Pet owners often agree that as much as they love their furry companions, they are troubled by the problem of misbehavior. Misbehavior can lead to destruction of furniture and property, and it can also cause stress on an owner who doesn’t know how to effectively discipline their pet without creating even bigger problems–like loss of trust. That said, many cat owners feel that squirt bottles filled with room temperature water is a perfectly acceptable, and gentle, way to discipline their cat for all manner of misbehaviors, including scratching the furniture, jumping on counters, being aggressive and much more. After all, being squirted with water is effectively surprising and perfectly harmless, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t.
The Problem With Squirt Bottles
Regardless of the specific reason for which a cat owner uses a squirt bottle to discipline their cat, the intention is usually the same: the owner wants to train their cat to stop engaging in the unwanted behavior. Unfortunately, squirting a cat does not effectively train them to stop engaging in unwanted behaviors, it only creates frustration, fear and secretive behavior. In other words, it can adversely affect the bond between cat and owner and teach the cat to participate in these unwanted behaviors only when their owner is not around.
Punishing cats for unwanted behaviors simply does not stop them from continuing these behaviors, primarily because the behavior serves a purpose for the cat. Especially when it comes to scratching the furniture, the cat is exhibiting a normal, natural behavior and will not understand why they are being punished for this. It can cause them to feel stressed, and they may even adopt other unwanted behaviors as a result, while continuing the first unwanted behavior in secret. Needless to say, this can be incredibly frustrating for cat owners. Luckily, there is a solution.
Stopping Unwanted Behaviors
In order to effectively stop a cat from exhibiting unwanted behaviors, one must first understand why they are exhibiting that behavior, and then give them a better alternative. Cats that claw the furniture either don’t have a proper scratching post–which means they don’t have one at all or they have the wrong kind of scratching post for their needs. Some gentle ways to resolve unwanted scratching include covering the chosen surfaces with double-sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, sandpaper or plastic carpet runners. There are also some scents that cats find unappealing, like citrus, menthol, cologne and muscle rub, and these scents can be rubbed onto the furniture item to discourage scratching. At the same time, one should provide their cat with corrugated cardboard, a square of carpet, a small log with bark on it, commercial scratching posts and other options.
Cats that become aggressive with companion animals need behavior modification through training to resolve this situation, and it is easy to understand why being squirted with water will not help them to feel more kindly toward the other animal.
When working with any animal to sort out difficulties in the relationship, the most important factor is trust. The bond between cat and owner is strengthened and weakened by trust, and this foundation can help them both through any difficulties they may encounter along the way. A cat that learns that his natural, normal behaviors will lead to being sprayed in the face is unlikely to trust his owner thoroughly, if at all, and may even chose to run and hide when they know their owner is coming. However, if a cat owner simply redirects their cat’s attention away from unwanted behaviors to more acceptable behaviors, they can preserve the bond of trust while also largely reducing or even entirely eliminating unwanted behaviors.