Cats vs. Spray Bottles

Megan S. writes in asking about training her cat.  Specifically, she asks about using spray bottles and the like to discourage her cat from jumping onto her dresser.  

Well, Megan, while it's true that you'll see some people recommend that you use the dreaded spray bottle, we absolutely disagree.  In fact, we don't advocate any kind of punishment for cats.  None.  Why?  Because it's not at all effective and it will drive a wedge between you and your feline.

You see, there's no such thing as cat peer pressure.  While they are social animals, they don't live and hunt in packs the way dogs do.  Because of this, most of them simply don't care what the next cat over thinks of them.  Dogs are always currying favor or challenging the next pup up the ladder, but cats don't live that way. 

If you insist on punishing a cat for what you perceive to be "bad" behavior, you'll never achieve the desired result.  Instead, you'll convince your cat that you're a mental case who's to be avoided at all costs.  The cat will never connect the punishment to the crime and he'll assume that you've decided to lash out for no reason.

If you'd like to change your cat's behavior, you have to redirect his impulses.  He doesn't misbehave to annoy you or get back at you.  He's acting out of his own needs.  Take a look at the situation from his point of view for a moment.  You might even want to get down on your hands and knees and take a look at the situation, first hand.  Go ahead.  We won't laugh.

For example, If he's clawing the couch, he probably needs a more attractive scratching post.  If he's urinating outside the litter box, you may need to clean it more frequently or move it to a more hospitable location.  In most cases, there are actions you can take to help resolve the situation, none of which involve punishments.