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Cat Control? Well, Maybe A Little

Cats are naturally curious and their curiosity can sometimes drive their owners up a wall. Our feline friends have an innate desire to mark their territory and jump, climb and scratch where we don't want them to.

So what can we do?

With the proper tools and patience, cats can be trained to behave in an appropriate way. Contributor Debbye Turner, who is also a veterinarian, explains on The Saturday Early Show why cats act the way they do and what you can do to stop them. She also addresses the three offenses cats commonly commit.

Anything new in a cat's environment sparks a session of thorough sniffing and inspecting. Cats not only like to become well-acquainted with their environment, they also want to "own" everything. This is why they rub their faces, chin and back on your chairs, sofa and even you. Sites on their anatomy have scent glands that mark each place with their distinct scent when they rub on it.

Cats, by nature, also love heights — a high vantage point in the wild helps them hunt more effectively.

If your cat's behavior is driving you crazy, it is possible to train your cat to behave. Cats are extremely intelligent, and they do have the capacity to learn acceptable behaviors.

No matter what the offense, it is vital that you never strike your cat. This will not work. Even what we think is a gentle tap can do real damage to your cat, including kidney damage.

Feline Offense: Jumping on counters, furniture, etc.: There are several deterrents that might work.

  • Sticky surfaces: One way to deter this behavior is to put down a surface that cats don't like to walk on. Wallpaper (sticky side up) or double-side tape works well. Once they jump on that sticky surface they are not likely to try it again.
  • Prickly surfaces: Put down a plastic carpet runner, pointy side up, and your cat will be unlikely to return to this area again.
  • Unpleasant smells: Cats can be attracted or repelled by certain smells. So if there is an area you don't want your cat trafficking, just soak a cloth or cotton ball in one of the following:
    • Citrus juice
    • Cologne
    • Muscle rub (such as Ben-Gay)
    • Aloe gel
    Now if you don't want these substances soaking into your carpet or furniture, just place the cloth in a "bowl" made of aluminum foil.

Feline Offense: Chewing plants or other items. The best deterrent in this case: a bad taste. The easiest way to keep your cat from chewing on plants is to hang or position them in an area that the cat can't get to. This is important because some plants are toxic to cats (crocus, chinaberry tree, day lily, Easter lily, philodendron and many more). So spraying one of the following on the plant may help keep your kitty away:

  • Bitter apple
  • Muscle rub (such as Ben-Gay)
  • Concentrated citrus juice
  • Aloe gel

Feline Offense: Scratching furniture, carpet, or curtains. This is probably the cat's most pervasive offense. Cats scratch for a variety of reasons, including removing the outer, dead layer of their claws; marking territory; exercise and boredom. The chances of getting your cat to stop scratching are unlikely, so the best thing to do is to provide an alternative, such as a scratching post. Put the post near the item your cat likes to scratch.

Other things you can do to stop your cat from scratching (or any of the other above offenses): use a squirt bottle or gentle water gun; or make noise by shaking a soda can filled with pennies, nails or beans. If all else fails, a loud authoritative tone of voice can be quite effective.

Even if you do all of the above, when you are not present, your cat may still misbehave, and that is when the sticky surface, bad smells and bad tastes may serve you best.

In order to train your cat, you must be consistent with any of these measures — and of course, be sure to give your cat plenty of love and positive reinforcement.