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How to punish a cat – effective ways

Cat mischief can take its toll on the household members very seriously. Running on kitchen countertops, climbing tall furniture or eating inedible items are just examples. All these situations are uncomfortable for humans and very often dangerous for the cat itself. So sometimes a pet has to be disciplined, if only for its own safety. How to punish a cat? Remember, however, that you have to do it skillfully so as not to discourage him. Here are some tips that should help you. Read on!

Punishing the cat – avoid aversive methods

Some of the cat’s behavior evoke irritation and even anger in the keepers. Nobody likes a situation where their favorite mug lands in pieces on the ground, and their favorite plant is dug up and spread all over the house. However, it should be clearly stated that the aversive methods are absolutely unacceptable in the relationship between humans and cats. How to punish a cat? Certainly not this way! Check why these are not good methods.

Why won’t aversive methods be a good punishment for the cat?

By aversive methods we mean:

  • screams;
  • beating;
  • throwing objects at the cat;
  • spraying water on it.

You need to know that this behavior will have no effect. It can, however, completely destroy your relationship with your pet. The cat will not see the connection between its behavior and aggression on your part. Especially if some time has passed from mischief to “punishment”. At best, he will ignore you, and at worst, you will become a source of fear for him.

How to effectively punish a cat? Negative reinforcement

You already know that screams don’t work. And how to punish a cat to make it really effective? The best way is through what is known as negative blanking. This is a behavioral method that is well known to dog keepers. The theory behind this is that once the animal performs the conditioned stimulus, we cannot allow it to amplify. How do you translate it into simpler language?

What is negative reinforcement?

Imagine a situation when, in the middle of the night, a cat sits under the closed door of your bedroom and starts meowing very loudly. He does it loud, drawn out, and so pitiful that after a series of annoying shouts that don’t work, you finally get up and let him inside. The meowing is a conditional stimulus here. The cat knows well that if it fails long enough, you will end up rewarding it with a positive reinforcement, i.e. letting it into the bedroom. This, of course, is not an answer to the question of how to punish a cat, but the opposite of the desired situation.

You will find some similar examples below:

conditional stimulus

positive reinforcement

hitting the food can with the paw in order to force the next batch

filling the cup

scratching on the door to go out to the balcony even though it’s cold outside

opening the door

jumping on the kitchen counter / TV cabinet to get your attention

your irritated screams

Regardless of the context of the situation, a cat always achieves its goal. Although you swear it’s the last time, you nevertheless fill the bowl with an extra portion of food. You open the door to the balcony, although you know that you will cool the room and your cat will catch a cold. You yell for your pet to come off the counter while giving it the attention it demands.

Negative reinforcement as punishment for the cat

Negative reinforcement is the elimination of positive reinforcement. This is the best way to punish your cat. This way you quench unwanted behavior. It is not an easy method, as it requires a lot of consistency (and sometimes also earplugs). However, it can be considered the most effective. A cat will abandon a given behavior only when it knows that it will not be of any benefit.

Anonymous penalties – what are they and how to apply them?

On the Internet, you can often come across allegedly very effective ways of punishing a cat. We are talking about the so-called anonymous penalties. What is this? In theory, these are punishments that work independently of the handler and cause negative stimuli in cats. These in turn are designed to discourage them from given behaviors and activities.

Spray the water on the plants, not the cats

Sprinkling the cat with water from the diffuser is the leader among the most frequently recommended anonymous punishments. In extreme situations, it is proposed to throw various objects at the animal. However, it should be clearly stated that these are not anonymous punishments, but rather aversive. The guardian causes discomfort and even pain in the pet, thinking naively that he will not connect this stimulus with the presence of a human being. We have bad news for supporters of this type of practice. If you’re wondering how to punish your cat, don’t try these methods because they don’t work.

Why are some anonymous penalties ineffective?

Keep in mind that your pet will very quickly associate a negative stimulus with your presence. It might actually stop jumping on the countertop when you’re in the kitchen. However, it will continue to do this after you leave, when it is sure that you will not throw anything at him. Needless to say, what this impacts on your cat’s trust in you as a guardian.

Are anonymous penalties not working? How to punish a cat in this way?

Anonymous penalties have some potential and can be used. However, they must be used consciously and responsibly. Their main advantage is that they are in fact anonymous and the cat does not associate them with any member of its family.

A good example here are special preparations, the smell of which is to scare cats. They can be used as an additional protection in any places (e.g. around the detergent cabinet). Cats, however, adapt to difficult conditions quite quickly, so you have to take into account that after some time the method used will stop working.

How to punish a cat – does hissing and grabbing the skin make sense?

You can often hear the opinion that in order to demonstrate your dissatisfaction to your cat, it is worth listening to him. This is a clear cat’s signal. Pets communicate with each other that they do not want contact and presence in their environment. While this innocuous method may not always work, it can be effective.

What about lifting by the neck? It’s also a fairly popular way to punish a cat and is even recommended by some behaviorists. Grabbing the folds of skin on the nape of the neck is supposed to induce an unconditional limp reflex in a cat. This method is used by cat mothers when carrying their babies. But should man do it? This is a controversial issue.

How to punish a cat? A few words about lifting by the neck

In a situation where you are at the vet’s or you absolutely need to immobilize your pet, you can gently hold it by the neck. Ultimately, however, remember that you are not a mother cat. You don’t have the knowledge or the instinct to get it right and not cause you pain. Certainly do not lift the cat by the neck. In this way, you do not play the role of a mother, but a predator, and you create a feeling of mortal danger in your pet.

Penalty for the cat? Not natural behavior

Finally, it is worth mentioning a very important issue. A cat should never be punished for behaviors that are natural to him and that result from the peculiarities of the species. When you take a cat into your home, you need to be aware that certain behaviors cannot be excluded from their lives. Any attempt will be very harmful to this animal. Your job is to interpret cat’s behavior and messages well. So we will not suggest how to punish your cat, but will suggest positive reactions.

feline behavior

which means?

how to react?

taking care of themselves outside the litter box

is a message that tells you that something is wrong with your cat’s environment or well-being

go to the vet and perform basic diagnostic tests of the cat (ultrasound, morphology, biochemistry, electrolytes)

scratching the furniture

it’s a way to sharpen claws, leave your scent marks and relax

provide the cat with access to the scratching posts: vertical, horizontal and diagonal

putting the back of your body against your face

it is a gesture of trust – the cat encourages you to smell it, transmits its current mood through pheromones

if it bothers you, gently remove the pet from your lap and redirect its attention to something else

attacking hands and feet

boredom, an invitation to play

offer the cat to have fun together, for example with a fishing rod

How to punish a cat – summary

The best way to punish your cat is by reinforcing negative. Don’t use aversive methods against him. Always understand your pet and interpret its behavior and messages well.