Basic Cat Training

No, this is not about Kitty Boot Camp! If training your cat to sit, stay and heel is your goal, perhaps you should get a dog. This article is about training cats to use the litter box instead of the carpet and a scratching post instead of the stereo speakers. If you’re like me, you admire your cat for being a cat and you want them to behave as nothing other than a cat, but a well-behaved one.

The key to training is to make sure that whatever you want your cat to do is exceedingly rewarding and pleasurable. Whatever you don’t must never be fun, in fact, it must be unpleasant.

Sometimes we unintentionally reward out cats for obnoxious behavior by allowing them to train us. When your cat pounces on you at five in the morning, meowing and generally being a pest, what do you do?  You get up feed, scratch and play with him and in general do exactly what he wants! This is training all right, but the cat is the teacher and you are an excellent student! Here is a three-point training plan:


  • Stop all reprimands and punishment, no matter what the cat is doing. Reprimands simply do not work when training your cat. Cats can become overly active and destructive when bored.  Daily play sessions and relaxing massages help calm kitty down. Cats often stop using their litter boxes when they feel neglected. Schedule regular sessions to give kitty your undivided attention. 
  • The most effective method of cat training is through rewards, so set up his environment so he can succeed and you have the opportunity to reward and praise him for good behavior.
  • Set up your cat’s environment so that his misbehavior is not a rewarding experience. Make kitty’s scratching post more attractive by rubbing it with catnip. At the same time make the furniture unattractive as a clawing item by draping netting or tulle over it. Cats hate to snag their claws when scratching. They also don’t like the feel of aluminum foil or two-sided sticky tape. A mild menthol or citrus scent repels most cats also. Once your cat realizes these places are not fun, he will be satisfied with his exciting catnip scratching post.


Maybe you are into training your cat to jump through a hoop; maybe you just want him to stop climbing the drapes.  Whatever the case, remember that cats learn best through the use of rewards, praise and positive reinforcement. Set kitty and yourself up to succeed.  It works and can be fun for you both.

Hershey Grace is the Special Events Coordinator for CAP (Citizens for Animal Protection). Visit for pet adoption and information.

3 Responses to Basic Cat Training

  1. Andrew

    September 8, 2008 at 9:48 am

    I really like this article on cats. Good to see you cover both cats and dogs really well.

  2. Don Sprague

    February 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Our 3 yr old neutered male house cat has begun urinating all over the house, carpets, laundered clothes. I don’t know if this is pertinent, but the next door neighbors left and we ended up adopting their outside older female cat about a year ago. We only see her around feeding time. Occasionally other outside neighborhood cats come by to scavenge her food. A rare cat fight occurs outdoors. We’ve had the vet check him out for a urinary infection and he’s clear. The vet wants us to try him on an antidepressant which seems to miss the point. Any ideas? Since the cat has no front claws, we can’t give him to someone with an outdoor environment. I would hate to put him down but this behavior can’t keep up.

    Thank you. Don

  3. Billie

    July 15, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    I need help.. we have a neutered male cat, 7 years old. He was a rescue animal and has only been indoors his entire life.
    My Mom passed away in April, and she had a 3 year old female cat, that we had to take in when she passed.
    The female cat is chasing the male cat and scratching and hissing. . The male cat is hiding and has to be picked up and carried to his food and water.. and now he peeing on things.. that can’t be laundried…
    help me please.. I don’t want to get rid of my Mom’s kitty, but my male cat can’t live like this, and we can’t stand the cat pee.