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No kitty... bad kitty!

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Cats are not like dogs (no kidding!). They don't have a built-in ability to work within a family unit. Dogs' ancestors lived in packs with highly developed social structures, yet cats (with the exception of lions) are solitary hunters used to taking care of themselves.

Trying to teach your cat where and where not to sharpen his claws, and what can and cannot be used as a plaything, can be challenging but in order to do so, you have to understand how to answer the fundamental cat question...

"What's in it for me?"

Cats are creatures of habit, and this gives us a way to train them where and where not to scratch, play, eat, drink and toilet. So once you have established a pattern, you can put away all the gadgets we'll mention below which are part of the habit-forming processes, and your home can return to its former as-if-there's-no-cat-here glory!

First off, remember to NEVER hit your cat and never let her think that discipline is coming from you. Physical discipline is worse than meaningless to cats and can cause your cat to become stressed and afraid of you. The idea is to make kitty believe that what they're doing triggers a response that they don't like and that you have nothing to do with it as far as she can tell.

So here are some clever ways to "booby-trap" your cat into the kind of good behaviour you're hoping for:

  1. Use water or loud noises to stop her in the middle of a bad act. Slyly squirt kitty with a water bottle or set off a can of compressed air (with or without a horn), or even shake a can full of coins - all are excellent methods.
  2. Cover areas which you don't want your cat to touch with double-sided tape (cats HATE sticky paws), tin foil, plastic or even plastic carpet runners with the points, all of which can be removed when kitty finally gets the message. And remember to provide a good scratching post as an alternative!
  3. Set wooden mousetraps (the kind that aren't pre-baited) and cover them with paper and place them on counter tops or in the wash-basket (in other words, wherever kitty shouldn't be!)... when she bumps it she will be met with a terrifying "SNAP" sound that will deter her from going there again!
  4. Coating something you don't want your cat near with a substance that tastes AWFUL (such as Tabasco sauce or bitter apple) is another trick that works in some cases. It won't take much, as a cat's sense of taste and smell are very keen!

* Some parts of this article are gratefully sourced from the Veterinary Information Network.

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