Like children, dogs and cats must be taught the finer points of acceptable behavior in the household. Sadly, too many cats end up being relinquished to animal shelters because their owners are uninformed and mistakenly believe the old myth that cats cannot be trained and bad habits cannot be broken. Find out how you can address five common behavioral issues to restore peace in your home by training your feline delinquent to change his ways.

The Shredder

Has the end of your couch been splayed open to reveal stuffing or the wooden frame? Is the carpet under the coffee table torn to unsightly shreds? Are the lower halves of your window curtains now fringed? To correct this destructive offense, training is about redirecting your cat's scratching focus to acceptable surfaces. By nature, cats must scratch to leave their scent mark, to stretch their muscles and to groom their nails. If you do not provide a place for him to scratch, he will do so on whatever he fancies. Apply the following tips to redirect his focus:

  • Place scratching posts next to any vertical objects that he scratches.
  • Place scratching pads on top of any horizontal objects that he scratches.
  • Sprinkle catnip on these scratching surfaces to draw his attention.
  • Offer him reward treats when he scratches the appropriate surfaces.

The Counter Surfer

Does your cat proudly parade across the kitchen countertops in search of tasty tidbits? Given where his paws have been, namely the litter box, this transgression should be strongly discouraged since food preparation and cooking are performed on these surfaces. Additionally, if your cat walks across a heated cooking range, he will sustain severe burns to his paw pads. Use any the following negative reinforcement techniques to curb your counter surfer's escapades:

  • Place double-sided sticky tape on the counter. Cats strongly dislike the sticky sensation on their paws and will quickly vacate the surface.
  • Cover the cooking range with metal pots and pans. If the range is covered, your cat will be unable to traipse through without making loud sounds as the pots are knocked into one another or sent crashing to the floor.
  • Install a motion detector that will sound an alarm when it detects your cat taking a flying leap to the countertop.
  • Keep a water pistol within close and easy reach, and instruct all family members to be quick on the draw when they witness the crime. A couple of squirts should prompt your feline perpetrator to flee the scene.

After enough unpleasant encounters with the counter, your cat will realize that crime doesn't pay and he will find someplace else to explore. If your cat is exhibiting a noticeable increase in his appetite, have him evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out a medical condition, such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes, that can present with this symptom.

The Nighttime Party Animal

You are drifting off into dreamland when your feline friend suddenly bounces off of your belly like a gymnast on a trampoline. Alternately, perhaps you are awakened from a deep sleep shortly before your alarm was to sound by a furry alarm clock instead, who either chose to sing you a song or drop a jingling toy on your head. Cats are crepuscular creatures, meaning that they are naturally inclined to be active during the dawn and dusk hours. For this reason, some owners opt out of allowing their cats to slumber with them. Try these tips to keep your cat happy and your mind and body rested:

  • Offer your cat a meal when you turn in for the night. Cats typically follow a pattern of eating, grooming and sleeping. Once satiated, he may be more content to perform his evening toilette and curl up for some shuteye.
  • Provide toys that make no noise and are designed for nighttime play. Spray the toys with catnip so that he is attracted to them, and swap out the toys for new ones frequently to keep him interested.

If your cat has entered his geriatric years, have him evaluated by a veterinarian if he begins to frequently yowl and pace in the middle of the night. This can be a sign of cognitive dysfunction, which is a form of dementia.

The Errant Eliminator

If your cat is urinating or defecating outside of the litter box, it is imperative to rule out any medical conditions that can cause this potential sign of trouble. Once medical conditions have been ruled out, practice these tips to help your cat feel more comfortable with using the box:

  • Provide one box for each cat in your household.
  • Place the litter box in a quiet location that is free of frequent foot traffic, playing children and noisy appliances.
  • Sprinkle a litter box additive product on the litter. It is formulated with a scent that attracts the cat.
  • For an older cat, provide an additional litter box for quick and easy access, and make sure that the sides of the box are not too high for your arthritic cat to climb into it comfortably.

The Scrapper

Whether your cat or kitten fights with other pets or tries to pick a fight with human family members, aggressive behavior cannot be tolerated. Aggressive behavior is exhibited as hissing, growling, scratching or biting, and it may be in response to fear or some perceived threat that is not always apparent to the owner. Isolate your cat in a safe room as soon as he displays signs that he is becoming agitated. This room should contain a couple of his toys, a soothing blanket, and his litter box, and this solitary confinement should serve as a time out for him to quell his fear or angst. Once you have confirmed that all signs of aggression have completely abated, offer him a reward treat and talk to him in reassuring tones. If he remains calm, then you may grant him parole from his safe room. If your cat has always been sweet and is suddenly exhibiting repeated bouts of aggressive behavior, this may be a sign that he is in pain and should be assessed for injuries or illness by a veterinarian.

For more assistance with your cat or kitten, talk to a veterinarian like those at Animal House Veterinary Hospital.