Bad, or non-existent, litterbox habits
A PRINCIPLE OF SUCCESSFUL CAT TRAINING FOR ANY PROBLEM.
Cats respond better to positive reinforcement than to being yelled at or hit.
Cats need to be given an alternative to their bad behavior.
Consistency is essential!
Bad, or non-existent, litterbox habits:
Why is your cat peeing on your bed? or on the rug? or on a particular person's clothes?
Your cat hasn't forgotten that there is a litter box, he is trying to tell you something.
Common reasons for bad litterbox habits:
Urinary tract infection
Sudden change in environment
Change of litter brand/type
Dirty litter box
Dislike of a particular person
Stray or feral cats outside can trigger an indoor cat to mark territory
For ALL of the above, you must clean the soiled areas with an enzyme cleaner to remove the smell. Even if you can't smell it, your cat can! Nature's Miracle and similar products are available at most pet stores.
The first thing to do is to take the cat to the vet to rule out a urinary tract infection or other illness. If this is the cause, treating the cat should solve your problem.
If your cat is healthy, he is trying to tell you something.
Did you switch to a different kind of litter? Switch back!
Have there been any new people around?
Did you just move, or rearrange furniture?
Have you brought a new pet into the house?
Has your schedule changed so that you are no longer around when you used to be?
Your cat could be complaining about any of the above, you need to help him deal with the change AND remind him about his litter box!
Things to AVOID:
rubbing his nose in the mess. All this does is scare your cat.
squirting him with a water bottle. This will make him even madder at you.
Things to DO:
Confine the cat to one room, usually the bathroom works well. Put his litterbox, food, favorite toys etc in with him. Spend time every day with him brushing or playing with him so he feels he is getting attention.
When he goes to his litter box give him lots of positive reinforcement.
Tell him what a good cat he is. Pat him and praise him when he is done.
Give a cat treat.
Check on him several times a day, if he has used the litterbox, call him over to it and praise him.
Cat treats as rewards work VERY well! The only down side is that your cat will start asking for treats every time he uses the box!
Clean the box daily. Many cats do NOT like a dirty box.
After a week of confinement, if he is using his box, let him out when you can watch him. You MUST have cleaned with an enzyme cleaner to get rid of the old urine smell. If he smells his urine somewhere, he is going to pee there again!!
If he behaves well in his time out, lengthen his supervised time around the house as you see fit. Remember to praise him for doing the right thing.
If you see him settling down to pee on the rug or wherever, go over, scoop him up with a loud NO and put him back in the litterbox. If he does his business there, praise him, but shut him in that room. Clean with the enzyme cleaner again.
If he is annoyed at a particular person, that person can try giving him treats and playing with him. If he is annoyed at you for changing your schedule, try to spend some extra time playing with or brushing him.
An aid for discouraging peeing/spraying is Feliway spray. It is a cat pheramone that has a very slight odor to people. It makes things smell familiar and helps the cat to relax. It is useful in many situations!
It is, however, not cheap. A pet store will charge anywhere from $20 - $30/bottle. It can be ordered online for about $20.00 plus shipping.
You can also get cat repellant. Spraying a small amount of this on a particularly bad place will deter him. However, if you haven't re-trained him to use his box he will simply find another place to pee.
Reasons why cats scratch things:
Stress relief (think of it as nail biting)
Scratching is a behavior that the cat is programmed to do. Your cat is going to scratch somewhere, you have to teach him where it is ok and where it is not.
Some cats prefer horizontal scratching surfaces, others vertical surfaces. Provide both until you know which your cat likes best.
The following works for training a kitten or re-training a cat:
Confine kitty to one room. Choose a room that does NOT have things you will mind being scratched. The bathroom works well.
Place everything he needs (food, water, toys, bed etc) in that room.
Provide several different scratching options. Most cats love sisal (rope), some cats prefer carpet, many cats like cardboard. Provide one of each. You can get sisal rope and wrap it around a board very cheaply, or you can buy a sisal board. Berber carpet is another favorite. Cardboard scratchers are cheap and come in many different varieties. Another big favorite is a log with nice thick bark. For a young cat a turbo-scratcher can work wonders. It is a combination scratching surface and toy.
Sprinkle the scratching posts/surfaces with catnip.
Spend time each day playing with your cat. If your cat likes to chase things, drag the toy across the scratching surfaces. Encourage him to climb and play on his scratching posts/surfaces. Praise him for doing this.
Some cats like to scratch after they eat. Feed your cat next to his scratcher.
Watch to see which scratching surfaces he prefers and get more of them.
When you are satisfied that your cat is happily scratching on the appropriate surfaces, let him have supervised time out of his room.
Provide SEVERAL scratching posts or surfaces around the house, one in each room is best. This will allow him to scratch on an appropriate surface wherever he is. Otherwise he may look for the nearest temping target.
Placing aluminum foil on places you are worried he might scratch will deter him. Cats generally don't
like to scratch on foil. After you are content that your cat has learned where to scratch, remove the foil.
If he scratches on a non-acceptable place, pick him up quickly and say NO. Then place him on his scratcher and praise him.
You must be consistant. If you let him scratch a place sometimes and not others, he will be confused and continue to scratch there.
There are training aids available at pet stores:
Sticky paws is a sticky tape you put on surfaces you don't want the cat scratching on.
Soft-paws are claw caps that you glue on your cats claws. They need to be changed when worn, usually after a month. Some people prefer to have their vet apply them.
Cat bites can be very serious! Clean all bite wounds thoroughly and watch closely for sign of infection!
Reasons why your cat bites you:
Over stimulation - your cat is too wound up
Anger - your cat is mad at you
Most cats give little nips as a sign of affection. However, if your cat is drawing blood he is not being affectionate! Aggressive biting behavior is snapping at you and biting hard enough to consistently draw blood.
A large part of re-training your biting cat is learning to read your cat's body language.
Many cats get excited when playing, or become wound up or over stimulated when being patted. Watch your cats tail and ears. Watch for the tail beginning to twitch while you are patting your cat, or for the tail to start lashing when you are playing. These are signs of over stimulation. Watch the cat's ears. If they go back, your cat is becoming aggressive.
What should you do???
Do NOT hit your cat for biting. This feeds his aggressive behavior! He will most likely escalate and bite harder OR, if you hit him hard, he will simply become afraid of you.
Re-training a biting cat takes time and everyone who interacts with the cat needs to be aware of the problem.
Do NOT use your hands as toys! This will send a mixed message to the cat. Only play with things that are ok for your cat to bite.
When your cat bites you
Yell NO! loudly.
get up and leave.
Most cats can't stand to be ignored. Stopping whatever activity preceded the biting, be it playing or patting, sends a strong message to the cat. If he responds by doing something else bad -like knocking over things- yell NO again and put him in another room for a short while. If the cat is aggressive and goes after you, scruff the cat and put him in another room. Few cats will be this aggressive, but some will.
Some cats need a long time to cool down, others will calm down in a few minutes. You must learn to read your cat and judge if he is calm enough to interact with.
As long as your cat does not bite, interact with him normally. When he bites, yell NO and ignore him. The continued interaction will be its own reward.
Often, during the course of training, the cat will think about biting you but will not actually do it. Sometimes they may start to snap at your hand then stop. Praise this behavior. Your cat is trying to break a bad habit, he is going to occasionally slip. If he catches himself and corrects his behavior he deserves to be rewarded!
If your cat is being especially troublesome and the above is not working, you can use some dominance techniques. Cats are very sensitive to hierarchy! You must be the top cat!
When your cat bites you, place your hand on the top of the cat's head, push him to the floor and yell NO. Hold him for a just a second and let him go. Then ignore him for several minutes.
Some cats will actually start to apologize. One cat I have retrained, if he catches himself about to snap at me, will look up at me and lick my hand instead.
Your cat may test new people he encounters to see if he can get away with biting them. Explain the rules to them. Your cat needs to know that biting is not appropriate with anyone. Your cat will remember who does and does not enforce the rules!!
How to retrain your misbehaving cat