How To Tell Your Kitten Off, the Right Way!

Here are some ethical tried and true ways to tell your wayward kitten off.

  • Squirt them with water when you want them to stop and listen…
  • Glare into their eyes and hiss loudly like a cat (very effective)…
  • Startle them into distraction…
  • Time out in solitude…
  • Reward Good Behavior…
  • Bribe with something they want …

Cat lovers know only too well how strong a mindset your kitten can have. To a kitten, to be told ‘No’ is rarely acknowledged, and they will often continue doing what they want.

First of all, let’s be very clear – never use physical punishment on your kitten. You can achieve so much more through other methods that are more ethical and teach your kitten without causing them fear or pain.

There are many tested methods for kindly reprimanding your kitten when they go too far, so let me explain them.

Water Spray Bottle Training Gets Results.

Kittens can look demure and apologetic when you tell them off, only to race off and do the very thing you told them not to the moment your back is turned.

The Spray bottle is effective when used correctly to overcome negative conduct.

  • While your kitten is in the act of offending. There is no point using it afterward or as they walk away. They will not understand why you did it.
  • Use it for those persistent bad habits that your kitten engages in. The water spray is more effective that way. An occasional misdemeanor doesn’t need the spray.
  • Be patient and consistent. Repeat the training every time your kitten rips into your best chair!
  • Hide the spray bottle from them so you can surprise them in the act.
  • Use it sparingly to maintain the trust in your relationship. If your kitten becomes fearful of the water spray, ease off as they may start to fear and hide from you. If they persist in getting up on the countertops, yet they begin to fear you (and your water spray), try another alternative like using double-sided sticky tape on the bench, foil, or plastic wrap to get your message across.
  • Only use the spray for training. It is not for use in jest and it is only for serious persistent behavior.
  • Use other tactics for litter box issues as they are more complex. Rather than a behavioral problem, your kitten may have a medical condition such as a urinary tract infection which spraying with water will neither help nor solve. For litter box issues, try keeping more than one litter box in the home, keep it very clean, try a different brand of litter, get a larger box, or make sure to place the litter box in a quiet area of the home.

Remember to reward good actions by your kitten and underplay the negative, then your kitten will soon learn that they will get more of what they want (food, cuddles, attention, toys) than what they don’t want (the water spray).

To be effective, give positive reinforcement the moment they do what you asked them to do.

Some people are against training using a water spray. They say that it erodes your relationship with your cat by using punishment (water) to discipline them. I would like to add here not to spray the face of your kitten with water but to spray them on the back, tail, or legs.

They suggest at best it be a short-term deterrent for serious offenses, which I agree with. When used carefully, the spray bottle training method can be a handy tool for the kitten who is pushing the boundaries to see how much they can get away with.


Glare Into Their Eyes and Hiss to Get Results.

While this may sound funny, hissing at your kitten to stop misbehaving works well. Why?

Because you are talking in cat language and they get the message quickly!

I wish I had known this trick when I stupidly taught my small kitten to climb up my leg and sit on my shoulder. Such a cute trick … until my kitten grew bigger, and then it became very painful!

I ended up putting a bell around my kitten’s neck so I could hear her coming and I could stop her. It was a long and painful process to retrain her, so be warned.

Back to hissing – try this

  • Look your kitten directly in their eyes to get their attention.
  • Stare intently and then hiss as loud as you can.

Your kitten will jump back and stop what they were doing immediately. They get the message loud and clear.

Your kitten will remember your reprimand and rarely return to test you yet again. You are talking in their language and you don’t need any props or gadgets to reinforce your message.


Hissing is a lesson from Mother Nature.

You will notice if one kitten or cat annoys another, the annoyed party will look deeply into the offending kitten’s eyes. This look effectively says ‘Back off or stop that! You are annoying me!

If they don’t get the message, the annoyed cat will hiss, which gets the message delivered and the other kitten will back off.

A foolish kitten that still doesn’t learn from the hiss will then likely get a biff around the ear from the annoyed cat.

The hiss is harmless and will give you a much-needed edge in the battle for dominance needed to have a kitten that behaves, or at least it may put you on an equal footing with your kitten.


Startle Them to Stop What They are Doing.

You want to make a loud, new noise that will startle them into listening to you. A few dried beans or stones in an empty can be very effective.

You want to break their concentration on the thing that they’re doing and which you would prefer them to stop! Then you can distract and redirect their behavior.

Other things that are similar include:

  • Say a special word loudly(such as ‘stop’) and clap your hands at the same time.
  • If they keep attacking one object (like your curtains), you can spray a citrus smelling product on the drapes. As a whole, kittens don’t like the smell of citrus.


Time Out For Naughty Kittens is Very Effective.

For the pesky little kitten who has exceeded the boundaries of what you will tolerate,(such as bullying behavior, biting, scratching, or playing aggressively), consider the time out option.

(Note – If your kitten has anxiety issues, toileting, or phobia issues, don’t use this option).

Quietly pick them up, and without speaking to them, put them in a secure room such as the laundry and leave them there for a while. There is no need to yell at or punish them physically, which I am totally against!

The goal is to deprive your naughty kitten of attention.

The time for solitary confinement is as follows.

  • 10 minutes is usually enough for your kitten to get the connection between their bad behavior and their isolation.
  • Repeat the time out if they come out and go straight back to what they were doing,

Your kitten is a quick learner. Solitary confinement can often correct destructive or aggressive conduct.

Although kittens are solitary creatures, they like to choose when they are on their own. Having time out forced upon them can cause them the change the error of their ways!


Positive Reinforcement Promotes Good Behavior.

In other words, encourage displays of good behavior that you like to see in your kitten. Often it is easier to lead a kitten than try and force them to do what you want.

A tasty treat, plenty of attention and cuddles, games and kind words are what many kittens crave.

You need to find out what motivates your kitten to exhibit the desired manners. Perhaps it is a certain salmon treat, or maybe a grooming session is their thing?

Finding out what pushes their cooperation button and use that to get what you want. Once your kitten understands that they can control you by giving you what you want, the battle is almost over.

A point to note here is that your kitten could get bored with the same old treat. They like variety or to be surprised. You constantly have to be alert for signs that what was an acceptable treat is now on its way to becoming boring.

Lead your kitten to good habits rather than trying to push them into submission – something all felines are not too good at.

They are independent little souls with a mind of their own, and they won’t give in easily. You have to trick them into behaving by giving them what they want in return for the favor.

Your kitten is the most skilled negotiator that was ever invented.


Bribe Your Kitten Into Behaving!

Felines are independent creatures, unlike the faithful dog who lives to please their owners.

  • Your kitten doesn’t look at you as a protector, and they are not so affected by separation. Their independence may also stem from being solitary predators, unlike dogs who hunt in packs.
  • Simply put, your kitten (once they are old enough to hunt) doesn’t need another cat to hunt with them. Cats can live in groups, but it is not a requirement.
  • Kittens are smarter than people think, and they have both long term and short term memory – therefore they are trainable.

This also means they are clever, and they learn to know what they can get away with repeatedly.  

But a bribe where they gain something they want, to do what you want them to do… well that is different! That’s negotiating your way to success!

Young and impressionable kittens do respond well to training with positive reinforcement, so choose a motivator that you can use to entice your kitten to do what you want them to do.

Another reason that your kitten is being naughty and getting into things they shouldn’t, could be because they are bored.

Try introducing some new games, give them a box or two to explore, provide a new climbing tree, or fill up some treat-dispensing toys.

A bored kitten can be a handful. An actively interested kitty is a happy, outgoing, contented cat.

Try to think like a cat, then you will understand what triggers your kitten’s behavioral buttons. And become a masterful negotiator with your kitten.

If you can offer them something that they must have, you will have the upper hand.

But don’t let them get a whiff of that, it is your secret to keep. It is the Ace card up your sleeve to win the battle with your feline (or at least to be on equal footing).


Writer: Jean Brewer

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