If your pet likes to sit on the counter,  provide them with an elevated cat stand or cat tree in the kitchen area so they can observe while you are making dinner. Remember if your cat pees outside of their litter box maybe it needs to be cleaned or they don’t like the type of litter. Peeing outside the designated places may also be a sign that your cat is suffering from a medical issue.

Why don’t cats listen

It’s frustrating when your cat ignores your commands and proceeds to continue doing something you don’t want them to do. Whereas cats are completely capable of understanding you and your requests for them to get off the counter or to stop scratching the couch, many cats just don’t care to listen or obey your command. Oftentimes your cat refuses to obey your commands due to a lack of motivation and incentive. One of the best ways to train a cat is to offer up some rewards for good behaviour. Those incentives coupled with a lack of negative tactics such as yelling or using a spray bottle will motivate your cat to do the right thing. If nothing positive is offered up then your cat could simply lack the motivation to follow your commands.

For example, you can encourage regular use of your cat’s scratching post by rewarding its every time it uses it cat will learn that the scratching post is pretty nice and it gets treated as a reward for using it. Likewise, if you call your cat’s name to come to you and they follow your direction reward it with a treat so they walk towards you the next time you call them.  

Rewarding undesirable behaviour

When disciplining a cat one thing to avoid doing is rewarding the bad behaviour with your attention. If your pet jumps on the counter and it gets cuddles, food or attention it will probably keep doing it but if nothing happens when your pet jumps on the counter like no attention, no food and no petting it won’t have a reason to continue jumping on the counter. On a similar note if you give your cat a treat when they meow at you you’re teaching them that if they meow at you they get a treat. If you don’t reward their meowing in other words ignore them when they meow they’re unlikely to become a meower. If you really like a quiet cat, reward it when it’s not meowing.

A common mistake when scolding a cat

It is important to remember that scolding your cat long after any wrongdoing doesn’t make any sense. Cats aren’t able to associate something that happened minutes or hours ago with the current punishment.  If you come home and notice your cat has pooped on the floor and you scold your pet, your cat will have no idea why you are angry at them. What’s worse is that scolding your feline for something that they are unaware of will lead to stress and fear. Instead, a timely response is key if you catch your cat scratching on your furniture and quickly intervene then they will get the message.  Another common mistake is rubbing a cat’s nose in its faeces when they have a potty accident. It used to be a common practice during house training to rub a cat’s nose in their poop when they had an accident. This can lead to stress and anxiety as well as associated health problems. 

A physical reprimand 

Physical disciplines are one of the least successful forms of punishment. Hitting a cat can lead to shyness, fear of the owner and potential injury for both the owner and the cat. Depending on the problem the cat will likely continue to perform the undesirable behaviour in your absence. Physical punishment is generally ineffective, potentially dangerous and likely to have a negative effect between the owner and pet.

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