My cat is a rescue and very well-behaved. Our biggest issue is her fear of any bottle that sprays or even looks like it sprays something. I need to use several things around the home or her that spray (not aerosols). Obviously, she was disciplined this way. It breaks my heart to see the fear in her eyes when I have to use a spray bottle for something. Any advice to help her?
Overcoming the cats fear of spray bottles.
A cat that was disciplined through punishment may find itself traumatized or frightened of certain people or things.
Desensitization and Counter-conditioning (DS/CC) could be an effective technique to change your cat’s perception to the spray bottle. Desensitization refers to a gradual reduction of a previously learned reactivity to a stimulus while Counter-conditioning provides your cat a positive reward (i.e. treat) to assist your kitty associate the scary spray bottle with a positive experience.
Begin the DS/CC process by determining your cat’s favorite treat or toy and only attempt DS/CC when your cat is relaxed, always watch her body language and stop when she is feeling uncomfortable, anxious or aroused.
The spray bottle must be reintroduced in a series of small steps which you’ll control through the intensity, distance, speed of movement and her response to the squirt bottle. Start at the lowest intensity and furthest distance by presenting the spray-bottle, then offer the treat or toy. Ideally any spray bottle used should always predict her favorite thing (yummy treat or play session). Once she isn’t phased by the bottle itself, squirt it once and offer the treat or toy. Only increase the stimulus intensity and reduce the distance once she is consistently comfortable. Repeat the full process over countless sessions until she forms a positive association with the spray bottle and squirting action.
Each cat is different, and you might be able to progress slower or faster (small steps are best). Assess your cat’s reaction at every stage and adjust your behavior as required. The method can take between days to months – don’t rush it!
If you’re unsure or having problems applying the technique, please consult your vet or an animal behaviorist in your area.
Wishing you all the best