Every Cat owner has experienced the odd occasion of what we perceive as bad behavior. Whether it is urinating on carpets, beds and other inappropriate items around the home, scratching furniture or keeping you awake at night with incessant meowing. Humans interpret this behavior as being naughty or mischievous and our first reaction is to tell the cat off or even punish them in a physical way to try and get them to stop. Unfortunately this is a human reaction and has absolutely no meaning to a cat. In fact is likely only to confuse a cat and cause them to fear you, which in turn could serve only to aggravate the initial bad behaviors.
So what do you do to prevent or train a cat away from these types of behaviors? Is there such as a thing as cat discipline? Yes there is but to understand what will be considered a punishment to a cat, you first have to think like a cat rather than a human. To a human being shouted at and told off is seen as punishment, but to a cat all he sees is that you are paying them attention, the words mean nothing, and attention is a good thing. This is often why most cat owners find themselves at their wits end when they just can't seem to stop their cat from being "naughty", even after they spray water at them, shout and chase them away, nothing seems to work.
The first rule in cat discipline is to think like a cat and realize what would you consider a punishment. Cats learn far more quickly by receiving rewards rather than any form of physical punishment. It is in their interest to stay away from anything that may harm them or makes them feel insecure and so will want to carry out only certain behaviors they know they will be rewarded for. This does not necessary mean that you have to give your cat a treat every time they use their scratching post rather than the sofa, this would soon lead to an over weight kitty. A reward to cat can also be your personal attention. After all cats love to be patted and to be with their owners, so by lavishing extra attention on them or playing a game with them as a reward for good behavior will be something they begin to seek out.
So the secret is to always reward good behavior and withhold a reward for bad behavior. Here are a few examples where this non-reward punishment will help your cat to understand what is good and bad behavior.
To stop your cat bringing home dead animals -- Every time they present you with a dead animal in the house make a hissing sound at them and spray some water at them. But when they come home without anything make sure you give them lots of attention straight away and or give them a small treat. This will tell the cat that by bringing home a dead animal they only get a negative reaction but by not, they get a reward.
When a cat won't stop meowing at night -- often we will pick a cat up that is meowing at us or we may even talk back to them. Guess what? This is a positive reaction for your cat, so now every time they want you to give them some attention they will meow at you until you give them what they want. The trouble with this is that cats are most alert at night and they might just want to play a game during the small hours, so they will meow at you, as they know this will get you to pay them attention. So the answer is to completely ignore this meowing behavior every time it happens. This involves not looking at them, making a sound or making any attempt to pick them up or pat them. Eventually this meowing behavior will stop once the cat realizes that they only get a negative reaction to their cries. Again when a cat is quite, this is when to pay them lots of attention, to reinforce the difference between the two behaviors.
Aggressive cat behavior towards people -- Some cats become too aggressive during a game, which can even mean that the cat owner receives a nasty bite. This is not intentional; it's just that the cat has not learnt that this is something they should not do during a game. To prevent this aggressive behavior from continuing in the future, you must stop the game immediately and walk away from the cat. They will think, "Hey, whys the fun stopped?" Again as long as you are consistent with this non reward action every time they become to aggressive, the cat will associate this negative reaction with this type of behavior and will stop doing it, instead they will want the game to continue.
Once this non-reward cat discipline has been fully grasped it can be used in many different situations to promote good behavior and to teach the cat what is bad behavior. The difficulty is that we have to give the same response every time, otherwise the cats will become confused and it is likely that the battle of preventing so called bad behavior, will have been lost.