Training Tips for Cats

Training Tips for Cats

Housebreaking/soiling the house:

Kittens and cats have a natural affinity to using a litter box, but it is important the help your kitten get off to a good start.  The first step to ensure successful housetraining is to make sure you have the right equipment.  If the kitten was using litter prior to coming in your home, make sure you use the same type of litter.  The litter box should be made of a washable material such as plastic.  The sides must be low enough for the kitten to enter, but high enough to contain the litter. Some commercial litter boxes come with hoods that help control odor as well as keep in litter. The box must be placed in a relatively quiet are of the house in a minimal traffic area.  Be sure the box is easily accessible and not too difficult for your kitten to find.

To ensure that your kitten uses its litter box every time, keep it within eyesight at all times.  If it stops playing and begins sniffing around, gently carry it to the litter box.  Praise any sniffing or scratching and give it lots of praise or a small food treat for eliminating.  Whenever you are unable to watch your kitten, restrict it to a cat-proofed room with its litter box.  Continue this for at least the first two weeks, until your kitten is using its box regularly. Also, make sure you keep the litter box clean and that the kitten is never frightened when in or around the box.  The box should be scooped daily and washed out weekly.  Many cats do not like to use an excessively dirty litter box and may look for a cleaner spot to use. When an accident does occur, do not scold your kitten as this technique does not work with cats and will only make them afraid of you. Instead, try to determine why your kitten did not use the litter box and work on a solution.

Causes for house-soiling:

  • Brand of litter was changed.

  • Litter has scented additives or the odor of cleansers/deodorants.

  • Litter box is not cleaned frequently enough.

  • Kitten was frightened in or near the box.

  • Kitten has medical problems.

If soiling persists, make sure that the soiled area has been thoroughly cleaned and treated with a commercial odor neutralizer. Additionally, you should take your kitten to the veterinarian as a medical problem may exist.

Furniture Scratching:

Cats scratch on furniture as part of a normal grooming instinct. As they scratch on objects, the outer sheath of their claws are shed off, exposing the newer claw beneath.  There are several different ways of handling this problem.

  1. Cat claws can be tipped.  Small plastic caps are glued to the cats claws, preventing them from causing damage when the cat scratches something.  Initially the vet will size the claws and show you how to apply them.   The caps are inexpensive and easy to replace, but will have to be replaced when the outer sheath is shed. This is certainly a humane, inexpensive, and convenient way of remedying the problem.

  2. Provide your cat with scratching posts.  Place one post near your cat’s sleeping quarters as they like to scratch upon waking up. You may also smear cat-nip on the post to attract your cat.

  3. Place squirt bottles strategically around your house. When you see your cat begin to scratch on the furniture, squirt him with the water. Be careful not to squirt the water in his eyes, however.

  4. Do not yell or hit your cat.  This will not teach him anything other than to be fearful of you.  They are not able to associate the fact that you are yelling/hitting them because of the scratching.

  5. Repellants for cats are available in pet shops.   Spray the repellant on the corner of furniture that may look appealing for your cat to use as a scratching area.

  6. You also have the option of de-clawing your cat which is a very controversial procedure.  You must give this careful consideration as it does involve amputating a portion of your cats toes.  The procedure does have a painful recovery and renders your cat completely helpless to protect himself should he get out of the house. Your cat will also be compromised is terms of his ability to evade predators such as coyotes or dogs, due to compromising his agility and ability to climb trees.

Play Fighting:

Many cats and kittens can play rough.  This can be characterized by attacking and biting your ankles or arms.  Cats can be very energetic and have difficulty finding ways to release their energy.  Their natural instincts involve stalking and biting, and so this behavior characterizes their play.  Several solutions to this include providing more cat toys, allowing him/her to play with another cat, playing with your cat/kitten i.e.: by having him/her chase a string, or allowing your cat to play with another cat. To discourage this behavior, spray him/her using a water filled squirt bottle.  Buy several of them and leave them at strategic points in the house.   Although you may be tempted to hit your cat, do not do so as you may harm your cat or become fearful of you.


In general, cats become aggressive out of defensiveness and self-protection.  Additionally, their sense of self preservation is extremely high.    Incidences of offensive aggression are extremely low as compared to dogs.   Cats may feel threatened with new people around or with the introduction of a new cat.  When introducing cats to each other, more common than not displays of aggression will occur in both cats characterized by hissing, raising the fur along their backs, and arching their backs. In such occurrences, the cats should be allowed to retreat and in time will introduce themselves. Once they have determined that their is not a threat, they will be able to cohabitate peacefully.  It is common for cats to take days or weeks to reach this point.  The same process can occur when a cat meets a new human, although more often the cat will hide until he/she feels there is no more of a threat.

when introducing cats together, it is often a good strategy to separate one of them in another room with it’s own litter pan, food and water.   Ultimately the cats will sniff each other through the door and will be more accustomed to each others presence. After several days of this arrangement, you may open the door and allow the cats to introduce each other on their own.  It is important not to pick them up and place them next to each other.  This in fact may escalate the situation.

Some cats may become aggressive when rubbed vigorously on the belly or at the base of their tail.  Some cats like being petted in these areas and others do not.  Your cat may have an area he/she does not like being petted.  They can respond t this by biting.  Like people, animals vary in their acceptance/enjoyment of physical contact, which should be respected.

If you are concerned that your cat is excessively aggressive, beyond the reasonable scope of most cats, you may consult with your veterinarian.   Cats with thyroid problems can develop aggression. Additionally, remember that hunger and physical stress can elicit agitation and ultimately aggression. If your cat becomes isolative/aggressive and this is out of character, you may be dealing with a physical issue.


Spraying is a form of territory marking that can occur with both males and females.  Un-neutered males by far account for the majority of this behavior, however. When cats spray they are normally in a standing position and spray the urine horizontally.  The exception to this is female cats in heat who will often spray in a squatting position.  Neutering/spaying your cat generally resolves this problem.  If your cat is spayed or neutered, and sprays, it may be because it is having contact with a new cat, such as seeing a cat outside through a window.  In such cases it is best to attempt to eliminate visual contact with the outdoor cat, or to spray the surrounding yard with a cat repellant to keep the cat away from the house

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