How To Train Cats To Stay Off Counters
As all cat lovers know, our feline friends are an independent bunch, and they’ll often do just as they please. Endearing as this attitude (or should we say cattitude?) can be, it’s not always conducive to a happy household. One common complaint among owners is that their cats jump onto the kitchen counters and walk all over them.
Whether or not this habit irritates you, it’s a bad idea to let your kitty have free range in the kitchen for a number of reasons. When cats leap onto the countertop, they run the risk of hurting themselves and others – not to mention spreading potentially harmful bacteria. With these hazards in mind, training your cat to avoid these surfaces is a good idea for any household. Stubborn as they are, cats can be trained out of this behavior – below, we run through a few methods you can use.
Why Do Cats Like To Climb On Your Counters?
Before we discuss how to stop your cat from leaping onto the counter, it’s important to understand why they do so in the first place.
Our feline friends like to hop on the counter for a number of reasons:
- Cats Like Heights
As the old saying goes, cats always land on their feet. They’re natural born climbers, who like to get as high as they can to get the lay of the land. Countertops are low enough for most felines to leap onto, but high enough to give them a superior view of their surroundings.
- There Might be Food
Even a well-fed cat is an opportunistic creature, and leftovers on the kitchen counter are just too good a snack to pass up. Like dogs, cats have a keen sense of smell, allowing them to track down food even if it’s not in their line of sight. Many cats will leap onto the counter in the hopes of scoring a free meal.
- Cats enjoy Running Water
Your cat may also jump onto the counter in search of the kitchen sin. They’re attracted to the sound of running water, and usually, the sink is their closest source. Your cat may be attracted to the faucet even if they have easy access to a bowl of clean water. This is because, in the wild, still water is much more likely to be stagnant, while running water tends to be fresh. This instinctual knowledge has filtered its way down to modern domestic cats, making taps and sinks very appealing.
- They can more easily see You
Most domestic cats are very affectionate, and want to spend time with their owners when possible. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, jumping onto the counter might be your cat’s way of coming up to say hello. Standing on your countertop puts your cat at eye level, making it easier to dispense affection and treats. If you do give your cat attention while they’re on the counter, this behavior is positively reinforced, making it more likely to continue.
The Problem with Cat Counter Surfing
It might be cute, but having your curious kitty on the countertop can be surprisingly harmful for a number of reasons:
- Sharp Objects and Hot Surfaces
Knives, stovetops, and other dangerous items all pose a risk to your curious feline. If your cat leaps onto the counter, they run the risk of cutting or burning themselves, which could cause them to lash out and do further damage to themselves or others.
- Slippery Surfaces
Being made from granite, marble, polished wood, or plastic, countertops tend to be slippery. This is all well and good unless you’re a cat attempting to walk on them. If your cat manages to slip off of the counter, they could harm themselves.
- Litter Box Pathogens
Although cats are known for grooming themselves, their feet can still harbor harmful bacteria – especially when they’ve been using the litter box. If these microbes make their way onto food preparation surfaces, they could end up in your food, potentially triggering a nasty illness. Outdoor cats can also drag harmful bugs from the outside world into your home and onto your countertops.
If your cat doesn’t usually jump onto the counter, when they do so it could be a sign that something is wrong. If your cat is experiencing polydipsia – abnormal thirst – they may leap up in the hopes of finding extra water at the tap. Excessive thirst can be a sign of diabetes or kidney disease, making this behavior important to watch out for.
Three Ways to Deal with It
Now we’ve discussed why cats leap on the counter, and the problems it can cause, it’s time to run through a few effective ways to deal with the problem.
One: Environmental Deterrents
Environmental deterrents – also called environmental punishments – discourage certain behavior without the need for their owner to be present. With this type of discipline, the negative feedback cats receive is associated with the counters themselves rather than you.
Not only will this foster a better relationship between you and your feline friend, it will also prevent the cat from jumping up when you’re not around. If you were wondering how to keep cats off counters at night or while you’re at work, this is the perfect method.
You can use a few different types of environmental deterrent to keep your cats off the counter:
- Baking Sheets
You can easily discourage a cat from their countertop foires by placing light baking sheets on their edges. With the baking sheets in place, your cat will experience an unexpected and frightening – but harmless – noise and movement whenever they jump up. Over time, the animal will come to associate this unpleasantness with the countertop itself, and avoid the area.
- Noise Traps
You can create a simple noise trap by connecting two empty soda cans with thread or twine. Fill each can with a few pebbles or pennies, and place them so that the string stretches across the spot where your cat usually jumps up. When they do, they’ll knock over the cans, producing a startling sound. When this unpleasant sound becomes associated with the counter, they won’t be so keen to hang out there any more.
- Double Sided Scotch Tape
Try placing a length of double sided tape across a piece of countertop that your cat frequents. When they walk in this area, their paws will stick to the tape uncomfortably. Cats are quite adverse to stickiness, making this method pretty effective.
- Aluminum Foil
If you don’t want to use baking trays, you can place a few sheets of aluminum foil on the countertop instead. When your cat walks across the foil, it will make an unexpected noise, deterring them from walking across your surfaces in the future.
- Motion Activated Devices
You can also purchase motion-activated air blasters and alarms, and position them so they’re set off when your cat jumps onto the counter. The unexpected sound or puff of air will likely startle them and cause them to leap off.
- Textured Mats
These mats are a type of harmless deterrent, designed to be uncomfortable for cats to walk across. They can be placed on your countertops in a few key spots, to discourage cats from walking around up there.
You may need to mix and match these solutions, and use a little trial and error. When deployed properly, environmental deterrents can be a hugely effective way to curtail your cat’s counter surfing habits.
Two: Provide Alternatives
As we mentioned earlier, cats are curious creatures, naturally inclined to climb and explore. By providing them with some countertop alternatives, you can help them to satisfy this instinct, without being a culinary hazard.
- Cat Trees
Cat trees are a piece of pet furniture specifically designed to give cats a place to climb, play, and observe the world around them. However large or small your home it, we can guarantee there’s a cat tree out there that will fit perfectly. Some trees also feature a special textured spot for cats to sharpen their claws, making them much more appealing than your kitchen counters.
- Viewing Spots
You can make life a lot more interesting for your pet by providing access to windows. Cats like to have a vantage point, and if they can’t get one elsewhere, they may resort to using your countertop as a viewing deck. Try to place the cat tree, or another piece of pet furniture, such as steps, near a window to the outside, to lure your cat away from kitchen antics.
- Cat Shelf
Installing a padded ‘cat shelf’ provides kitties with another great alternative to countertop cruises. These shelves are typically attached to the inside of window sills, and used to satisfy your cat’s curiosity. When installing a shelf, try to choose a window that has good sun exposure, since this will allow your pet to bask.
In the fight against feline boredom, cat toys are an important ally. If your cat is tired and satisfied from playing with their toys, they are far less likely to explore the kitchen counter. Choose simple toys, such as pretend mice, or ‘fishing rods’ with a small toy dangling on the end. When you need to leave your cat unattended, leave a few toys lying around to keep them stimulated until you return home.
- Resting Spots
Like us, cats need a space where they can go to relax and feel safe. Many cats sleep for as many as 20 hours a day! During this time, they can’t jump on the counters, so it’s a good idea to provide a comfy resting spot. Try to place your cat’s bed in a warm, quiet, and ideally sunny area of the house.
- Drinking Fountains
If your cat makes a beeline for the kitchen faucet, in spite of access to a bowl of fresh water, consider investing in a feline drinking fountain. These handy devices circulate water at a comfortable level for your cat, allowing them to satisfy their attraction to running water.
When your cat has some alternative ways to climb and entertain themselves, they are far less likely to use your kitchen counters as climbing apparatus.
Three: Make Countertops less Appealing
The final piece of our countertop trifecta is fairly simple – by making the kitchen counter as uninteresting to your cat as possible, you can significantly reduce the risk of them jumping up.
- Don’t keep Food on the Counter
Human food is very interesting to cats. If they see, or smell, food on the countertop, they’re quite likely to hop on up and try their luck. When your cat begins to associate the countertop with food, they may well jump up even if there are no tasty morsels in sight! Making a habit of keeping food off the counter can help redirect your cat’s interest.
- Wipe down your Counters Often
Not only is it hygienic to wipe off your countertop with an antibacterial solution on a regular basis, it will also make the surface far less appealing to your cat. Wiping things down will remove any residual food smells, and replace them with something uninteresting. For best results, choose a cleaner that’s citrus, aloe, or eucalyptus scented, since cats find these scents unpleasant.
- Check your Cat’s Diet
If your cat keeps jumping onto the countertop, it could be that they’re searching for more food. If you notice this scavenging behavior, try offering them larger portions than usual. Many cats are ‘grazers’, so keeping a bowl of dry food accessible at all times may also help to keep the munchies at bay. If you do increase your cat’s food intake, watch their weight carefully, and chat to your vet if in doubt.
Every cat is unique, and there may be some trial and error involved when giving these training methods a go. That being said, with the right combination of bribe and deterrent, the majority of cats can be weaned away from their counter surfing ways without too much difficulty.
- How to Keep your Cat off the Counter – Pet MD