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I have two cats, both under 6 months old (I guess you could call them kittens). I have used a spray bottle in the past as negative reinforcement, which worked great on one of them (the one that's scared of water) and less effectively on the other (which, for some reason really likes water).

Lately, this has proven to be less effective. The latter cat (water lover) is no longer responding to this bad reinforcement and doesn't seem to be fazed by the mist of water.

Can I add something to the water, without it being harmful to the cat, that will make it more uncomfortable for him and maybe react to the use of the bottle in the way I expect him to? (Maybe a tinge of lemon juice for sting?)

  • What about making water colder? – sharptooth Nov 21 '13 at 9:47
  • @sharptooth - Probably too much maintenance. – JoshDM Nov 21 '13 at 14:39
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    For better or worse, the suggested duplicate question asks for general recommendations, but this one asks for further when there is failure. I sense that this question may come up a fair bit all on it's own, just like the other would. For that reason, I'd keep them distinct. – John Cavan Nov 22 '13 at 4:03
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    I don't believe this is a duplicate, the other one is about discipline generally, this one is about a water spray technique and options about making this effective. It brings a specific problem to the table. – Nobody Nov 22 '13 at 23:15
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    I do not believe this should be closed. I am only casting the 5th and final close vote in order for it to be re-opened without closes logged against it. I've hit the "reopen" link. Three cheers for workarounds in the SE system. – JoshDM Nov 23 '13 at 2:13
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As Zaralynda said in this answer on another question, it's better if you can identify and address the cause of the bad behavior. But that doesn't always work immediately, and so in the meantime, there's the squirt bottle.

You mention the "mist of water" being ineffective. I use squirt bottles with adjustable flow; I can produce anything from a fine, broad mist to a narrow burst of water (think squirt-gun-sized stream). I've found the latter to be more effective; it's more concentrated and I think the cat notices more.

If you're not already using an adjustable bottle, try that first. It might do the job without any additives, at least long enough for you to find and fix the core problem.

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To add to @Monica's answer.

Yes adjusting the nozzle so the water sprays more as a stream rather than a mist.

I wouldn't advise adding lemon juice to the water, as this could sting the cat's eyes. At this stage I would suggest changing the regime a little.

When my cat jumps onto the kitchen bench I flick water at him from my fingers and make a hissing sound. In this case, he doesn't like the water, but I have gotten him to associate the hissing sound with something unpleasant. Originally it involved me also, physically removing him from the bench. Now, if I am not in the kitchen and I chastise him with the hissing sound he jumps off. I also use his name in a strict tone of voice. They get used to repetitious sounds.

In this case, you may have to combine a stronger squirt of water with a hissing sound and go through the protracted training of physically lifting your cat out of whatever situation it is you want him/her to stop. It can take a longer time to do this, but yields good results, as it is the process of associating the sprayer with physically being removed from a situation that will teach your cat to like the water sprayer less. With cats I find it is not so easy to do things by remote until we have made it clear to them what we want from them whilst in close proximity.

  • At this point you're not far from training the cat to voice commands (or clicker, but we use voice commands). The problem with using this technique when the cat is doing something you don't want it to do is that the cat will continue doing it when you aren't around. We use voice commands like "OUT" when we're getting ready to leave the house and need to make sure everyone is on the correct side of the bedroom door beforehand. The difference in this situation is they are allowed in the bedroom sometimes, they just need to respond when it's time to go! – Zaralynda Nov 24 '13 at 4:51
  • @Zaralynda i think there is always a problem with how our pets and children behave when we're not around :) – Nobody Nov 24 '13 at 5:19
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    I think you're making a joke, but I don't agree with that statement. My cats don't claw my furniture whether I'm around or not. I haven't trained them not to claw the furniture, but I've made the cat furniture more inviting so they leave my furniture alone. It doesn't occur to them to "misbehave" when I'm not around. – Zaralynda Nov 25 '13 at 15:31

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