Put down the spray bottle. Using aversive techniques to deter your cat from unwanted behaviours will frequently backfire on you, explains Zazie Todd, author of PURR: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. Spraying your cat with water, shaking a can of pennies, or even clapping your hands or yelling to startle a cat have unintended consequences—one of which is a damaged relationship.

Photo homestudio/bigstock.com“Spray bottles and loud noises can make the cat very stressed because cats don’t like to get wet or to be startled,” explains Todd. “Unfortunately, when cats are stressed, they can developother behaviour issues, such as being fearful or toileting outside the litter box. There is also a risk that instead of associating the punishment with what you didn’t want them to do, they will associate it with you. This will affect your relationship with the cat.”

Photo homestudio/bigstock.com
So, what to do instead? Todd suggests the long game. “It’s best to think about the issue from your cat’s perspective and use positive reinforcement to train them to do what you would like them to do instead,” she says. “For example, suppose you want to deter your cat from getting on the kitchen countertops. There are two things that are especially important to understand from the cat’s perspective: If there’s nice food there, that’s very tempting; and cats like high up spaces. So, you need to not leave food out that will tempt them, and you should also make sure they have alternative high-up spaces instead, like a cat condo. Some people like to train their cat to stay on a cat condo or on a mat instead of coming onto the counter when they are in the kitchen. Use small treats and follow a training plan if you want to train your cat.”

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Cat magazine. Subscribe today!