ALL ABOUT DOGS and CATS   Resource Center for Canine & Feline Lovers
puppy and kitten
Pet Behavior - Feline Behavior
Cures for Kitty Crimes

By Cricky Long
It could be a torn curtain, a soiled rug, an overturned plant or some other tell-tale evidence.
In that moment, you might think your cat is out to get you. But it is only following natural
instinct. It's up to you to channel your cat's energy in a more positive direction.

According to feline behavioral consultant Mieshelle Nagelschneider, "Cats will repeat
behaviors that give them a reward, but they will stay away from behaviors that give them a
negative experience." This means you can change your cat's behavior by providing
appealing alternatives, while simultaneously laying down deterrents to prevent your cat
from exhibiting undesirable behaviors. Here's how.

1. Never reprimand or use physical punishment of any kind on your cat   When you
reprimand your cat, your cat will learn to associate you, rather than the act, with the
punishment.

For example, if your cat soils outside the litter box, pushing your cat's nose in the soiled
spot is not going to do anything except stress out your cat. Conversely, according to
Nagelschneider, you can stop your cat from eliminating in an inappropriate spot by playing
with your cat in that location. This activity, which will trigger your cat's prey drive, should put
an end to the potty naughtiness, since cats usually will not soil where they eat, hunt or
play. However, you must also figure out what is causing your cat to eliminate outside the
litter box, and fix that problem. More often than not, litter box aversion stems from the type
of litter you're using, the location of the box or its sanitary condition.

2. Never punish your cat after the fact   Felines are smart, but no cat is going to be able to
associate punishment doled out a minute or more after the "kitty crime" took place.

For example, if you come home and find that your cat unraveled a roll of toilet paper
throughout your house or decided to play in your laundry hamper, nothing you do to your
cat in that moment will deter your pet from going after the TP or the hamper the next day.

However, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent this type of undesired
behavior, which usually stems from boredom. First, make the problem areas inaccessible for
your cat. Then, save your feline's favorite toys for when you are about to leave so it has
something to play with while you are gone. You may also want to hide treats and toys so it
can hunt for them while you are out of the house. Also, try to make sure your cat is getting
enough playtime while you are home.

3. Never get caught at the scene of the crime -- or punishment  Keep the action and the
consequence very clear for your kitty. Allow no room for misinterpretation.

Let's say you want your cat to stop jumping up on the table. If you scream every time your
cat jumps on the table, your cat is more likely to think you are nuts than perturbed by its
actions. (A really smart cat may even learn to jump up on the table only when you are not
present.) But if you put something on the table to deter your cat, such as a
motion-triggered noisemaker or any kind of unpleasant-feeling surface, like crumpled foil or
bubble wrap, your cat should have no problem associating the act of jumping on the table
with the unpleasant result. You then won't be perceived by your cat as the screaming
nutcase or the bad guy.

4.  Call the experts  If your cat suddenly begins to exhibit unusual behavior for no apparent
reason, take it to the vet for a checkup. A medical issue could be at the root of the problem.
If your pet receives a clean bill of health, yet you are still unable to resolve its behavioral
issues, call in a cat behaviorist for help. Your vet or local cat rescue organization may be
able to provide you with a referral.

Cricky Long is the author of
The Complete Cat Organizer and The Complete Dog Organizer,
as well as more than eleven City Dog guidebooks, which cover dog-centric resources in
numerous cities across the country.
Cats often surprise us, and usually it's in a good way, such
as with an affectionate head butt on the ankle or
companionship just when we need it. But sometimes they
can rub us the wrong way. For some reason, this usually
happens after a long day when all you want to do is sit
down, relax and snuggle with your kitty. Only the moment
you start to unwind, you discover that your kitty wasn't such
a good feline today.