misbehaving cats

Misbehaving Cats, Kittens

Kittens are energetic, rambunctious and they often misbehave. Learn to correct an escaping cat, a chewing kitten, plant swatters and general mischief makers.

Cat Escapes from House

Dear Simba,
I am a first time cat owner. I rescued this cat front our neighborhood 6 weeks ago.
This poor cat had been declawed on all of his paws! The other cats were beating him up when I found him. I brought him in, cleaned him up and have loved him ever since!

I took him to the vet and found out he is about a year-old. he is very healthy and has been neutered. I have a couple questions. He tries to run out the door! Every time someone opens a door my heart stops because he tries to run right through your feet! I am afraid if he gets out he is so fast I will not be able to catch him!
My other problem is his climbing on the counters. I spray him with the water battle, but he actually likes it! Is there anything else I can use to teach him when he is doing something wrong? Doreen

Dear Doreen,
While the wanting to run outside is a behavior more common in Tomcats, it is certainly normal for a cat that has lived outdoors. Best thing to do is to get some child safety gates to prevent his running out or to throw a toy in the opposite direction so as to have him distracted as you make for the door.

As for his counter behavior, try clapping or removing him while you say "NO" Abstain from showing affection for a few minutes following this correction and hopefully he will begin to form an association with the counters. Also, be sure that he has a cat condo or some other high up place where he can perch. Cats love heights! (see Mischief for more tips)

You are a good person in taking in this poor cat. How terrible that someone abandoned a cat unable to hunt or fend for itself! Keep me posted. Simba

Cat Licking & Chewing behavior

Dear Simba,
Dixie, my 7-week-old kitten loves to bite on things, such as corners of magazine, towels, shoes or even my fingers! What can I give her to play with that is safe for her to chew on? I have started giving her a small amount of dry food to see if this will satisfy her craving to bite. Is she too young for dry food? - Jeanine

Dar Jeanine,
If the kitten has not experienced problems with the dry food, she should be ok. See the Feeding Kittens section for tips on transitioning kittens to dry food.

As for the biting, you should correct this before it turns worse. Kittens are quite playful,and yours appears to be exploring the world through her teeth. Be sure that the little thing has a cat tree/scratching post and other things to play with. Make it a point to play with the kitten. Try a cat teaser or just roll up pieces of paper and throw them around the house (your kitten will love to chase those down). Your goal is to redirect her seemingly endless energy into a more socially acceptable mode of behavior. Lastly, kitten proof your home in the same you child proof it, do not let the kitten get into places where there are things she should not play with. Simba

For you folks whose kitten is chewing incessantly, your kitten may be Teething. Click on the link for more information.

I was desperately looking for tips on how to discipline my misbehaving kitten at your site. it is comforting to know that I am not the only frizzled parent out there! I have got a few tips to share that might be useful to new kitten owners...

My 6-week-old kitten, Smokie was abandoned along with her threeSiblings. They had been left in the hot sun in a plastic bag. We picked her up from a friend who rescued the litter. She was a sweet little thing when she first arrived at our house and was too timid to roam beyond her room. As she grew more confident, she drove my husband and I nuts by chewing the wires in the house! We tried spraying her with water and although she was scared in the beginning, she adapted and even enjoyed it! Here is what we did:

  • We placed double-sided tape (from pieces of normal tape) in corners so that Smokie would have to step on it to get to the wires. She hated the sticky feeling on her paws and would hurry out of the area. After a few times, she decided maybe this was not a place for her to be. Never stick off-the-shelf double-sided tape, since it not only makes it harder to remove from your floor, it also makes it more difficult for kitty to remove.
  • In areas where you cannot reach to place the tapes, place coins in a cup (or tin can), cover it up and shake it vigorously whenever you see kittie bite the wires. The noise scares them.
  • Pepper. We were not sure where to get cayenne pepper spray in Singapore. So my husband dissolved normally cooking pepper (in powder form) in water and wiped our wires with the solution. Smokie took one bite and absolutely hated it. It is troublesome but it works.
Hope this helps and Simba, keep up the great work! I love it! :)

Thanks for the Tip! Simba

Dear Simba,
I have two sister cats that are 9-months-old. Itty is your average lay about cat, while Bitty is a follower. She was the runt of the litter, and she has always been at my feet anywhere I go. Bitty is extremely sweet and loving, but she is always licking me. She licks my feet when I am standing or sitting, and licks my hands and arms when she is in my lap. I push her away only to have her come back over and over again. Recently she has started bathing her pregnant sister, also. Please tell me what, if anything, I can do to stop this annoying habit! Sherri W

Dar Sherri W,
How cute, Bitty sounds like a very gentle creature. So what to do? First do not worry about her washing Itty. The mutual bathing is an important part social interaction among felines. As for getting her to stop liking you, cease being affectionate when she licks and start petting her when she does not lick. Be consistent in this, she should begin to understand within a few days. Check out the rest of the letters for additional tips. Your Pal, Simba

Hi Simba!
I have a cat a little over a year-old who has a fetish for chewing on plastic garbage can liners! Since I am assuming this is dangerous for his digestive system not to say very annoying to us, We have moved all our garbage cans up high. it is a pretty bizarre looking decor! If we catch her doing this we pat her rear and tell her "no" so she does know she should not be doing it, but 10 minutes later she is right back at it! Why is she doing this and what can we do to stop it? Frazzled

Dar Frazzled,
Cats are famous for their 10-minute memory! Try sprinkling or spraying some cayenne pepper or a cayenne pepper/water solution on the garbage can liner. Cats hate cayenne pepper so it serves as a safe and effective repellent. Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba,
I adopted a shelter kitty 3 months ago. This is my first kitty and I am in love with him. Zack was previously a street kitty and now he is an indoor cat and 11-months-old. I have one problem with Zack...his chewing. He chews the rugs, the wood blinds and on my clothes. I spend much time each day brushing, playing and entertaining him. He has many toys that he enjoys. He has been to the vet for a thorough check up, he has had all his shots, and is in good health. He still tries to get outside when ever a door opens. Could his longing for freedom cause him to chew? I did buy him a small dog rawhide chew stick that does not interest him. Help. First Time Kitty Mom

Dar First Time Kitty Mom,
Congratulations! How very wonderful of you to bring him into your home, as for his misbehaving...

You can begin to discourage Zack's chewing with one of two, safe and effective repellents, cayenne pepper & tabasco sauce. Cats HATE cayenne pepper and tabasco sauce. Sprinkle a small amount of your favorite on your blinds or rug areas where he likes to chew. Bitter Lemon Spray works also. A few tastes he should stop because the memory of the taste. Squirt guns are another good training tool. Simply spray Zack when you find him misbehaving. He will then begin to associate with the water. Consider also that his clothing chews may be a weaning issue (check out Dry Nursing).

As for his running out, it is probably due to his not being neutered. Un-neutered males have a very strong instinct to find females to mate with. At 11 months your kitten is nearing his sexual prime. His attempts to run away should stop once he has his operation. Check out Neuter - Males for more information on why it is good for kitty. Congratulations again. Simba

New Cat a Bad Influence

Dear Simba,
I have a 1-year-old female cat named Zoe and another one year-old male cat named Boris. We got Zoe from the humane society. She was litter trained when we got her.
Boris, we took in after my aunt sent him off because she could not handle him. he is a sweet cat, but can also be very destructive. He scratches up the couch, jumps on counters and tables, and now he will not cover when he goes to the bathroom! Adding insult to injury, and Zoe has stopped covering. she is picked up alot of his habits. please help! Corlissa

Dear Corlissa,
It seems that Boris has never gotten the message that he lives in your house and that he must abide by your rules. The worst thing is that Boris may be passing around an equally dismissive attitude to Zoe. I think the best way to start correcting by setting the law with Boris.
Your first, step is to define unacceptable behavior. When he jumps on a couch or table, clap your hands loudly, yell "no" or "shush" or spray him with water. When he scratches on the couch you do the same*. When he does anything you do not approve of, you tell him by your behavior that his behavior is unacceptable.

As to the bathroom, make sure the litter box is clean and that you change the litter on a regular basis. If you generally follow the behavior steps above I suspect that Boris may be more careful in the future knowing that he is no longer just depositing his poo without caring how it might be perceived. Zoe will get the message too. Check out the Litter Box Usage Problems section for more tips. Your Pal, Simba

PS -Make sure Boris has a Scratching Post nearby. Toys do not hurt either. These are essential to a cat's mental and physical well-being.

cat Mischief

I have a 7-week-old kitten that goes mental after eating. I have been mixing Nutrients Kitten Biscuits with a bit of kitten meat for each meal…however, he goes nuts afterwards, runs around the house, ears back, pupils dilated open, clawing and demanding constant attention - which if it does not get it sits on the table and cries at me? Carly

Dear Carly,
I think that the kitten has learned that running around clawing etc. will bring him attention…all of this is also, part of being a kitten. Kittens are crazy little fuzz balls, so do not be too worried if your kitten appears insane. It is likely that he behaves like that during the day while you are gone.

Play with your kitten and redirect his enormous energy. Be sure that your kitten has a cat tree and plenty of toys and a scratch post. Also, I am unfamiliar with Nutrients Kitten Biscuits. I am assuming that this food is for every day meals and not just a treat type food. If the biscuits are 'treats' I recommend that you instead feed kitty a brand name kitten food, since they contain all of the essential nutrients kittens need to grow (see Feeding Kittens for tips). Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba,
My overly curious and busy 6-month-old tortoise kitten Mocha has a deep fascination for our fireplace. A few weeks ago, we had the fireplace on and Mocha jumped through the heavy mesh screen. She scorched the hair on her paws and had minor burns on two of her pads, which was bad enough. The vet was stunned by this behavior.

One would think she learned a lesson, but she is still trying to get as close to the fireplace as possible. I have tried hand clapping, rattling paper in her face (which she hates), water, NO, time outs to the bedroom and have even resorted to a spanking, but nothing seems to deter her. Short of telling us never to use the fireplace, do you have any ideas? Kendall

Dar Kendall,
A daredevil kitten! It might not be a bad idea to get a scat mat , These are placemat-like things you place in areas where you do not want kitty to approach. They give off an unpleasant sensation when stepped on. Placing one in front of the fireplace might do the trick. Regards to Mocha, Simba

Dear Simba,
My kitten is 2-months-old and i cannot keep her off the kitchen counters. I have tried the spray bottle and that does not work she seems to "like" the water. What can i do?

When she jumps on the counter, remove her from the counter while firmly and audibly saying the word "no". Be consistent and firm in your use of "no". Do not pet her or in any way encourage her behavior while she is on the counter. Be affectionate only when she is not on the counter and do not pet her immediately following her removal (wait a few minutes). You can also try Bitter Lemon Spray, - Simba

Dear Simba,
We have two, 6-month-old cats. They have a very bad habit of jumping up on our kitchen counters and on our eating tables. Each time we catch them, we tell them NO and clap our hands or hit the table to make a noise and they jump down. They know they are not supposed to be doing it because it has come to the point where we just have to say NO and they jump down and run. How can we cure them of this? My boyfriend says they will not ever learn because we do let them up on other surfaces, like the bathroom sink and coffee table. Is this true? Lori in Virginia

Dar Lori in Virginia,
Cats like high spaces. A top their perch they can survey their surroundings and they love that (that is why they sometimes get stuck in trees). In your cats' eyes, your entire home is a huge amusement park. If you do not already have one, try getting a cat tree or some type of acceptable place for your kitties to congregate up high. In addition, you may want to consider using a Bitter Lemon Spray that you apply on furniture to discourage their jumping. By the way, I tend to like water squirts over yelling. First it makes you less anxious and second it allows the cat disassociate the punishment and discomfort from you. Try a water gun next time.- Simba

Dear Simba,
We adopted a 3-month-old kitty. She has a bad habit of leaping on my back, especially when I am in th kitchen or cleaning the litter box. Her leaps hurt and leave scratches. Is she trying to get my attention or is she playing?? She is adorable otherwise!! - Not Jumping for Joy

Dar Not Jumping for Joy,
When you watch the Discovery Channel you often see young cats jumping and playing all over each other. This is their natural playful and predatory behavior at work. It looks like your little darling kitty is doing the same thing here. You can discourage this behavior with the following:

  • Redirect her enormous reservoir of energy. Have a cat teaser handy and play with her, let her jump for it, reach for it and go nuts over it. If you have a foam ball or rolled up pieces of paper, play catch (yes cats do play catch). She will run for the ball/paper and come back. Throw another one. Always know where she is and do not allow her the opportunity to jump.
  • If she does jump, clap your hands, make a distracting noise or yell "No" so that she associates jumping on you with bad noise.
Play with her afterwards so that there are no ill feelings.

Keep me posted. Simba

DEALING With A Stubborn Cat or Kitten

Dear Simba,
Jazzmine is 3-months-old. I have had her for 1 month now.
cat scratch postUltimate Scratcher
I have had both cats and dogs since childhood, however, this is the most hard headed pet I have ever seen. No matter how many times I discipline her for the SAME misbehavior, she goes back and repeats it sometimes minutes later.

I have tried the spray bottle and my hand clapper is worn out. She wants to sleep every where but her bed (i.e., my chairs, sofa, my bed, my teddy bear's lap). Should I restrict her to 1 room when I work? Should I buy a cage?

What I thought would bring me joy has turned into stress. My cats used to sleep most of the time and lay in my lap, not this one...She is a terror on wheels. She always plays and does not like to be alone. She follows me ALL the time, even in the middle of the night when I go to the bathroom she cries to come in with me. My prior cats were more independent. PLEASE HELP ME! I do not want to get rid of her. I will be happy for any help you can give. She is litter trained even though she sometimes uses it for a sandbox. I just wish she would be tamer. I only had to tell my Pekingese things once and she understood every word I said. Frustrated Kitten Owner

Dar Frustrated Kitten Owner,
You have a perfectly normal kitten on your hands. It will be very difficult find a kitten that will behave in like your loved Pekingese, she was special and unique in her own, and no kitten or cat can replace that bond.

Remember that Jazzmine is a toddler and she sees you as her Mom. She loves you, although in ways that are not always as fun for you. Cats, and kittens in particular, are notorious for their short memories. It is rare to find a feline that will listen to commands. It is their natural instinct is to be curious and to find out all about their environment. The urges they have to seek out are quite strong. Kittens are the most curious of all. Their little bodies and young minds are absorbing information about the world and the big creatures at a rapid rate. It is a good sign in her development that she is active. Give Jazzmine reasons to love you and make yours a happy home. A couple of things you can do are as follows:
  • Toys -
    Leave toys for her to play with. You will be amazed at how effective a ball of tin foil can be. By having her play you direct her energy in positive ways (you also tire her out by the time you get home!)
  • Things to Climb -
    Buy her a kitty condo or make a perch for her to survey the home. Cats & Kittens love to climb on things.
  • Let her sleep -
    Cats will migrate to places they find warm, comfortable and safe. Make her bed that place. Do not punish her for finding places in your home.
  • Give her attention -
    Following people around is a sign that your cat Loves you. She sees you as her parent, her protector and her provider. See this for what it is.

    Do not buy a cage and do not restrict her movement while you are at work. This will only make things more difficult (imagine letting her loose after she is been locked in all day!).
You need to decide if you are ready for a toddler at this point in your life. If you are not, find a home for her, she is still young and can adapt. If you commit to making this work, you will develop a close and nurturing bond. Let Jazzmine be that love of your life and let her be a kitten as well. Keep me posted. Simba

Plant Play

I have a kitten that just refuses to leave our house plant alone. We have tried scolding and the "spray bottle" with no result. Any suggestions? Ron

Dar Ron,
Cats & plants, the eternal struggle. It might be worthwhile to try a Bitter Lemon Spray. These are pretty effective in keeping Cats & Kittens away from problem areas. An alternative is spraying cayenne pepper on the leaves. This is a safe and effective repellent. Also, when disciplining, be consistent, that is the most important thing. Check out the rest of the training tips and read some of the notes on why cats are so attracted to grass. Simba

Dear Simba:
I recently adopted a kitten from a shelter, and Lola is fitting in well with the rest of the family. One little problem, though: she likes playing in the dirt of one of my potted plants. She is not using it as a litter box, she is just playing. I tried sprinkling cayenne pepper on the soil, but she does not seem to care. I also tried putting tin foil on top of the pot, but she just pushed it aside. How can I make her stop? Kit

Dear Kit,
Try placing a couple of heavy, fake or real stones on top of the dirt, such that the dirt becomes inaccessible. It that is not possible with your plant, consider placing a plastic, plate-like covering to maintain the dirt unexposed. Congratulations on your kitten. Keep me posted. Simba

Help Simba!
My new kitten (10-weeks-old) is constantly digging in my house plants! She sometimes uses them for her litter box...how can I keep her out of them? Forest

Hi Forest,
Ah, the eternal struggle between cats and plants! Ok, let's fix this. First, make sure that your plants are not poisonous (see Common Dangers). Cats love chewing on the plants and playing with the leaves. Second, discourage chewing by spraying cayenne pepper on the leaves. This is a safe and effective repellent. Third, take care of the digging and litter issues by covering the plant dirt with aluminum foil and/or gravel. Also, consider replacing the top few layers of the plant soil, since you kitty has probably put in his scent marks. Best of luck. Keep me posted. Simba

PS See Litter Training for good litter training tips

We have two 18-week-old kittens. We spray them with the water gun but it does not help. They behave when we are there, but a soon as we leave they knock ornaments off the Christmas tree and get up on the tables. We yell at them and spray them but it does not help! We punish them by putting them in a spare room. When they come out they are twice as bad. Can you help? Profoundly confused in PA

Dear Profoundly confused in PA,
Cats & Kittens are notorious for their instinct to wreck havoc on any indoor plant. Best thing to do is to limit their access to the Christmas Tree room when you are not present. Otherwise, it is kitten party time, and you are the one that has to clean up. As for the tables, you may also want to use a Scat Mat. These mats give off an unpleasant sensation when in contact with your cat. I have not tried them, but they appear interesting. Keep me posted. Simba

Hi Simba,
We have had kittens and adult cats for more than 30 years. Just thought Iwould put in my 2 cents worth for the folks who are having problems with the cats and plants. There are two things that we did for our kitty to train her out of the plants. When Prissy would try to eat, scratch, climb into the plant in the living room on the floor, we would verbally correct her, then spray her, then walk over and physically remove her from the plant and say "no" (without anger). The removal generally worked for a short time. But, for the long term, we would remove the plant to another room (closed off from kitty) and then return it, and if she violated the plant again, we took it back to the room. It would seem like we were punishing the plant, but in 30 days she was broken from the plant and has not touched it in more than 6 months now.

You can also grow a catnip bed on a windowsill for the kitty that helps them understand that the catnip plant is the ONLY acceptable plant in the household to play with. Kitty Veteran

Dear Kitty Veteran,
Thanks for the advice! Simba

Dear Simba,
As my little guy grows up he is getting very quick. I live in a penthouse townhome. Once you walk into my place you have to go up stairs to get to the living room. Every time I start to leave my little kitten races down the stairs and waits for me at the door. I bring him back up and race down hoping to beat him to the door. Sometimes he stays, other times he runs down again. I usually do this 3 or 4 times before he will let me leave without running. I go out through the garage to make sure he is inside before I open the big garage door. The other day I decided to let him see what it was like outside. It had snowed and I thought he would not like it. But he seemed to like it. He sat on the snow on the stoop just outside the door. I have been very careful when I leave the house or someone comes in, but I am afraid that he will soon be too quick and will take off and get lost. Is there any way I can train him to stay, to keep him from taking off? MJ

Dear MJ,
One thing that may work is to have kitty neutered. Un-neutered males and un-spayed females have a very strong instinct to run out of the house to find mates. Having kitty fixed will help reduce this. In the meantime, try to avoid the running game with him. He is begining to perceive this as play time and probably enjoys the attention. You may want to consider a Pet Gate to block kitty from the exit. You would then simply step over the gate and kitty would remain safe at home. Check out Deaf Kittens for tips on walking your kitty outside! Simba

we just adopted a new 2 or 3-year-old cat named Jade. she is a mouser and we want her to help control the gophers in the yard. how do we go about keeping her here at our home to keep her from looking for her old home? she was an outside cat there, and only came in to visit and so she does not use a litter box. the people we got her from have a cat with whom jade did not get along.

My thoughts are that you need to build a very warm and enriching environment for Jade to make her feel comfortable with you. Be sure that you lavish her with food and treats and plenty of attention. Short of building a fence that Jade cannot climb, I am at a loss as to how to prevent her from wandering off. I do recommend that you place a tag collar on her. You may also consider getting a chip implant should the collar every get lost. Keep me posted. Simba

Deaf Kittens

Hi Simba,
We lost our 16-year-old to heaven awhile ago and I got us a new kitten. We found out that he is deaf. He is a very loving kitty, likes to sleep with us but has the tendency to want to claw near your face while we sleep. If we put him out of the room he destroys everything, remember if he breaks anything he cannot hear it so he is not startled. We do spray him but it does not always work. He also likes going outside. we have a leash, but he has escaped a few times. Should we use Soft Claws, we do trim claws, but he is just a mad cat. We love him. Help us. Jim & No Ears

Dear Jim & No Ears,
Poor little guy! A little background, deaf cats tend to be sweet and dependent. They purr and follow their friends around and like the companionship of people &animals.Because they are deaf, they are more adept at following visual clues. So try to work out a way to communicate with kitty. You can try hand signals (reinforced by treats and petting) for asking him to come. Be sure that you make a lot of eye contact with him. To discipline him, spray him with water (at his face) and point your finger while you mouth 'no'. He will begin to associate your finger with the punishment. Another tip is to switch the light on and off quickly when kitty misbehaves. Because your kitty can still feel vibrations, stomping your feet may be useful.

It is especially important that you not let your kitten outside alone, ever. He is at a big disadvantage outdoors and cannot hear cars coming or other animals growling. Try using a Cat Harness. Collars are designed to let cats slip out of them. A figure 8 harness will stay on kitty and keep him safe.Keep me posted. Simba

As for his clawing, the diciplining steps in the note should help out. Also, check out Claws for more information

Dear Simba,
I have a 18-month-old, neutered, male, Bengal cat. I have only had him about two weeks. He had been previously owned and then returned to the breeder. it was love at first sight! he seems well adjusted and well behaved... we have one problem. he wants to "patty cake" when he is on my lap and he drools while he is doing it. i know he is just showing his love, but he is very rough about it. i want to be able to hold him and pet him, but it hurts. how can i discourage this without hurting his feelings? Dottye

Dear Dottye,
You are very gentle in being concerned for your cat's feelings. Aside from wearing mittens, the best thing to sensitively discourage this play is to not participate in it. Try petting your cat only when he does not play "patty cake" with you. When he starts, you stop. Slowly, he will associate petting with stillness and patty cake with no petting. Also, be sure that he has toys to play with so he can direct his natural predator behavior. Keep me posted. Simba

My name is Alison and I am 14-years-old. We recently got a kitten, he is now 5 months. His mother was 1/2 Siamese, and he looks like a Siamese. My parents told me that the breed is wild and playful, which is just like my kitten. The problem is that he will not stop biting and clawing us...he is not mad, just playful. We have tried different things. I try not to touch him when he is in a playful mood. he is pretty good about not scratching my parents, but my hands look like I stuck them in a blender! Can you help me? Is there some way to get him out of this painful habit?? Alison

Dear Alison,
Until he is trained, try to wear a sweatshirt or some other type of thick clothing to protect yourself. So how to correct him? Cease all playing/petting as soon as he bites or scratches you. He will begin to associate these activities with loss of affection and nice behavior with affection. He should learn that way. Also, play with him and try to redirect his energy to an external object, a cat teaser or foamy ball/mice. Encourage his ‘good’ play with treats and petting.

Your kitten is full of energy and he needs to find an outlet in something other than your skin. Be sure that he has scratching posts and/or cat tree. If you are unable to control his behavior through redirection and cognitive petting, you may want to consider clip on nails for cats. Check out Claws! for more information on dealing with scratchers. Keep me posted. Simba

Follow up:
thank you...I will do my best to stay away from him until he is older and more calmer...do kittens grow out of this? Alison

Dear Alison,
do not stay away from kitty, you need to play with him, just stop for a few minutes when he bites. Resume play later, throw things he can chase and jump after. Make sure that your mom and dad buy or have bought a cat tree and/or scratch pad for the little guy. Simba

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