Cats and Aluminum Foil: Will It Keep Your Kitties Off the Counters?

Probably not, but there's more you can do.

gray cat lays on top of wooden counter near stovetop

Nimrod Shlagman / EyeEm / Getty Images

Cats' aluminum-foil aversion tempts some pet owners to cover their countertops in the shiny wrapping. But it probably won't keep your cat off the counter—at least not permanently.

Rita Reimers and Linda Hall, cat behavior experts who together run Cat Behavior Alliance, contend there are better options to keep your cat off your kitchen counters. Cat owners can do other strategies to make their counters less attractive to cats, and they'll work better than the foil.

And you won't have to make your kitchen look like the Apollo missions' lunar module

Do Cats Hate Aluminum Foil? 

They don't hate foil, according to Hall, whose own cats quite enjoyed the foil she tried placing under her Christmas tree one year. 

It can surprise them, though. That's why you see videos of cats jumping onto counters only to comically spring back into the air as they touch the foil. They might be put off by its shininess or the sound it makes at first, but chances are they'll go up there again, Reimers says.

"What are you gonna do, keep foil on the counter forever?" she adds. "Sooner or later that is just routine for them." 

Are there some foil-hating cats out there? Probably, but there are other ways to keep your cat off the counters—if you even want to. 

Keeping Your Cats Off the Counter Without Foil

First, Hall recommends some introspection. Is this a battle you really need to win? Is it absolutely vital to keep your cats off the counter? 

Cats love high places, so counters are a natural spot they want to occupy and survey the rest of the room. As long as all the food and utensils are put away safely, do you really mind if your cat's up there? 

"They want to be up where they feel safe and where they can watch everybody," Hall says. 

But you still might need to keep your cat off while you're cooking or working in the kitchen. Here's what you can do, no foil required. 

Find Alternatives

If your cats want somewhere to perch, give them more options, Hall and Reimers say. You can add a cat tree or window perch to your home, giving your cats somewhere more interesting to lounge than the counter. Maybe even station a toy with some catnip up there to make it extra tempting.  

Keep It Clean

The flip side of installing alternative high places is making your countertops less enticing. First, that means putting the food away and keeping the counters clean as much as you can. 

The simple truth is food-motivated cats are less likely to jump up when they've found nothing interesting up there. If that means storing food in the microwave, like Reimers does, so be it. 

Make the Counters Even More Unappealing

If you really don't want your cat on the counters, you can use "scat mats" (like this), Hall and Reimers say. The plastic "spikes" are annoying for cats to step on without harming them. They will, however, look odd on your countertop. 

Cats generally don't like certain scents—citrus and eucalyptus, for example—so installing that smell on your counters can keep them on the floor. Of course, some cats are exceptions and might not mind the smell, Hall and Reimers say. And, again, is this important enough for your kitchen to smell citrusy all the time?  

Disassociate Food From the Counter

Whether we admit it or not, many of us give our cats scraps from the counter while we're cooking or cleaning. If you give your cat something from the counter, they'll associate the counter with a tasty treat, Hall says. 

So if you want to give them table scraps that are non-toxic for cats, hand them out away from the counter, Hall says. Hopefully they'll learn the counter isn't the place for them. 

Obviously, you'll also want to keep them off counters as you cook. Hall says that's just a matter of picking them up and placing them back on the floor. If you do it enough times, they should give up.     

Word Association

All pet owners are probably saying "no!' too often. Hall says you should pick a different word for when you want your cat to get off the counter—it can even be a clap of the hands. Just make it specific for when you want your cat to descend.

You can also pair the cue with clicker training, rewarding your cat each time he gets back onto the floor. (If you teach him "come," for example.) 

These tips should keep your cat from being too interested in the counter, but if you still want to use foil, Reimers recommends crumpling it into a ball for the cats to play with.