Last updated on October 1st, 2016 at 10:27 am
Adopting a cat can be a fun and interesting experience, due to the intelligence and independence of most cats. The domestic cat (Felis Catus) has been selectively bred into many different breeds, yet they still retain many of their wild instincts. As a first-time cat owner, it is very important to understand the instincts that drive your new pet and to know how to discipline a cat appropriately. By doing so, it is possible to train them so that their instincts do not cause a problem in their new home.We have put together this comprehensive guide on how to train your cat. You cat does not think like a human being and it is illogical to assume it can understand what you are trying to convey.
It is of paramount importance that you discipline your cat the right way else it will lead to a cat that exhibits poor behavior and aggression.
Table of Contents
Cat Behavior in the Wild
You probably know that domestic cats and big cats, like the lion, are related. However, it may still be
surprising to see how similar their behaviors actually are. For instance, the way they stalk prey and their strength in comparison to their body size are often very similar.
Cats are primarily nocturnal and because their night vision is so acute, they prefer to hunt at night. Unfortunately, that is one of the problems of cat ownership. Because they are known to sleep all day and play all night, owners often need to correct that behavior when they are young. Although two or more cats may live and play together, they are not pack animals and function very well alone.
A single cat claims, patrols and protects the area he prefers against other cats, typically hunting within that territory. Males enter the female’s territory during breeding season and males will mark their territory with urine. The need for maintaining sharp claws relates to their prey drive and when left to their own devices in the wild, they will hunt for food.
Even though the cat has been domesticated, these natural instincts are still present. In addition, their normal behavior in the wild is often a problem when they are in a home, including scratching on the wrong items, hunting for prey, hissing and urination outside the litter box. Cats are also known for their impressive climbing skills. Their amazing sense of balance, sharp retractable claws, and long tails allow them to climb trees with ease.
They also leap quite high for their body size and will easily pluck out birds from mid-air. Therefore, don’t be alarmed when your cat climbs near the higher areas in your house or tries to climb up the curtains. The problem starts when these natural behaviors manifest themselves as unwanted behavior in your home.
For example, if your cat finds a high area in your home and then hisses, urinates or initiates other negative conduct, it becomes difficult to tame their behavior. As a result, it is crucial to take control of your cat, without threatening them, and to make sure they never begin to think that they are in charge. If that happens, the problem is likely to become much more difficult to manage and prevent.
Aggressive Cats That Bite or Fight
As kittens play, their fights can be cute but when they grow up and continue nipping and scratching
at your hands, it becomes dangerous. That obviously means that discipline from a young age is crucial. Even as a young kitten, their desire to nip you should be curbed, because their small teeth will soon become sharp. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish between aggressive and playful biting to adequately control your cat.
If your cat grasps your hand lightly and has erect ears with low vocalizations, then he is usually just playing around, without a desire to do any real harm. When he starts holding his ears back and his voice becomes louder, he is no longer playing and it is time to correct his behavior. A trained, domesticated cat will rarely bite its owner without just cause. If you take the time to understand why your cat’s behavior changed, it is easier to correct it.
It is also important to remember that it is only useful to discipline your cat immediately after the problem occurred because they lack the ability to form short-term memories that are needed for cause and effect. If he got into the garbage or scratched the couch 20 minutes ago, he will not understand why you are disciplining him now.
It will also be helpful to consider how kittens are trained by their mother. It may seem overly harsh, but it is actually very effective. For instance, you will see that mother cats often nip their babies when they do something offensive or she may withdraw her attention abruptly. By mimicking the same behavior, kittens often get the message more easily than they would if you used other methods.
It is also necessary to understand how a cat perceives punishment. Cats thrive off of any attention that you give them. That means that avoiding a cat and not playing with it will be perceived as a punishment. Physically beating up a cat or starving it will only cause them to lose trust in its owner and not solve the problem. If the cat uses its claws or teeth in a painful way, even by accident, there are several steps to immediately enforce.
First, gently and firmly pull your hand or digits away from the animal. Pulling it away in a jerk only excites the cat’s hunting instinct and it might grasp it even tighter or sink the claws a little deeper. It is all a game for the cat so by struggling, the game becomes more fun. Immediately after, pick the cat up by its scruff and make eye contact with him. Direct eye contact is considered an aggressive behavior displayed by cats. Your cat will probably be squirming around avoiding eye contact, but it’s important that you stare it down.
After that, avoid the cat for a while, to make him realize that he has been bad and repeat as needed if the cat bites again. If the behavior persists, don’t forget to pair your actions with strong, but brief, vocal commands, such as “no” or “bad cat”. Again, be careful to engage in verbal communication with your pet as little as possible, as they will see any type of verbal interaction as a positive thing.
Yelling at your cat when they do something wrong, even if it hurt you, tells them that they did something that got your attention. That information will help them repeat the behavior in the future, so be sure to not provide them with positive reinforcement of that type.
Overly Energetic Cats
It is interesting to point out that one of the most common associations that people have about cats is
their love of a good nap in the warm sun. Therefore, it is often a little surprising to see how much energy that same cat can show within seconds after waking. As with most animals, kittens are often more energetic than their older counterparts and you may not be completely prepared to deal with a frantic feline running through your home.
Fortunately, you have many options that make the situation easier to plan for and to cope with. If your new cat is causing a problem with their overly boisterous behavior, you need to find a way to use that energy more effectively. Even just half an hour a day or a few times a day of controlled play using appropriate cat toys will go a long way toward making your cat easy to live with.
You may also want to look at what they are eating and drinking each day. Cats have very specific nutritional needs that must be met and giving them inadequate amounts will often result in a cat with too much energy. Always remember, cats and kittens do not need human food. It may seem like a bonding exercise to feed them from your plate, but you are not doing them any favors.
Sugar from any source, including fruit and milk, can be metabolized by their tiny bodies and result in an excess of energy. Therefore, speak to your veterinarian about the type and amounts of food they should be eating and do your best to make sure that is all they have access to.
As mentioned previously, cats are generally nocturnal creatures and adjusting their sleep schedules to that of your household’s is not always the easiest thing to do. Fortunately, if you force them to stay up as much as possible during the day and deny them sleep during that preferred time, they will begin to sleep at night. It may take several days or even a week or two to change their behavior, but soon your cat should be able to get a good night’s sleep with you and the rest of your family.
Litter Box Training Your Friendly Feline
One of the nicer aspects of owning a cat is that they are usually very easy to housetrain. It is not unusual to obtain a litter-box trained kitten when they are just six or eight weeks old.
Surprisingly, cats are very easy to toilet train. As kittens, they might urinate here and there, but typically all
you need to do is keep a clean and accessible litter box. They will often give a physical sign prior to using the box, so if you see it scratching the ground frantically, make sure they have clear access to a clean box.
Once your kitten knows where the box is, they will almost always use it. If that is not happening, there are several possible solutions. If you have recently adopted the cat, they may not be familiar with the type of litter you use. In that instance, you may want to check with the prior owner to see what type of litter and litter box they used to solve the problem. The same is true if you recently changed their litter situation, as cats are known to be creatures of habit. Never force their faces into litter, as that will just repel them. For a young kitten, show them the location of the litter box and gently hold their front paws and mimic a scratching motion on the litter. This will convey to them that this is the place to eliminate.
Cats may also act out when a change in the home has recently occurred. A move, new family members or additional pets joining the home can cause the cat to gain attention in any way possible, including eliminating waste outside where they know they should. In that case, extra time with the cat, providing them with a private space or extra treats may return them to their previous good nature.
When Your Furniture Becomes The New Scratching Post
One of the more annoying problems that almost every cat owner will eventually face relates to the
need of your cat to sharpen and use their claws. If you do not provide them with an approved way to do so, your new couch or luxurious carpet will look very appealing to them.
Cat scratching is just one example of a natural behavior and it would be almost impossible to change their behavior entirely. A scratching post is a great solution, although you may need to redirect your cat’s attention to the post often. It is also interesting to note that many cats use the scratching post as a way to stimulate various muscles and helps stretch those joints.
Disciplining your cat for scratching should involve redirecting them to a better option, like the scratching post and then making the offending item less appealing. Common examples include double-sided tape, which sticks to their paws and claws, and is very unpleasant for them. Other options are the use of a bitter spray or an essence of orange peel spray, sprayed liberally on and around the couch, carpet or other area that your cat is mutilating.
If all else fails, you can use a spray of water when they are sharpening their claws. However, the important aspect to remember is to be sure that your cat does not associate you with the water bottle, as that could motivate it to only avoid the area in question when you are around.
When your Cat Brings Home What They Think is Dinner
The strong prey drive and loyal instincts that most domestic cats have may result in interesting behavior that you are not actually thrilled with. For example, when they stalk and kill a small animal outside
and then drop it in front of you proudly, it is challenging to know how to respond. If your cat spends time outside, you may see them engage in a more aggressive behavior than you might if they were exclusively inside.
When outside, a cat who roams may come home with their prey, such as mice or birds that they trapped. No matter how domesticated your cat is, its ancient instincts will force it to chase after smaller animals. Obviously, you do not want to have a dead animal on your kitchen floor, but it is worse if the cat hides their prize. Whenever you catch your cat dragging in another animal. you need to take it from him and place it outside the house. He can have it outside the house, but not inside. Your cat might protest, but you will need to need to do it nonetheless.
If you prefer to avoid the possibility of your sweet cat ever bringing home the remains of its prey, you may find that spaying or neutering them reduces or eliminates their need for dominance and hunting. In general, cats that are sterilized are calmer and the reduction of hormones makes them easier to be around.
Alternatively, the use of the orange spray, bitter spray (available from most pet stores) or a water bottle can also establish a cause and effect association with your cat. When he brings home dead animals, he gets sprayed. Even the squirt of a bottle of pressurized air is shocking enough, that over time, they will change their behavior.
When your Cat is Aggressive to Other Animals
Aggressive tendencies can be one of the more stressful aspects of adding new animals to your home. Although cats, dogs, birds, etc. can get along, allowing the time to acclimate to one another is crucial to the process. If you note that your cat, whether he is the newest or oldest addition to the family, is aggressive towards the other animals, you need to figure out why. Only by knowing the cause, can you determine the appropriate method of discipline.
For example, if your cat is now one of two or more cats in the home, they may fear that their place is being changed. A little extra time alone with them can solve that problem. Food aggression is also common. If you see that your cat is attacking other animals for their food, it is important to remember that they may not be doing so out of hunger.Instead, it can be seen as a form of dominance and they are trying to show they are dominant over the other animals. In that instance, remove them from one another and feed them in separate rooms, while also using one of the always useful sprays to modify their behavior as needed.
You may also find that reintroducing the animals to one another slowly, with supervision, allows them to become more familiar with each other and eliminate the problem. If you are forced to feed them in the same area, always make sure that an adult is nearby, with the spray bottles and provide each animal with identical portions of food in identical bowls, whenever possible.
If you have other pets in the home, then you might notice them fighting. If they are properly socialized and have enough space they can make the best of friends. Young kittens should be properly socialized and encouraged to play with the other pets. If you have birds, it might be a little trickier. Don’t allow the cat inside the cage area unless you are sure the cat is friendly or else you might miss a few odd birds. Older cats can be territorial, so they might get aggressive when other pets encroach on its area. This may be avoided by feeding them separately, due to the possibility of food aggression.
Understanding Positive and Negative Discipline
As a responsible pet owner, you will need to discipline your cats for various infractions over the
years and it is a good idea to understand the difference between positive and negative discipline. Closely related to positive and negative reinforcement, they are a very basic way of teaching your pet right from wrong in a safe, loving manner.
It is important to remember that discipline and reinforcement must be offered immediately after the problem occurs or the exercise is useless. If you find your couch shredded or litter box accidents on the floor, punishing them now for something that could have occurred an hour ago will not help, as they will have no idea what the problem is. In fact, they may begin to fear you.
Positive discipline is the use of favored activities to reinforce good behavior. For instance, when your cat who has been having accidents away from the litter box makes an effort to get to the box, petting them, using a soft, soothing voice and providing a brief period of alone time with you reminds them that they made a good choice. In addition, even though to humans and many other animals, yelling is a bad thing, cats see it as a good thing, as mentioned previously.
Negative discipline is physical punishment, which is rarely necessary, spray bottles of disliked substances and removal of the cat from the area. When you remember that cats desperately crave your attention, it only makes sense that one of the harshest punishments is your lack of attention.
Due to a cat’s size, physical punishment is almost never necessary or helpful. If you are considering it, be very careful and keep yourself away from their teeth and claws, as they could injure you trying to stop the punishment or get away.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that regardless of how domesticated your cat may seem, they are willful creatures and have their own needs that must be met. By providing adequate discipline and a consistent response, you can incorporate a cat into your home easily.