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Cat Training: When Deterrents Are Necessary


Use gentle deterrents in conjunction with positive reinforcement.

At, we know that positive reinforcement works best for cat training. Giving praise and treats for doing what you want usually works great for training cats, and it also strengthens the bond between the two of you.

However, sometimes it's also necessary to give your kitty a little nudge away from an area or activity in which you don't want her engaged. When you need to do this, it's best if that nudge doesn't come directly from you.

Safe Deterrents for Cats

When you need to use a deterrent, it's essential that it's not too scary, doesn't hurt the cat, and appears to the cat to come from the environment rather than from you or another person in the home.

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Here are some ideas for deterrents:

  • Aluminum foil is a substrate that some cats hate the feel and sound of under their feet, so they can be deterred by placing it where you don't want them to be.
  • ScatMats are clear mats that can be placed on surfaces like counters and couches; they give the kitty a tiny static pulse when they're stepped on.
  • SSSCat Ultimate Cat Control System is a motion detecting system that emits a harmless spray to startle the cat.
  • Half-filled containers of coins that drop off the counter and make a loud noise are good deterrents; you can perch them on high surfaces so that they'll fall when the kitty jumps up, startling her away.
  • Double-sided tape on surfaces that it's safe for can deter cats because they don't like sticky paws.
  • Citrus sprays that are cat safe can be sprayed on things you want your cat to stay away from; most cats dislike the smell of citrus.
  • Bitter apple spray can be used on items that your cat chews on to deter her.

Positive Reinforcement Should Follow the Deterrent Use

If you are present when your cat encounters the deterrent, immediately provide something to distract her from the unpleasantness. You may throw a catnip toy away from the forbidden area or offer playtime with a wand toy. Praise your cat when she leaves the undesirable spot and does one of these positive behaviors instead.

Remember, yelling and hitting are negative deterrents that don't usually work for cat training. Instead, they damage your bond with your cat and can lead to stress-induced negative behaviors like inappropriate urination or scratching.

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