Cats don’t do well with punishment, especially interactive social punishment. Swatting, thumping, grabbing and spanking are more likely to cause the pet to be fearful of you and, perhaps aggressive, than to learn your rules.
Yelling isn’t even a good idea. Cat’s often begin exhibiting avoidance behaviors after being yelled at a few times. For example, if you repeatedly yell at your cat for scratching furniture, it won’t be long before you notice that the pet is leaving the room whenever you enter.
Another downside to interactive social punishment is that smart cats quickly learn to be sneaky and only engage in the behavior when family members are not around.
You really need to take a positive approach when it comes to shaping a cat’s behavior. If the pet scratches furniture, provide a scratching post and toss a treat to it every time it makes contact. If it gets on counters, provide climbing areas, perches and “kitty condos” for the pet to climb around on. Boxes and paper grocery bags also provide exploration areas to substitute for counter tops. Hide treats in those areas to encourage the pet to explore them.
If using distractions and rewarding desirable behavior doesn’t get the job done, then you may need to consider using something aversive to stop the behavior. But is is very important that you do this in a way so that the cat doesn’t associate anything he dislikes with you.
A squirt from a water gun may be helpful to stop unwanted behavior but you should use it without saying anything or looking directly at the cat. If the he doesn’t realize the interruption is coming from you, you are less likely to bruise your relationship with him.
There are also products available, like the “Scraminal”, that make a loud noise when a pet gets on a counter top, sofa or Christmas tree. The Scraminal is very effective, and applies a correction without anyone being near the pet. It is one of our more popular behavior products.
Door knob alarms which can be purchased at travel stores, electronic stores and home security stores can also be used to keep cats away from problem areas. They can be hung on trash cans, plants, drapes and pantry door handles.
Alarms should not be used with pets that are extremely sound sensitive or nervous. The volume can easily be reduced, though, by taping gauze over the front surface of the product where the sound comes out.
Still another way to keep a cat off the sofa is to take a section of vinyl carpet protector and turn it upside down so the knubs (which are normally are used to keep it from sliding around on the surface of the carpet) are facing up.