is spraying your cat with water bad

Cats should feel safe and relaxed in their home and with their human family. Regularly spraying them with water can have detrimental long-term effects on their happiness and their bond with you. Cats struggle to make the connection between who sprayed the water, what they did wrong, and where the water came from.

To be honest, spray or squirt bottles might not even be that efficient. I’ll be honest with you. I used a squirt bottle on my cat years ago, before I knew what I know now, because it kept jumping up on our kitchen counters. The first few times I squirted her, it worked; she instantly got down and fled. But soon, as I was squirting her, she just stared me down with a “BRING IT” expression on her tiny little face (she was a tortie with tortitude, so this was totally in line with her purrsonality). At that point, the spray bottle was completely useless, and the only things I was doing were 1) letting her know how mean I was, and 2) soaking her. She didn’t realize that I was just trying to stop her from getting on the counter; she thought she was just getting squirted down by an elderly meanie. Of course, I didn’t mean to be mean. Ahhh, I’m so sorry, Zoe!!!.

I keep seeing on the internet and in conversations with people that people are drawn to using a squirt bottle to either discipline or punish cats for undesired behavior. Why, oh why, is spraying water on cats still a thing? Spray bottles and squirt guns are still recommended by shelters and people who ought to know better. With everything we now know about behavior, learning, and cats, it is time to update this outdated approach of teaching cats to switch from one behavior to another!

Cats must consistently receive reinforcement for good behavior or punishment, such as a spray bottle, in order to correct (or change) their behavior. Only then will they begin to connect the dots, associating the behavior with the reward. Everyone enjoys this when there is positive reinforcement: cat does something nice, and you get to be the hero by giving her a reward (e g. , a treat) in an attempt to get the cat to repeat that action. The likelihood that a cat will repeat a desired behavior increases with the frequency of reinforcement (think consistency) That being said, applying a spray bottle or other form of punishment is NOT the same. When your cat does something wrong, you won’t always be there to discipline them, so the punishment won’t be consistent. Additionally, the more frequently you punish your cat, the more bad luck it gets from you. Therefore, if you can punish someone consistently enough, it has a cost: mistrust and terror. Your cat is more likely to begin fearing you if you are continuously punishing them with spray bottles or even yelling (and hopefully not hitting or making physical contact). Everyone ends up with more stress as a result, and when cats experience extreme stress, you guessed it—more behavioral problems (including aggression toward you).

See my article “How to Use Positive Reinforcement for Good Cat Behavior” for more information on rewards and penalties, both positive and negative.

Those who advocate for the use of a spray bottle are correct in one sense: it can alter your cat’s behavior, just not in the way you would like. When you use a squirt bottle with your cat, you can achieve similar results to those stories you’ve heard of, where a fairy, genie, or leprechaun grants three wishes, but the way those wishes are granted usually means something terrible happens to the wisher. When you’re not around, your cat might stop scratching the couch and start scratching another piece of furniture. Alternatively, your cat may cease gnawing on the plants when you’re not around. Alternatively, your cat may cease jumping up on the kitchen counters when you’re not there. You see what I mean? Your cat won’t necessarily associate the squirt bottle with his actions, other than the fact that he gets squirted when he does those things AND you’re around. But when you’re not around, there’s no consequence. So the behavior continues…when you’re not around.

Why do people spray their cats with water, anyway?

“This is a basic aversive training method designed to prevent a cat from engaging in an undesired behavior,” Dr. Spano told The Dodo.

It’s an example of punishing your cat, which isn’t the most humane way to get them to stop acting in that way.

However, some pet owners select this method because they feel it works; after all, if you spray your cat while she’s on the couch, she’s likely to get down immediately!

The cat should, in theory, link the bad behavior to an unpleasant outcome, such as getting sprayed with water, according to Dr. Spano explained. The cat will refrain from carrying out the inciting action in order to avoid suffering this unpleasant outcome. ”.

However, that doesn’t mean she’s learning proper behavior; rather, she’s just discovering that she doesn’t enjoy the spray bottle!

Spraying your cat with water can make her uncomfortable

To begin with, dousing your feline with water is just plain unpleasant.

It may seem unbelievable that a few drops of water could cause your cat any discomfort, but that is exactly how it could seem.

“Compared to human senses, a cat’s tactile and olfactory perceptions are relatively more sensitive,” Dr. Spano explained. Therefore, it is unfair and illogical to compare the discomfort that a human experiences from being sprayed with water to that which a cat experiences from the same action. ”.

Additionally, if you’re doing something to her that unnerves her on a frequent basis, it could seriously damage your relationship because she won’t feel like she can trust you and might even become afraid of you.

FAQ

Is it OK to spray cats with water?

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.

Is spraying a cat with water a good way to train?

Because this method is common, the perception is that this is an acceptable way to fix a problem and a good way to train a cat not to do certain things. Actually it is not.

Can I spray my cat with water when he meows?

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.

Can you punish a cat for spraying?

Most importantly, never punish your cat for spraying (yelling, hitting, spraying with water, etc.). This will not reduce the behavior and will make them scared of you and more stressed.