Correcting Your Cat’s Bad Habits

Does your cat have a bad habit? Don’t worry. We all have bad habits, and like ours, cats’ habits can be changed with patience and persistence.

First, it’s important to note that training a cat is much different than training a dog. Cats are less likely to follow commands, but like training a dog, cats should be rewarded for good behavior, and never punished for being “bad”.

Correcting a cat’s habit is a three-step process:

  1. Stop the behavior in progress through distraction.
  2. Redirect her to an alternate, approved activity.
  3. Reward the good behavior with a treat, affection or brief playtime.

Using this method, here are tips for correcting some of the most common unwanted behaviors.

Jumping up on tables and counters

Kitchen counter or cat runway? Considering where those paws have been (ahem, litter box), you may want to keep her off any surfaces where you prepare or eat food. First, you need to teach her that the kitchen counter or table is off limits. This can be accomplished by making the surface unattractive. Lining counters with tinfoil or double-sided tape temporarily will create a surface your cat doesn’t want to jump on. If you notice her trying to get on the countertops, move her to an acceptable surface (such as a cat tower) and reward her with a small treat to create a positive association with the desired location. Once she’s settled in the new spot, give her praise and affection. Cats have a natural instinct to climb and survey their territory from a high vantage point. Having other high surfaces where she’s allowed to perch will make it easier to keep her off the kitchen counter.

Lying in clean laundry

There’s nothing like wrapping yourself in warm, freshly-washed linens. Your cat thinks so, too. Avoid cat hair and nail snags in your clean laundry by restricting her access to it. Whenever possible, put your clean laundry away in closed drawers and closets right away. You can also place laundry in a storage container with a lid, instead of using an open basket. If you’re short on time, lay a long piece of aluminum foil or cellophane over the basket of laundry, which will dissuade your cat from lying on it. Offer her plenty of cozy alternate snoozing spots. If you catch her in the laundry, simply pick her up, move her to an acceptable napping spot, and give her extra love and affection as she settles in. Also, be sure to brush your cat and trim her nails regularly to reduce shedding and minimize damage from nails.

Still scratching

By now, you should have scratching posts in your home, preferably placed next to the furniture your cat might have tried scratching. If you haven’t already, make that furniture undesirable by putting double-sided tape or cellophane on it. Also, make the scratching post more appealing by putting catnip on it and toys by it. Be vigilant and try to catch her in the act. When you do, distract her, wait a minute, and then take her to her scratching post.

Kitten biting

Kittens bite for the same reasons puppies do – they are playing and exploring their surroundings with their mouths. By play-fighting and wrestling with their littermates, kittens learn that biting too hard will end a play session. Take the same approach with your kitten. When she bites, respond with a loud “ow!”, immediately stop interacting with her and leave the room. When you pet or play with your kitten and she doesn’t bite you, praise and reward her with a toy or a treat. This teaches her that biting makes you go away, and not biting continues the fun and affection. Provide her with sturdy toys on which she can redirect her energy. Never play rough with your hands. This teaches your cat that it’s acceptable to bite and scratch your hands.

In each of these situations, your cat is acting out her natural behaviors. When she has acceptable outlets for these natural behaviors, she will be less likely to develop and continue bad habits. Also, keep in mind that this behavior often stems from boredom. Learn how to enrich your cat’s life and make your home feline friendly so you can live together in happy harmony

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