Spraying Water To Punish Cats is WRONG

By Ruth aka Kattaddorra

This article was inspired by the ever constant debate as to whether spraying water at cats is cruel or not. Some people swear by it but I make no secret of the fact that yes I do think it is cruel because I hate any punishing of cats at all.

Cats don’t understand punishment, it doesn’t work and they eventually become nervous around the person punishing them.

don't punish your cat with water spray
Poster by Ruth aka Kattaddorra
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Pro squirters say you need to squirt from a place where the cat can’t see you doing it, so he doesn’t associate it with you. So that means lying in wait with a squirty bottle and watching for the cat to ‘misbehave’ and then using it.

Some people recommend saying NO at the same time as squirting, so how they think the cat doesn’t associate the wetting of them with the person’s voice puzzles me?

Yes it stops the cat there and then from doing what you don’t want him to do, but for it to really work you’d have to watch him 24 hours a day, who is to say he doesn’t do what you are trying to stop him doing, when no one can see him?

Some say but it does work eventually, now I only have to show him the squirt bottle or say NO and he runs from the place he shouldn’t be. I’d say in that case that it hasn’t worked, if it had he wouldn’t keep on wanting to do what he shouldn’t.

There is also the risk of when the cat suddenly bolts in fear, the water although not aimed at his face, may go into his eyes, mouth or ears. In particular water in a cat’s ear can set up a middle ear infection. Why risk that?

Far better the kind, gentle, distraction method which alters the cat’s thinking. The trick is not to say one word, just silently and gently lift the cat from where he shouldn’t be scratching, to his scratching post or board and when he uses it praise him, saying his name a lot.

‘Good boy Smokey, well done Smokey, clever Smokey’ whatever words you want to use it’s important you say his name. Give him a treat if you like too.

You will find after a few times of this he will go to his scratching post to scratch, not to your couch. It’s just like humans having CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to alter their thinking, cats brains are very similar to our brains, so it works for cats too.

The cat will soon connect the need to scratch with the correct place to do so, that being his own furniture. The method can be used with any of the cat’s behaviour which isn’t acceptable to his caretaker. Such as him jumping onto surfaces you don’t want him on or if it’s not safe for him.

Simply silently and gently lift him off and distract him with a cat toy or a ball, when he plays praise him, using his name, he will soon learn where not to jump onto.

What cats do isn’t bad behaviour, scratching is necessary behaviour and jumping up heights is natural behaviour, to a cat,

Put it this way, we humans are far from perfect ourselves and we all have habits which aggravate others. Just supposing every time we did something to annoy someone else in our family, they turned a hosepipe on us? How would we feel?

Threatened in our own home, that’s how!

No, it wouldn’t cure us, we are only human and we would live our lives on edge just like cats being punished do, simply for doing what cats do.


20 thoughts on “Spraying Water To Punish Cats is WRONG”

  1. It sounds like your saying dogs are smarter than cats because they do learn. Like walking on a leash, how to not jump on people. Training them to use bathroom outside. Making sure they don’t put their teeth on people.

    • Hi Jacen, thanks for visiting and commenting. If you are referring the author of the article, I know her well enough to speak on her behalf. She is not saying that dogs are smarter than cats but that training cats through negative reinforcement (punishment) is unsuitable in many ways one of which is that it alienates the cat from the owner. The only way to train a cat is through positive reinforcement (reward).

      • If cats aren’t smart enough to associate negative reinforce with the thing they were doing wrong, and can only focus on the water itself, then there is no way that they are smart enough to associate the positive reinforcement to the good act they were doing as well. Again, they would only be focusing on the treat itself, and not the good act that got them that treat.

        • Hi Theo. I think you have misunderstood the message. Cats will associate punishment (the delivery or pain) with what they’ve done provided it takes place as soon as possible after their “bad behaviour”. However, the cat has done nothing wrong. They don’t know that they have done something wrong. They behave naturally. We can only deliver punishment for doing something wrong. If a cat does something naturally (instinctively) then it cannot be wrong with respect to the world of cats and their mentality and therefore punishment cannot be justified. Under these circumstances if the cat is punished the cat will simply become confused and fearful of the person delivering the punishment hurting the relationship. Therefore punishment is wrong and the only course of action is positive reinforcement. Punishment is a human concept and should be confined to interactions between humans.

          Please note that the person who wrote this article is or was a colleague of mine. If you search for “punishment” in the custom search facility you will find other articles on this topic some of which are written by me and in which I going to more detail.

  2. Sorry but I still think “negative reinforcement” is bad in any situation at all,these people promoting water spraying don’t seem to grasp that if it worked they wouldn’t need to keep doing it.
    I read somewhere somebody saying it’s like putting a sticking plaster over a spelk,it doesn’t get rid of the spelk,it only covers it up.
    So to me spraying water at cats only covers up the problem.
    We in the UK are much more tolerant of cats,we don’t live in fear of their claws or think about our cats causing harm to each other and us,for God’s sake they are tiny furry creatures not big wild ones.

    • Thanks for your opinion Rose, we think alike.
      So spraying water at fighting cats who live together is acceptable some say, but to me that means always having the sprayer full and ready at hand. A sort of pre meditated waiting for it to happen situation. My thoughts are that if they can watch for their cats to start fighting and reach for that, why not simply clap their hands to distract the cats before the fight gets serious.
      Cats usually give warning, by ‘singing’ and ears flattening, tails swishing, the instigator creeping nearer or the other one creeping further away. If our boyz ever do that, simply clapping takes their attention from each other. No spraying water, no one hurt, it seems to me that some USA people have an exaggerated sense of cats claws and teeth, that they live in fear of them.
      Do cats living in the same house badly hurt each other anyway?
      Ours never do.

  3. This is a comment from The American Veterinary Workers against Declawing facebook group which I have been given permission to copy, I have my own thoughts on what she says but I’ll hang back to give anyone else a chance to write their thoughts if they want to. We have agreed to disagree over this because our main aim is to educate people about declawing and ultimately get it banned, so we don’t want to fall out over another subject.
    This is what she says:
    ‘While we do not recommend the use of spray bottles to discourage or redirect natural scratching behavior (we agree there are better and more effective ways to deal with scratching on inappropriate items), it has been my experience that in *some* situations and with *some* cats, a squirt of water can be effective where other methods fail. I have, for example, used a spray bottle to end fights between my cats before- saving injury to all *three* of us in the process. The debate is really about whether or not any kind of negative reinforcement whatsoever should be used in training cats. While we respect the opinions of those who say that ONLY positive reinforcement techniques should be used and agree that this would be the ideal, we also recognize that every cat is an individual, and as such, what works with one cat might not work with another. Negative reinforcement, if used, should be used very sparingly and never with anger, and should never physically harm the cat. In my opinion, it should only be used when the cat’s behavior, if unchecked, can cause harm to him/herself or another member of the household, (whether human or animal)’


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