You’d think that based on the popularity of the squirt bottle technique, it must be an extremely effective and successful method of training cats. The truth is though, it’s not effective at training a cat to cease engaging in unwanted behaviors. The squirt bottle technique only accomplishes three things:
- It creates frustration in the cat
- It causes the cat to become afraid of you
- The cat learns to wait until you aren’t around before engaging in the behavior
Punishment Doesn’t Work When Training Animals
When you punish a cat for exhibiting a behavior you don’t like, it doesn’t stop the behavior. First, it’s important to understand that regardless of how unwanted the behavior is, it serves a purpose for the cat. Your cat isn’t scratching on the sofa or jumping on the counter just to make you mad. Animals engage in behaviors that serve a function (i.e. a pay-off). Additionally, many of the behaviors cat parents view as unwanted, such as furniture scratching, are normal, natural behaviors. When you squirt the cat with water for scratching the furniture you may momentarily stop the behavior but the cat has a normal and natural need to scratch. If he gets punished every time he attempts to engage in a normal behavior, he will probably become afraid of you and he’ll also continue the behavior in secret. That’s a very stressful combination.
So instead of trying to train a cat by punishing him for engaging in normal behaviors, let’s try a better idea.