5 Reasons To Never Spray Water On Your Cat [Or otherwise punish them] – TheCatSite Articles (2022)

5 Reasons To Never Spray Water On Your Cat [Or otherwise punish them] – TheCatSite Articles (1)

Some cat owners believe squirting water from a handheld bottle can be an effective and harmless way to teach a cat to avoid certain behaviors. The truth is that using the water bottle as a tool for disciplining cats is not a good idea.

Yes, in some cases it may teach a cat to avoid certain areas in your home or even certain behaviors, but that comes with a potential price tag that you really want to avoid.

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How is disciplining a cat with a water bottle supposed to work?

The concept is simple enough.

Kitty does something "bad" and immediately experiences a negative outcome in the form of a harmless spray of water. That should teach her not to scratch the sofa or climb the kitchen counter again, right? And after all, what's the harm in getting some water sprayed around you? Hey, that's how theme parks keep people cool in the summer, so it can't be that bad?

When the topic comes up on our cat forums we often have members who say that spraying their cat with a water bottle did work for them. It helped them teach the cat to stop an unwanted behavior. Proponents of this method explain that you should avoid spraying the cat's face, aim for the back and try to hide the fact that you're the one operating the water bottle. While these measures could potentially help minimize the downside of water spraying, they are difficult to implement and may not work.

Why squirting Kitty with water isn't a good idea

1. It turns you into an obnoxious clown

Are you familiar with the classic water-squirting flower trick? The idea is to ask unsuspecting friends to smell that wonderful flower that's pinned on your shirt. Once anyone gets his or her face close enough, you squeeze a hidden pump with your hand which sends a squirt of water right out of the flower and into your victim's face.

How would you feel if your best friend were to pull that trick on you? In all likelihood, having water sprayed into your face without warning won't be very welcome. Chances are you will be keeping your distance from that "friend" in the future.

For your cat, that spray of water is as surprising as a squirt from a fake flower. Kitty was just being a cat, scratching to sharpen his or her claws or perhaps making good use of vertical space in your home by jumping on the counter tops. There's nothing wrong with these behaviors in the mind of a cat. From the feline point of view, you just decided to launch a very stupid sneak attack with no provocation.

2. It can be hard for your cat to make the connection

Consider this from the cat's point of view. Kitty was doing something, in a certain location, and got sprayed by you. Which should be avoided in the future? The location? The act? The person who sprayed?

If you're very lucky, the cat may successfully make the association between the water spray and his or her undesirable behavior. However, many cats realize it wasn't the couch or the kitchen counter that soaked them. All they know is that their dear and (formerly) trusted owner did. They are more likely to avoid you than to avoid whatever object you were trying to deter them from touching.

3. Your cat can get away with the crime - when you're not around

Using the water spray method depends on you being around to operate the bottle. If Kitty jumps on the counter while you're away at work, nothing happens. This means the association you tried to create - jumping on counters causes bad things to happen - doesn't work anymore. That's one reason why this method is often ineffective.

4. It's stressful for your cat

Imagine living your life knowing that something unpleasant is going to surprise you in the safety of your own home. For example, let's say you're afraid of bugs. How would you feel if you knew there were giant roaches somewhere within your home? You may encounter them at any point in your daily routine and you just never know when or where that might happen. Can you imagine how stressful that would be? That's how your cat would feel with the water bottle lurking around.

Kitty needs to feel safe and secure in your home, living free of fear of mysterious unexpected sprays of water. The heightened stress level could lead to health and behavior problems. If there are already other causes for stress in your cat's life, adding the threat of a water spray may just be the straw that will break the proverbial camel's back and lead to things like Feline Idiopathic Cystitis in cats that are prone to the condition.

5. It doesn't address the root of the unwanted behavior

Many owners use the water bottle to deter the cat from what is in fact a perfectly natural feline behavior. For example, cats jump on counters because they have an innate need to explore high places in their territory; they scratch furniture because they need to claw at large stable objects in their territory for various reasons; they may attack other cats or even humans due to a variety of reasons, and they may even urinate or defecate outside the litterbox for other reasons.

The point is, there is a reason for Kitty's "problem" behavior. That behavior fulfills a need in your cat's life which you shouldn't just ignore.

If you want to teach your cat to avoid the kitchen counters, you have to first provide her or him with alternative vertical spaces to climb on. If you want to protect your couch from being scratched, the first step must be getting the right kind of scratching post and placing it in the right spot that meets the cat's needs. If Kitty is peeing on the carpet, you have to figure out why that is happening and address the root of the problem.

Simply trying to deter your cat from any unwanted behavior without providing a suitable solution to his or her needs is an exercise in futility.

"But it worked for my cat!"

When the topic comes up in the cat behavior forum, there's often a member who shares a success story where the water bottle method seemed to have worked.

The truth is that sometimes it really does. If you understand the behavior problem, provide good alternatives first and then use the water squirt to deter Kitty from the unwanted behavior, it could work. Especially if you're around all day to create a strong association between action and outcome. Moreover, if you're very good about masking the fact that you're the one operating the water bottle, it's theoretically possible not to undermine the bond between you and your cat. And if Kitty happens to be one of those stress-resistant cats and lives in an otherwise stress-free environment, then you may just luck out and avoid negative consequences.

There's one problem though: There are way too many "if's" in the previous paragraph. Which is why recommending this method is always a bad idea. Just because you managed to apply it without noticing any negative effects does not mean someone else can. You cannot assume that the owner understands the nature of the problem and knows how to provide good alternatives for the cat.

Perhaps more importantly, you have no way of knowing how resistant that cat may be to the high level of stress involved in applying this kind of deterrent. On top of that, unfortunately most people perceive spraying water as a form of punishment, using it as a way to discipline through exercising imagined authority over the cat. That's a recipe for undermining the delicate human-feline bond.

For every success story, we hear many other stories where using the water bottle method failed. Unfortunately, in many cases, not only did it not solve the problem, it created new ones. Compared to the original problem, the damage caused by the constant stress and the blow delivered to the bond between owner and cat can be much harder to fix.

So, what to use instead?

We hope that by now you're convinced not to spray water on your cat. However, the behavior problem is still there, so how can you teach your cat to play by the rules?

If you're faced with any unwanted cat behavior, you should follow these steps -

  1. Understand why your cat is behaving this way and what natural needs the behavior addresses.
  2. Provide your cat with an appropriate and non-destructive way to address these needs.
  3. Use positive reinforcement or passive deterrent systems to teach your cat to stop the unwanted behavior.

You can read more about these methods here:The Dos And Don'ts Of Cat Behavior Modification

Sounds vague? Don't worry, we have you covered with very detailed guides about common cat behavior problems. These guides take you through the three above-mentioned steps and show you how to solve cat behavior problems without ever using the water bottle or any other form of punishment:

How To Stop Your Cat From Scratching The FurnitureHow To Solve Litterbox Problems In Cats: The Ultimate GuideCat Aggression Toward PeopleHow To Keep Cats Off Counters And TablesHow To Stop Problem Chewing In Cats

Still having problems? Post your questions in the Cat Behavior Forum where our members can help out with advice!


Why you shouldn't spray your cat with water? ›

On top of the physical discomfort, spraying your cat with water doesn't actually teach your cat better behaviors and could end up seriously confusing her. What you think is just a bad behavior, like hissing, is actually something she's doing because she's afraid or stressed.

Is spraying a cat with water abuse? ›

Spraying cats with water from a squirt bottle is not a reinforcement; it's a punishment. Giving your cat a choice of ways to express his behavioral needs and then rewarding his use of the choice you prefer is the best way to encourage your cat's “good” behavior.

Should I spray my cat with water when it bites me? ›

4. Spray him! It's simple — when your cat bites or scratches, squirt him with a spray bottle or small water gun. The only problem: It needs to be done consistently and directly following the incident, or the cat will not learn to associate the two events.

What happens if you spray a cat with water? ›

Yes, when you spray your cat with water, chances are she'll stop what she's doing and run away. With a playful kitten, this quickly becomes a game: “I jump on the counter, you give me a squirt, I run away, then I jump back on the counter and the game begins again.

Do water hurt cats? ›

Whichever method you choose, it is important to encourage your cat to drink water. While many may think milk is a good substitute, it is only a myth, and can even cause digestive problems with your cat. Getting your cat to drink water is just as important as feeding her a proper nutrition.

How do you discipline a cat for attacking? ›

Species appropriate punishment such as “hissing” or the use of punishment devices such as a water sprayer, can of compressed air, or hand held alarm are better than using any physical techniques since they are less likely to lead to fear and retaliation.

Do cats forgive? ›

Cats don't hold grudges and will quickly forgive and forget one-off incidents. They want to forgive human transgressions as an act of self-preservation, as much as anything else. Make this easier for your cat by providing a welcoming, comforting environment.

Do cats feel love when you kiss them? ›

Cats feel love when you kiss them, and some cats will kiss you on the lips. However, whether your cat appreciates the gesture every time is a matter of preference. Some cats will love kisses all the time, while others prefer it to be a rare gesture.

What smell does a cat hate? ›

As a general rule, cats are sensitive when it comes to smells, but there are a few scents they hate that might just surprise you. They can't stand citrus and as much as you might love the smell of fresh herbs, cats hate rosemary and thyme. Banana and mustard are a big no-no too, as well as lavender and eucalyptus.

How do you teach a cat no? ›

Teach NO to Your Cat - How and Why - YouTube

Do cats understand no? ›

Cats don't understand the word “no.” Therefore, the way you say it to your cat is crucial. When disciplining your cat with the commands, use a firm, authoritative tone and don't change the way you say it.

Why does my cat hug my arm and bite me hard? ›

The term “love bite” is somewhat of a misnomer. “When cats bite in this context, it's not a sign of affection, but rather a signal that the cat is done with the interaction. If the petting continues despite the cat's efforts to signal that he or she is done with being petted, the cat may escalate to a bite,” says Dr.

Do cats get mad at you? ›

One of the first subtle signs that your cat is mad at you is when you see her tail placed low, swishing quickly back and forth from side to side. Whenever you see the tail twitch, stop whatever it is you're doing that is upsetting her, give her some space, and back off for a while until she calms down.

Do cats hold a grudge? ›

Cats don't hold grudges like humans do because they don't have the same spectrum of emotions as humans. Instead, cats associate certain actions and behaviors with bad events and good events. Based on this association, they react differently. Many cat behaviors remain mysteries, and their memory is no different.

How do you punish a cat for meowing? ›

Don't punish a cat for meowing. Hitting, shouting, and spraying cats with water rarely work to quiet a meowing cat in the long run, but all those actions will make your cat distrust or even dislike you. Don't give in.

Why do cats not listen? ›

Explanation of Why Cats Don't Come When Called

Why don't cats listen? This answer most likely stems from the same reason that cats are so independent. Cats are generally very independent compared to dogs. It appears that cats do not look at people as a protector and are not affected as much by separation.

Why do cats hate their paws being touched? ›

So, why don't cats like their paws touched? Cat paws have large concentrations of nerve receptors, making them very sensitive to touch, temperature changes, and pain. Some cats simply don't like the sensation of their paws being touched, while others feel vulnerable, or in rare cases it could be a sign of an injury.

Why do cats lick you? ›

For cats, licking is not only used as a grooming mechanism, but also to show affection. By licking you, other cats, or even other pets, your cat is creating a social bond. Part of this behavior may stem from kittenhood when your cat's mother licked to groom them, as well as to show care and affection.

Can you hit a cat if it bites? ›

Never yell at or hit your cat for play biting.

This behavior from you can cause your cat stress, which may result in a fearful cat, one that engages in unwanted stress-related behaviors like urinating outside of the litter box, or one that begins to show true aggression toward you and other residents of your home.

Why does my cat bite me when I cry? ›

Cats bite to stop you from doing something or to grab your attention. When you cry, the noises you make might upset your cat, so it'll seek to stop it by biting you.

How long does a cat stay mad at you? ›

Unlike dogs, whose memory span lasts only five minutes, cats' memory works for 16 hours. Accordingly, cats may stay mad for up to 16 hours, but generally, it takes a few hours before they forget and forgive.

Do cats say sorry? ›

But as it turns out, science shows us that cats are much more complex and emotionally attuned than we give them credit for. They may not say sorry the same way a human would. But they do apologise, in their own way.

Will my cat forget about me? ›

Anyone simply "present" in their life is someone they may remember, but not associate with any emotion. But as long as you and your cat have shared a pet or two, and as long as you fed them a few of their favorite meals, your cat will remember you as well no matter how long you are gone.

Do cats cry? ›

Can cats cry tears? The short answer is yes, cats' tear ducts function the same way humans' tear ducts do, but they don't cry emotional tears from sadness or pain. While cats do “cry out in the sense that they may vocalize (meow, yowl, etc.)

Do cats understand crying? ›

Your cat might not understand human crying, but she'll gather as many clues as she can and use them to adjust her behavior. Researchers know that reinforcement plays a big role in how your cat decides to react.

Do cats like when you meow? ›

Cats won't differentiate your meowing from speaking, but they will appreciate the simple fact that you are addressing them and acknowledging them. In fact, meowing is something that cats only do to get attention from humans.

Do cats understand smiles? ›

According to the experts, cats do not understand smiles and frowns independently, but they fully understand strong human emotions when expressed in more than one dimension — more due to the tone of voice than facial expressions. So, unlike interacting with dogs, smiling is not an effective way to connect with a cat.

What colors do cats dislike? ›

Knowing which colors your cat hates could be helpful, but there is no proof that felines hate any certain color. This could be due in part to the limited amount of colors they can see. Since most of their world is blue, yellow, and gray, there aren't any colors in there that stand out as irritating.

What taste do cats hate? ›

Cats hate the scent of lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges. It's not the taste though. Some citrus fruits, especially lemon, can be mildly toxic to cats if ingested. No wonder they want to stay away!

What smell do cats love? ›

Sunflowers, zinnias, snapdragons, and gerbera daisies are safe, as well as oat grass or dandelion. Pluck a handful of greens from the yard and offer to your cat. Catnip and More. Many herbs we use in cooking are safe and fun for cats to sniff, and some are known to be feline favorites.

Do cats watch TV? ›

Cats are curious creatures that are highly responsive to visual cues and interesting sounds. They require mental stimulation, which is what television provides cats. Some cats love watching TV. Their brains process images much faster than ours, so they see television screens as a flicker, piquing their interest.

What is a cat number? ›

Catalogue Number (CAT No.) #CatalogueNumber refers to a serial number of the products which are mentioned in the Catalogue/Price List of a particular Make or Brand. In the chemical industry every chemical is available in different makes or brand and it has a different #CATNo.

Do cats see colors? ›

Yes, cats can see colours! Although they can't appreciate the full spectrum and the vast variety of shades that we humans can, their world isn't solely black and white like many previously believed.

What language Do cats think? ›

Cat's don't think in any language because they don't think in words as humans do. They can associate words with memories, but their minds are not wired to use language the same way as people. Instead, cats use their body parts and positioning to express themselves to the humans around them.

What do cats hear when we talk to them? ›

Do Cats Understand Us - What Do We Sound Like To Them?! - YouTube

Do cats understand kisses? ›

Cats do not understand kisses the way we humans do as they show affection, perceive emotions and communicate differently from us. However, some cats may understand that kisses are their owner's way of showing affection if done regularly.

Why do cats bite then lick you? ›

That's how they show affection and mix their scent together. So when cats are being affectionate towards people these grooming behaviors tend to come out, and cats will bite “our fur” and then lick us shortly afterward. That's how they groom themselves, so they assume that's how we need to be groomed too!

What does it mean if my cat bites me then licks me? ›

Cats lick and bite people as a way of calling their attention to something, be it asking for affection or asking it to stop. The bottom line is that your cat wants to tell you something, and according to the context and their body language it is often one of the things we explained above.

Why does my cat kick me with his back legs when I pet him? ›

Cats sometimes kick with their hind legs when they are engaged in play behavior, such as wrestling. They will also exhibit this behavior when they are fighting or feel defensive and want the other party to leave them alone.

How do I apologize to my cat? ›

How to apologize to a cat? Give your cat some time to calm down, then apologize softly while blinking slowly at them. Remember to praise your cat and reward them with treats or catnip. Spending some quality time together, with lots of petting and games, should ease your cat.

Why do cats headbutt you? ›

Headbutting is a way for cats to mark you with pheromones and bond with you. However, sometimes headbutting can be a way for cats to seek attention. As a general rule, cats like to be scratched under the chin and on the head, so a cat may just be presenting their head to you for some attention and good scratches.

Why do cats swat at you? ›

When cats display aggression when touched or petted, it can stem from many different motivations. The most common include: Fear/defense: A fearful cat may exhibit dilated pupils, ears turning back, or a twitching tail. In this situation, your cat may growl, hiss or swat at the person reaching, touching or petting.

Do cats remember abuse? ›

Cats have incredible associative memory, particularly when it comes to things that have hurt them. Cats have a very good long-term working memory, and they can recall certain acts of abuse and misbehaviour for a long time.

Do cats get jealous? ›

Jealousy over the presence of another cat is very common. All cats have different personalities, and some will be made insecure and display jealousy more easily than others. It is important to watch your cat and observe their cues and triggers.

Is it OK to scare a cat? ›

Neither do cats. Scaring them may yield a “funny” response, but it can cause long term damage to their psyche. It can also be a detriment to you if your cat can't trust you anymore. It's generally a good idea to observe the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Why do cats cry tears? ›

Excessively watery eyes aren't a sign that your cat is crying from sadness or pain. Usually, a cat crying tears points to a medical concern like conjunctivitis, a blocked tear duct, or another common eye infection. So, it's best to call your vet for a check-up.

How do you get a cat to respect you? ›

7 Ways You Can Respect Your Cat
  1. Pet your Kitty. Pet your cat the “right” way. ...
  2. Keep a Litter Box. Keep a clean litter box. ...
  3. Let him Scratch. Cats have a natural instinct to scratch. ...
  4. Bring out the Instincts. Indoor cats need to pounce, hunt and climb. ...
  5. Keep your Cat Healthy. ...
  6. Watch your Cat's Weight. ...
  7. Consistent Meal Times.
26 Jan 2022

Should I hiss at my cat when he bites? ›

You shouldn't hiss at your cat because they might perceive your hissing as a threat and become scared. Since cats use hissing as a defensive mechanism to express discomfort, stress, or fear and to avoid confrontation, you should also avoid using hissing to discipline them.

Can I use a spray bottle to train my cat? ›

Don't use a spray bottle: There is an old myth about using a spray bottle to redirect a cat's bad behavior, but the truth is she likely doesn't associate being sprayed with the bad behavior.

How do you punish a cat for meowing? ›

Don't punish a cat for meowing. Hitting, shouting, and spraying cats with water rarely work to quiet a meowing cat in the long run, but all those actions will make your cat distrust or even dislike you. Don't give in.

What happens if I yell at my kitten? ›

Yelling and shouting at a cat will make them associate us with similar negative emotions. A similar response can include ignoring us or even becoming antagonistic. Shouting at a cat hurts our bond to the point it can impair the more positive times we expect to spend with them.

Do cats know when you're mad at them? ›

While cats may not distinguish their actions, they know when you're mad at them about something. They pay attention to their owners' emotions. Cats show different behaviors when their owners smile at them. So, they pay much more attention to a positive attitude than a negative one.

Should I hiss at my cat when he bites? ›

You shouldn't hiss at your cat because they might perceive your hissing as a threat and become scared. Since cats use hissing as a defensive mechanism to express discomfort, stress, or fear and to avoid confrontation, you should also avoid using hissing to discipline them.

Is it OK to clap at your cat? ›

"Cats should never be directly punished, verbally or physically. Where some owners will clap their hands, stomp their feet, or jingle coins in a can to teach a dog that their behavior is unacceptable, this method will backfire with a cat," said Hauser.

How long does a cat stay mad at you? ›

Unlike dogs, whose memory span lasts only five minutes, cats' memory works for 16 hours. Accordingly, cats may stay mad for up to 16 hours, but generally, it takes a few hours before they forget and forgive.

Why do cats cry tears? ›

Excessively watery eyes aren't a sign that your cat is crying from sadness or pain. Usually, a cat crying tears points to a medical concern like conjunctivitis, a blocked tear duct, or another common eye infection. So, it's best to call your vet for a check-up.

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