How to reprimand your cat

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Cats have a reputation for being aloof, distant and unflappable. So how do you reprimand your cat when she has done something wrong?

In normal circumstances, you should rarely have to reprimand your cat. The common cat issues of clawing, spraying, meowing and going to the bathroom where they're not supposed to, can and should be dealt with by immediate training. Sometimes gentle discipline needs to be part of training.

If your cat has developed new and unwanted behaviour, try to understand why. If, for example, your cat has started urinating outside the litter box, the issue is as likely be medical as behavioural. She may have a urinary blockage or urinary infection.

Similarly, a cat that has suddenly started clawing at window frames may be responding to some new stress in its life. She may be marking territory to warn off an outdoor cat she has seen outside the window or she might simply be stressed by an overcrowded house. If you can eliminate or adjust the root cause of the behaviour, you'll never need to discipline your cat.


One of the most effective ways to reprimand a cat is with a spray bottle. Most cats hate getting wet and the sudden shock of cold water combined with the sound of the spray gun will startle them.

It is important to be consistent with a reprimand if you wish to change behaviour. The important thing to remember is that it's only useful or fair to reprimand your cat if you catch her in the act of misbehaving or immediately afterwards. If you find faeces your cat left on the floor an hour ago, there's no point in punishing her for it. Even if you bring the cat to the mess, she won't be able to make the association between the reprimand and the behaviour you're punishing her for.

Sound advice

Whatever method you choose to discipline your cat, always accompany it with a firm 'no', a snap of your fingers, or a hand clap.

Do this consistently and eventually your cat will learn to associate the sound you make with the reprimand. Then all it will take is a snap of your fingers or a firm 'no' to get the cat to leave your curtains alone or to send her scurrying from the kitchen table.

Never shout or scream at a cat and never hit or physically reprimand your cat. It's sometimes said that 'you just need to show them who is boss' or 'rub their noses in it'. This is not true. Cats do not respond well to negative reinforcement and it is a very ineffective way to reprimand your cat. In fact, actions such as this are more likely to make your cat avoid you entirely than correct her behaviour.

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