Naughty Cat? Here’s How To Break Some Bad Habits

Even the loveliest, cuddliest, and most well-behaved cat can develop annoying or destructive habits, seemingly out of nowhere. The problem is, the longer you leave it and ignore it in the hope it goes away, the more ingrained it becomes in their routine and the more destructive it can become. Cat’s bad habits need nipping in the bud and banishing before they become a more serious problem. It’s never impossible, but the sooner you try to break the habits, the easier it is.

Address the cause

Bad habits rarely stem from nothing. If they’re scratching because they don’t have an adequate alternative, all it might take is the introduction of a new, dedicated scratching zone and claw clipping to put them off the furniture. If their habits are borne of stress and anxiety, it’s important to address the root cause. A pheromone such as Feliway spray can help them to feel less stressed around the home, and will also put them off urinating to mark their territory. Consider whether they’re getting enough attention, affection, and stimulation too, as that can also be a cause of their stress.

Make the most of distraction tactics

Before you undertake more extreme tactics of punishment, try to use distraction instead. When they start behaving poorly, change the situation. If they’re jumping on kitchen counters or leather furniture, simply move them to a more acceptable place, and do this every single time. If they’re scratching furniture, move them away to the designated scratching post. When you distract them and break their process, they start to learn that that action doesn’t pay off.

Use ignoring as a punishment

If your cat gets over-excited when they’re play-fighting, and the teeth and claws come out, the best punishment is being ignored. As soon as their behavior changes, stop playing and walk away. They’ll soon learn that that particular action means the fun has to stop.

Consider harsher punishments

No cat-mom wants to resort to harsher punishments, but sometimes bad habits can be so ingrained, especially if you’ve got a rescue cat, that the lighter punishments can be only a drop in the ocean. It’s an important point to make that you should never use pain or withhold food as a punishment, as that’s just unfair. A spray from a water bottle, however, used whenever the cat is misbehaving, should show results quickly, and the cat won’t be hurt or uncomfortable because of it. Using foul-tasting deterrents, such as bitter apple, on things that your cat enjoys chewing, such as electrical wires, also has a good effect, but make sure you use deterrents created for cats, so they’re definitely safe for consumption.

Reward good behavior

It isn’t all about punishment in fact rewarding good behaviour is often far more beneficial – when your cat does the right thing, uses the litter box, scratches the scratching post, or plays without claws, be sure to reward them with a treat and a scratch under the chin. They’ll soon get the hang of it when there’s the promise of rewards.

A cat’s bad habits are totally possible to break, although some will be more ingrained than others. Don’t give up, though – there are no habits that can’t be broken with a bit of perseverance and a few treats.

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28 thoughts on “Naughty Cat? Here’s How To Break Some Bad Habits

  1. reocochran says:

    Good and consistent routines are challenging if someone works a lot of hours. . . This was a very good list of ways to try to keep cats behaving, Marc-Andre. Smiles, Robin

  2. CLEvangelism says:

    I always hear horror stories about cats (or see the memes about cats trying to kill their people). I had more than 40 outdoor cats while growing up as a kid, and I’ve had several as an adult, and they have all been angels. So thankful…

  3. helentastic67 says:

    The last house Jamima and I lived I would get up in the morning to find Jamima sitting on the kitchen bench. Just sitting there. No reason. Until, I discovered the mice were in the drawer directly under her. It was the closest she could get to them and living in that house taught me Jamima was not a moucer. (She could not catch them!)

  4. RoseyToesSews says:

    We’ve nicknamed one of our cats Naughty Naja – but she’s not really naughty, just cheeky and full of character!
    We have 7 cats, and believe in positive reinforcement in our house. We know who favours what treats, and where their favourite fussing points are. If they are naughty, they get ignored for a while, but I do find this really hard to do!
    We have also accepted that with so many cats, we will get some unwanted scratching behaviour, despite having numerous and varying scratching areas around the house.
    If you’re worried about your furniture or carpets being scratched a little, my advice would be don’t get a cat!

      • RoseyToesSews says:

        Trouble is I ramble on when I write (you’ve probably noticed my long comments!). Any stories I do would probably turn into short novels! Lol.
        Thanks, the kitties will love the new toys – and we’re collecting our new kitten on Saturday, new toy’s are always good with a new kitty in the house. xx

  5. The Chaos Realm says:

    I read (in cat behavior books) that you squirt them in the tushy/rear end (not the face) so they don’t see it coming and associate it with you just being mean and thereby causing the cat to retaliate in cat fashion. If they don’t see it, they just link the water squirt with the behavior and not with you, their person. Purportedly, anyway. LOL

  6. heretherebespiders says:

    I need more advice! My Bengal born July 1 has decided to go for negative attention by getting up on, or behind, the TV. He does this to get me to play with him! I’ve done my best not to reinforce his idea that getting up there means I will play with him. Clearly squirting water at the TV is out! I tried cut lemons on the TV stand, blocking it off…nothing has worked. Any ideas gratefully read!

    • Marc-André says:

      Have you tried orange peel instead of lemons? Most cats hate organges. Not sure if lemons do the same. 😮

      There is also the option of getting a scratcher (if you’ve not already got one) and to put feliscratch on it. It’s a new product from ceva that draws attention of cats to the object you put it on. The only problem it stains stuff blue so I’d use a disposable scratch pad or similar.

    • RoseyToesSews says:

      I’ve been told (by a very knowledgeable cat owner) that most cats hate the feel of walking on aluminium foil. Perhaps you could tape some down behind the TV until he learns not to go there?
      Good luck!

  7. lyssalouhoo says:

    Good article!

    My cat started behaving horribly out of nowhere last year. He bit me and scratched me out of nowhere several times a day and I felt anxious in my own house. I felt like I was in the bathtub with a piranha, any second something bad was going to happen.

    I took him to the vet – he had an ear infection. Once that was cleared up, he went back to normal.

    FYI – If your cat’s being an ass all of a sudden, take him for a checkup. It could be something physical that’s causing him to behave that way. Animals get nasty when they’re uncomfortable, they don’t know any better. 🙂

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