How To Discourage Your Kitten’s Bad Behaviour

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

10 April 2019

We sometimes forget that kittens are basically babies and toddlers (not to mention teenagers later on!) and sometimes misbehave. However, a lot of the time this is because they just have not yet learnt that their behaviour is unacceptable. But, don’t worry, here are some tips to help you train your kitten to know what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable.

Be consistent
It’s very important that you are consistent in what behaviour you do and do not allow. For instance, if you are teaching your kitten not to bite or scratch, you have to keep on teaching them this and not suddenly start playing roughly and encouraging them to wrestle with your hand.
The same goes for actions like jumping onto the kitchen counters. If they are not allowed on the counters, it’s not okay to then let them onto the counter — especially not to give them a treat of tuna, for instance. Then they will immediately think that there are tuna treats on the kitchen counters or that they will be rewarded for being on the counters.
It’s a good idea to have the whole family or everyone living in the house on the same page when it comes to the rules of what your kitten may and may not do. That way you are all teaching and rewarding the same behaviour.  

What you can do to deter the behaviour
Deterring unwanted behaviour in kittens is, in fact, a lot easier than you may think — kittens are a lot smarter than we often give them credit for!
Just a few ways of deterring the behaviour is:
  • Make a noise — From a can with some dried beans to a baby rattle, if it makes a sudden noise, chances are your kitten won’t like it. If they do something wrong, simply shake the item to startle them. They’ll soon equate one with the other and stop the behaviour.
  • Deter them with certain scents — Strong scents like pepper and citrus will deter kittens from certain places in the home or certain surfaces. There are also sprays you can buy to spray in places your kitten shouldn’t go.
  • Use a bit of water — In a spray bottle that sprays very finely (think the kind of fine spray that you water orchids with), put some water and spray your kitten when they are misbehaving. You can even just spray in their direction and they’ll get the message. But don’t spray directly on them or keep on spraying them. One spritz will do the trick. After a few times just reaching for the water will let them stop what they’re doing.
  • Let some tape do the trick — Get some double-sided tape from the craft section of your store (it can be thin) and tape some to the surfaces where you don’t want your kitten to walk; for instance the kitchen counters. It’s just sticky enough to be uncomfortable, but not sticky enough to hurt or leave residue on their fur. Soon they will learn that the counters are not a nice place to be and you won’t need to keep taping the counters. Just remember to remove the tape before starting to cook or you’ll be sticking to the counter as well!
  • Use a stern tone — Don’t shout, mind you — just a firm ‘no’ will soon be part of their vocabulary. For instance, when teaching them to climb the stairs with you, always walk up or down on the same side, leaving a side open for them. In this way they become accustomed to climbing the stairs without being under your feet. If they do get under your feet, a firm ‘no’ and moving them to ‘their side’ of the stairs usually does the trick.

What you shouldn’t do
Never hurt your kitten to make them stop a specific behaviour — hitting, slapping, shouting (which can hurt their ears), etc. are all a definite no. You also shouldn’t allow this behaviour from anyone else in the house. All you’ll do is frighten them and break their trust; not teach them anything.

Good behaviour deserves a treat!
Reward good behaviour rather than only training your kitten what not to do. This can include an edible treat, but can also be a cuddle or even an extra grooming session.
Photo by Mariana Montes de Oca on Unsplash


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