How to Use a Spray Bottle with Your Dog or Cat [Video]
It’s rare that a YouTube video entertains and informs in under a minute, but that’s what animal trainer Jose Gomes (Facebook, Twitter) achieves here:
We learn: a) plants benefit from water (but be Goldilocks about it — not too much and not too little!), and b) companion animals do not benefit from being spritz-spritzed with water.
But why? Watering plants the Goldilocks way you can probably get behind, but why not spray companion animals with water? And what was that puzzle feeder thing?
Dr. Sarah Ellis and Dr. Suzanne Hetts are experts in animal learning, training, welfare and behavior, and they are well-prepared to address these ‘Why?’ questions.Ellis (Facebook, Twitter) is a Feline Behaviour Specialist at International Cat Care, co-author of The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat, Visiting Fellow at the University of Lincoln, UK and she holds a PhD in feline welfare. Hetts (Facebook, Twitter) is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist behind the Behavior Education Network for dog specialists, and she co-hosts monthly online CAAB Chats for companion animal lovers. She holds a PhD in zoology with a specialization in animal behavior. Her latest book is 12 Terrible Dog Training Mistakes Owners Make That Ruin Their Dog's Behavior...And How To Avoid Them.
First up, let's talk about the food puzzles the trainer gave the cats. Food puzzles are contraptions that allow cats work to access food, something that as predators cats were built to do.
Here’s Ellis: “That video was hilarious (and it's rare I say that about a YouTube video featuring cats). But beyond hilarity, it actually had so many good messages.Puzzle feeding teaches the cat to work for rewards — moving towards incentives.”
'Food puzzles for cats: feeding for physical and emotional wellbeing,' is a recent publication in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Leticia Dantas and colleagues found that cats experienced behavior and health benefits after being exposed to food puzzles and other behavior modification techniques: “Benefits we have observed include weight loss, decreased aggression toward humans and other cats, reduced anxiety and fear, cessation of attention-seeking behaviors and resolution of litter box avoidance." Whether you’re a cat or living with a cat, these are happy developments.
The paper also describes how to make food puzzles, with cats-in-action photos to boot. The paper is open access; download it here. I’ll wait. Also, Food Puzzles for Cats, created by Ingrid Johnson and Mikel Delgado, two of the paper’s authors, is “a one stop resource for information about feeding your cat using foraging toys!” (Facebook, Twitter). Many dogs (and dog lovers) are already well-versed in food puzzles that provide much-needed stimulation for dogs, our favorite scavenger.
Why no squirt?
Why point a spray bottle at plants and not animals? Ellis and Hetts explain:
Ellis: “If puzzle feeding teaches the cat to work for rewards — moving towards incentives — the spray bottle teaches the cat to move away from aversive. Why is that so bad? Well cats, who as a species evolved from a solitary ancestor, do not cope well with any form of punishment (or aversive). And when that aversive is connected to a person or another animal, its consequences can be even more severe. Cats don't tend to 'make up' — reconciliation seems to be something lacking in their behavioural repertoire, unlike dogs and other social animals which are pretty good at it. Thus, if the cat associates the spray bottle — which is pretty aversive because a) it produces water which cats generally dislike and b) it makes a sound like a cat hissing — with the hand holding it, it is likely the cat will associate the negative event of water with that particular person. No one wants to ruin their relationship with their cat that they've built up over years just for the sake of stopping them jumping on their work-top counter. Instead, why not teach them that good things happen when their feet are on the ground, e.g. food rewards, play, stroking — work towards rewards, not away from aversives!”
Hetts: “The biggest problems I see with the use of squirt bottles is that they rarely meet the criteria for the effective use of punishment. For example — punishment should immediately follow the behavior. Most pet owners don't walk around with a squirt bottle in their hands, so by the time they hunt one down it's too late. The pet has either stopped the behavior, is now doing something else, or has been engaging in the unwanted behavior for minutes.
"Second, punishment should be consistent. Same problem — it's rare that a pet owner would or could use a squirt bottle, say every single time the dog engaged in the unwanted behavior.
"Finally, owner delivered punishment of any sort often results in pets who engage in unwanted behaviors when owners are not present — they simply learn to discriminate when "punishment" will be forthcoming and when it won't. And of course some dogs don't mind being squirted with water. I absolutely don't think lemon juice or vinegar should be used — those were common recommendations in the past.
"I've seen videos online of caretakers in day cares walking around with squirt bottles in their hands and squirting dogs inconsistently. That's about the worst possible example I can think of because it's inconsistent and unpredictable, so the dogs never are sure what to not to do to avoid being squirted.
"If I could grab a squirt bottle in an 'emergency' situation, to break up a conflict between pets when I thought one might be injured — absolutely. I'd probably dump the whole bottle if I thought it would work! But I think they have limited use in a behavior modification plan for the reasons I mentioned.”
‘How to Use a Squirt Bottle with Your Dog or Cat’ is a rare YouTube gem that captures two of the best things in communication: new information presented with humor. Take two seemingly known things — watering plants and spraying pets with water — and play with the expectation. Entertaining and informative. Might there be a time when a squirt bottle could come in handy? Possibly. But should it be the go-to, default way to interact with our four-legged friends — without considering potential consequences? No.
Bradshaw, J. and Ellis, S. 2016. The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat. Basic Books
Benal, J. 2011. Should You Use a Squirt Bottle to Train Your Dog?Quick and Dirty Tips
Hetts, S. 2014. 12 Terrible Dog Training Mistakes Owners Make That Ruin Their Dog's Behavior...And How To Avoid Them. Kindle Books
Todd, Z. 2016. Your Cat Would Like Food Puzzle Toys. Companion Animal Psychology blog
Dantas, L., Delgado, M., Johnson, I., and Buffington, C. 2016. Food puzzles for cats: feeding for physical and emotional wellbeing. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery OPEN ACCESS
5 Reasons To Never Spray Water On Your Cat [Or otherwise punish them]
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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.
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 –
- Understand why your cat is behaving this way and what natural needs the behavior addresses.
- Provide your cat with an appropriate and non-destructive way to address these needs.
- 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 Furniture
How To Solve Litterbox Problems In Cats: The Ultimate Guide
Cat Aggression Toward People
How To Keep Cats Off Counters And Tables
How 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 Is My Cat Peeing on My Bed?
One of the most annoying moments a cat owner might face is waking up to the smell of pee and realizing your cat peed on your bed while you were asleep. In some cases, your cat might even pee on the bed right in front of you! Of course, you immediately wonder why your cat is doing this. Don't worry; your cat isn't urinating on your bed because he's mad at you. Your cat might pee on your bed for a variety of reasons, and you're not powerless to stop this frustrating problem.
Look for a Medical Reason First
The very first thing you should do if your cat has suddenly changed his litter habits is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Sometimes the issue can be as simple as an undiagnosed health concern leading your cat to pee in inappropriate areas. Other health issues could also contribute, so get your cat checked out.
Sometimes Stress is the Culprit
Sometimes your cat's e-meow-tional health is the reason why she pees on the bed. Stress or nervousness can lead to the annoying habit because she doesn't feel secure, and the stress can be caused by a variety of reasons. Maybe you recently had a change in your home, like rearranging furniture, bringing home a baby, moving, or changing your work schedule. Maybe she's stressed by your other pets or even other cats wandering around your yard at night.
Increasing her confidence can help decrease her stress and, hopefully, her spraying incidents. Start by giving her more "high places" to claim as her own, like cat trees and cat condos. Cats build confidence when they have a taller perspective on their world.
Play with her more so you can build your bond and expend some of her energy. Maybe start taking her outdoors once a day on a cat harness, so she has a new adventure that stimulates her mind. Try clicker training, or get out a feather wand and play every day. Keep this bonding time consistent, so she looks forward to it.
Finally, use Comfort Zone products to help reduce stress. The Comfort Zone team is dedicated to helping cats feel safe, happy, and calm using signals cats understand. Try the Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser or the Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Diffuser if you have more than one cat. Plug them into the rooms where your cat spends the most time. If your cat is on-the-go, snap a Comfort Zone Calming Collar on her so she'll take those calm feelings wherever she roams.
You might also want to use the Comfort Zone Spray & Scratch Control Spray around your bed to discourage her from spraying there again. Spray it once a day; the effects of the spray last for hours.
Look for Issues with the Litter
Your cat might pee on your bed because he's really uncomfortable with his litter box. You need at least one litter box per household cat, plus one additional box.1 Put them in different locations throughout the house, including at least one spot in a private area away from noise and traffic.
Now is the time to experiment with all different types of boxes. Try covered and uncovered, as well as large and small boxes. You also want to try boxes with an open side that doesn't require stepping over to get into.
Test different kinds of litter to discover if your cat has a preference. Cats that were once outdoors a lot might prefer a box with outdoor soil mixed with litter. Some cats with long fur might not like clay litter because it sticks to their fur, but they'll love crystal litter. Other cats may prefer pine, while some need litter that doesn't have a fragrance. Some cats like clumping litter and others won't touch it. Other cats may not use a box if it has a liner. You also want to experiment with the litter's depth, and remember to clean it frequently.
Your Cat May Feel a Need to Mix His Scent with Yours
Sometimes peeing on the bed has something to do with your cat wanting to mix his scent with yours (or with someone who shares your bed).If this is the case, it isn't out of anger or spite. Instead, it's about marking you all as part of the same community. If you've been gone a lot, your cat might feel the need for extra bonding. If a new person is sleeping in your bed, your cat might feel a little insecure and want to show he's still part of the same community. Bonding with your kitty through extra playtime can help ease that insecurity.
Consider Removing the Triggers
Sometimes you need to remove the triggers that lead to the peeing. If she pees on a specific blanket on your bed, removing the blanket might be all it takes to solve the issue. Putting a litter box near the bedroom can also help. Sometimes cat owners choose to stop allowing the cat to sleep in the bedroom. But this might cause extra distress if your cat already feels insecure. Try bonding more, playing more, and providing new litter box options first. Sometimes giving treats on the bed can also help since cats tend not to urinate where they've eaten.
How to Get Cat Pee out of Bedding
To help stop your cat from peeing on your bed, thoroughly clean any bedding that he pees on. If your cat can smell his old pee, he'll be tempted to spray there again. So how do you get cat pee out of bedding?
First, clean the pee as quickly as possible. Look for products specifically geared toward cleaning cat pee. Look for enzyme-based cleaners as they break down the acid in your cat's urine. Avoid anything with ammonia because it kind of smells like cat pee and might actually attract your cat back to that spot.
Rinse the spot on the bedding where your cat peed with cool water and blot it, don't scrub. Then wash the bedding in a washing machine with a mix of detergent and baking soda or cider vinegar. Add the enzyme cleaner to a second round if the laundry still smells after the first wash. Then air dry the bedding. Don't use the dryer, just in case the scent isn't entirely gone. Heat can lock in the scent. You might need to wash the bedding several times before the smell is completely gone.
You also want to make sure the surrounding bed frame and floor didn't get peed on too. Clean them with your cat urine cleaner. You might even need to clean the mattress depending on how much your cat peed. First, soak the spot with water and blot, then soak with your enzyme cleaner and blot after about 15 minutes. Then let it air dry.
Remember, your cat isn't acting mean or spiteful when he pees on your bed. Something's wrong, and this is his only way to let you know. Try not to yell at your kitty or make him feel even more insecure. Instead, talk to your veterinarian and follow the tips in this guide. With time, patience, and a lot of love, you'll find the solution together and return your cat to a calm state of mind.
1. The Humane Society of the United States. "Preventing Litter Box Problems." HumaneSociety.org, https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/preventing-litter-box-problems.
- Keeping one more box than the total number of cats in your home.
- Changing the litter more frequently.
- Trying a different brand of litter.
- Placing the litter box in a quieter place in your home.
- Placing litter boxes in more rooms of your house to make using the box more convenient.
- Removing the liner and/or hood from the litter box, since these can make some cats uncomfortable.
- Filling your cat's litter box with only one to two inches of litter, which is what most cats prefer.
- Getting a large or extra large litter box, since some cats dislike small boxes.
- Getting an easy entry box if you have an older cat. These boxes have a lower edge or an opening to make it easier for your cat to get in and out of the box.
Water spraying cat reddit with
Human sprays water to keep cat off the table, plan fails hilariously. Watch
If you are a cat parent, there’s a chance you’ll agree that the adorable fur babies love sitting at unusual places. From computer keyboard to work table, the examples are many. More often than not, the pet parents also fail to convince their feline kids to move from those places. A video shared on Reddit captures that fail of a human and that too in a hilarious way.
“Trainer suggested a squirt bottle to keep him off the table,” reads the caption shared alongside the video. The clip shows exactly what the caption suggests, the human trying to use the method to get the cat to move. Take a look at the clip to find how that pans out:
Trainer suggested a squirt bottle to keep him off the table. from r/funny
Since being shared, the video has gathered nearly 2,300 upvotes from people. It has also accumulated tons of responses from people, especially from cat parents who have faced similar situations themselves.
“Tried this with my cat. Now every time we go in the bathroom we have to turn the faucet on so she can play,” shared a Redditor. “I like when he tried to start catching it with his mouth,” shared another. “I do it to my cat but my cat is very smart I did it few times now he just know the bottle and escape,” confessed a third.
What do you think of the video?
Also Read | These may or may not be the coolest cat taps that you’ve ever seen. Watch
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