Understanding Your Cats Behavior
So, you have a stubborn cat and you're not sure what you can do. While dogs are often easier to train, it is possible to train a cat. Before you even attempt behavior training, though, it's important to understand why your cat is misbehaving in the first place.
Sometimes, it's not a matter of training your cat, but removing or correcting a problem that is causing the behavior. Understanding what the behavior stems from, and a little bit about a cat's anatomy, should be your first step in correcting unwanted behaviors.
Cats have an natural ability to jump and land on their feet. They are first able to do this at around 7 weeks old, when the cat's paw cushions become fully developed. Cats don't have a collar bone, and their bone structure is unique in that their bones are flexible. This allows them to twist into some pretty contorted positions, as well as actually bend their bones.
Cats can jump quite a distance without hurting themselves, but jumping from extreme heights could be dangerous. Don't allow your cat to jump from very high places, instead encourage him to use his cat condo or scratching post. A stern "no" when he's caught in the act of jumping from an undesired place is often enough to dissuade him.
Cats have an amazing sense of hearing and smell. They can hear very high pitched tones, and often sounds that we as humans can't hear. They're quite apt to come running when you're opening a door or putting food in their bowl. They can hear and smell you or the food even if they happen to be in a far corner of the house.
These instinctive abilities can often lead a cat to begin scratching or urinating on the floor. By doing this, they are literally marking their territory. They will know their own scent when they return to the area, and it's also a warning to other cats that "Hey, this is my spot" - even if there are no other cats around. After all, how does your cat know that your house won't suddenly be invaded by hundreds of other cats :)
In trying to eliminate unwanted behavior, it's important to realize that cats need to be able to act out on their instincts to some extent. They need to scratch, play and "hunt". Cats love toys that make noise, have catnip or otherwise engage their hunting instinct. Often, just investing in some type of scratching post or tree, and a few cat toys will help with scratching issues.
Cats that mark their territory around your home may be exhibiting jealousy if there are other cats in the home. Some cats will refuse to share a litter box. Urinating on the floor can sometimes be solved by purchasing a litter box for each cat in the household.
Aggression, depression and anxiety are also problems that cats may have. An aggressive cat may be acting out due to illness or because of other cats or pets in the home. Before trying to change his behavior, it would be a worth a trip to the vet to rule out any underlying problem that could be causing the aggression.
Cats may also fall victim to depression or anxiety. Some cats will go through separation anxiety and/or depression if they are separated from their owners. Again, a trip to the vet is in order if you believe your cat is exhibiting signs of stress. He can go over the possible reasons for the behavior change, and may prescribe medication for your cat, if necessary.
When trying to change your cat's behavior, it's extremely important to never physically punish him. Hitting your cat will result in him fearing you. If he is afraid of you, it will be far more difficult to work with him. Never correct your cat unless you actually catch him "in the act".
When you are able to catch your cat doing something you disapprove of, give him a stern "NO", or try shaking a can full of pennies or squirting him with a squirt bottle full of water to distract him. There are commercial cat training products as well, such as the SSSCat Cat Training system. This product is designed to keep your cat out of certain areas of your home by spraying a harmless citronella spray set off by a motion sensor.
The best time to start training your cat is when you first bring him home as a kitten. It's always easier to stop bad behavior before it starts, rather than correct it once bad habits have already had a chance to form. Your vet can be a great resource for learning more about your cat's behavior, and ways to eliminate any unwanted actions.