Cats and Punishment

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.

Think positive
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.

Stopping behaviors
Cat on furniture
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.

Scraminal - Motion-activated alarm to keep pets off furniture, counters, plants, etc.


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.

Doorknob alarm

Doorknob alarm

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.


Environmental Enrichment for Cats – More than just providing a scratching post.

As cool as your house might be it can’t compare to the outdoors as a stimulating environment for kitties. Lizards to chase, mousies to eat, tom cat pee-mail to read, flower pots to dig up and more keep an active cat entertained for hours. Unfortunately, the outdoor world is also full of danger. Rude dogs, fast cars, sly foxes, cats with an attitude and swooping owls are all hazards. This makes the indoors the safest place to be. But unless your cat can operate the TV remote control, fire up the stove for a tasty lunch or surf the net, it can be a pretty boring place.

Fortunately there are a number of things you can do to make your home a fun place for your cat to spend time. First, make time for play. Cats love chasing strings, ribbons, feather toys and a variety of tossed objects. Fun for both of you and great for the relationship. And just because Fuzzy is a cat, don’t neglect obedience and trick training. With some patience, cats can be trained to do almost anything dogs can do, and sometimes better. Take that, Mr. Smarty Pants Rover.      Look for a future blog to learn how.

Young cats are usually good at entertaining themselves so providing lots of interesting toys will help keep them busy. Older cats are less inclined to play with toys.  If that is the case, look for toys that dispense small treats or catnip when the cat pushes them around. You can make a treat dispensing toy by simply cutting a few small holes in a plastic water bottle. Place a dozen or so tasty treats in side that will fall out though the holes when the pet pushes it around. Just be careful to watch the pet’s weight. Too many treats can have the opposite effect, turning a playful cat into a couch potato. Ping pong balls make inexpensive toys as do aluminum foil balls (a protruding feather or short piece of yarn will increase interest). For more ideas, Google ‘Homemade cat toys’ on the internet.

You can add vertical perching areas around a small apartment to increase its size. Place a towel or bedding on a shelf, counter top or dresser. A tall ‘kitty condo’ will also provide more area for the pet. Perches can be purchased that affix to a window frame to provide nice perching real estate with a view.  Some cats like to munch on greens. For these kids, you can make a little garden by planting wheat berries (live wheat seed available in health food stores) or catnip.

Scratching a normal part of most cats’ behavioral repertoires so be sure to provide a scratching post. You may need to try several different types to decide which your cat likes. Most cats like the carpet covered posts, while others like sisal or cardboard surfaces to scratch. You might even consider making a ‘natural’ post by securing a fireplace log upright. To make sure the pet uses it, be sure to toss a small treat to it each time it makes contact.

Occasionally have a kitty scavenger hunt. Hide ten small treats in various areas of a room. Place them in obvious places to start, then gradually move them to more out of the way places in the room during subsequent ‘hunts.’ Now the cat’s doing what outdoor cats do – spending time hunting for food.

Kitties are like kids. Keep them busy and they’ll be happy and stay out of trouble – well, at least they’ll get into less trouble.