Training a cat isn't always easy. Our feline friends are less docile than dogs; pups aren't nicknamed "man's best friend" for nothing. But who says cats can't be trained?
Some patience is necessary, but you will see that after learning certain gestures, it's very easy to teach a cat what it can and can't do.
So what's to be done when your cat misbehaves? Here's some advice which will help you to discipline your cat without creating a frightening atmosphere.
A question of timing
The most important thing to keep in mind when punishing a cat is doing so within moments of the misdeed. By catching your cat red-handed, you ensure that he or she will understand why you are punishing them. If you punish your cat during the misdeed, he will associate the punishment with his mistake, and will be less inclined to do it again in the future.
It is also important to reiterate the punishment each time your cat misbehaves. Otherwise the punishment will lose its credibility and you will lose your authority. For example, if you punish your cat because he was sharpening his claws on your sofa, do it every time the situation arises. If you are consistent in this way, there is less chance of your cat continuing to misbehave.
However if you realise your cat has misbehaved after the deed is done, you shouldn't punish your cat, because there is a large risk that he won't associate the punishment with the mistake.
Don't resort to violence
When you punish your cat, you must never consider hitting or kicking him. Cats associate hands with strokes, and he will be upset and frightened if you use them to whack him on the head too. It goes without saying that violence in general is totally out of the question.
The same thing goes for hard or harmful objects. Don't try chasing your cat through the house with a shoe in your hand. You will only create a hostile and scary environment for him. Frightened cats usually develop problems with anxiety.
By shouting at your cat or threatening him, you will make him feel very anxious, which is difficult to resolve. Simply tell him a firm "no" while looking him in the eye. In this way, you show him that you are capable of asserting you authority without resorting to violence.
If you want to use objects to help you, it's absolutely possible to do so, but choose them wisely. It's generally advised to use soft objects that you can throw at him to show him that he is being naughty. You can also blow on his face or use a little water pistol.
Punishing a kitten
Kittens love misbehaving. They are very young and like to explore boundaries and test you, which is nothing unsual. Nonetheless, it's important to teach them some rules from a young age so that they are well-behaved by the time they are adults.
Kittens have a bad habit of nibbling on fingers. To help them understaand that they shouldn't do this, you can hold them by the skin on the back of their neck to immobilise them and subdue them. This is completely painless; the idea comes from mother cats who hold their kittens in their mouths by the back of the neck to carry them.
Likewise, to teach him to be clean and tidy, you can reprimand your kitten when he goes to the toilet outside of his litterbox. Hold him by the neck and carry him gently to the litterbox to help him understand he was in the wrong place.
Be careful! This method shouldn't be used on adult cats. Their skin is less supple and being held by the scruff of the neck would be painful for them.
Once again, violence is never necessary. It's strongly discouraged becuase your cat will end up mistrusting you, and will be tempted to misbehave in other ways.
Punish your cat, but praise him too
If, thanks to your determination, you manage to teach your cat some basic manners, celebrate with him! While their owner's praise may be enough for a dog, cats are usually more receptive to food.
You can of course give him a small treat (don't go overboard) or reward him with some kind words and a stroke.
This provides positive reinforcement, meaning your cat will associate an action with something positive, and so will continue to do it.