It's quite common for cat owners to find that their cats like to jump up and hang out on the kitchen counters. While some owners are of the conviction that it's okay to let their cats "counter-surf," this is a bad habit that should be avoided (or stopped if it's already occurring. There are a number of potential hazards to both the cats and their human owners. Cats on a kitchen counter could be at risk for jumping on a hot stove or ingesting cleaning products' residue. Humans could be at risk for sanitary issues that arise when cats get into food. It's best to keep them off the countertops.
Why Do Cats Like Countertops?
Kitchen counters attract cats like a magnet, and there are several reasons why. Once you can identify the reason your cat may like the countertop so much, that can help you modify and redirect the cat's behavior.
- They love heights. Get any two cats together with a climbing tree or cat tower and you'll have a ready-made game of "King of the Hill." Countertops are just high enough that a cat can either jump up from the ground or get up with the help of a well-positioned chair.
- Kitchen counters smell good! They're often loaded with tempting things to eat, such as raw chicken parts, ground beef, or yesterday's tuna casserole, ready to be re-heated for dinner. A poorly cleaned countertop can also be home to lots of crumbs and spills that a cat might enjoy nibbling on.
- Cats like fresh running water. Some cats also are attracted to running water in the kitchen sink, and for many cats, this is their main source for drinking water. While the kitchen sink might be cleaner than the toilet, there are better alternatives.
How to Stop Counter Jumping
There are a few training techniques that can help keep cats off the countertop. These have proven to be successful, but the key is consistency. If you want your cat (or cats) to get off and stay off the countertops, you will have to enforce that rule. All family members need to be on the same page and be willing to reprimand the cats if needed. These techniques likely will not work if the cat knows that the countertop rules are only being enforced sometimes. Try the method that seems to work best for your living situation and/or what your cat responds to.
- Apply sticky tape to the counter edge. Cats hate the feeling of sticky tape. Once they feel the tape on the counter edge, they will likely be discouraged after one or two tries. The disadvantage is that you may have to keep reapplying it indefinitely and the sticky stuff may be difficult to clean up afterward. Also, the cat may outsmart you and find a way to get on the counter by avoiding the edge.
- Tape a strip of aluminum foil along the counter. It's not only the feel of it on their toes, but the noise that deters cats. Again, this method can be disruptive to the way you use your countertop and can also be wasteful.
- The "pennies in a can" trick. This is an old tried-and-true means of deterring cats from many forms of undesirable behavior. Drop a few pennies (or pebbles) in an empty aluminum can and tape the opening closed. When you see your cat start to jump on the counter, shake the can loudly to scare and deter the cat. The problem here is that the cat will likely learn it's okay to jump when you're not around. Another method is to place several of these "shaker cans" right at the edge of the counter with just two or three inches between them. One jump will bring down all the cans, and make a terrific racket, which will also bring down the cat.
- The spray bottle. One very quick spray set to fine mist will do the trick. If you can manage to do it so the cat doesn't connect you with the uncomfortable feeling, it may be a permanent solution.
- Eliminate the help. If your cat can only get on the countertop with a boost from a chair, move the chair and eliminate the boost.
- Provide legal jumping targets. Invest in (or build) a climbing tree or a cat tower for your kitty. Make it interesting enough to hold the cat's attention, and once in a while, "sweeten the deal" by hiding a tasty treat at the top. Pet and praise the cat when they use the climbing tree, so it will associate it with positive feelings.
- Keep a clean countertop. Remove the temptation by not leaving out food, crumbs, or other treats that your cat may be drawn to.
By using a little ingenuity and staying "one jump" ahead of your cat, you should be able to discourage counter-surfing habit.
If none of these techniques work and you have remained consistent and really tried, it may be time to work with a feline behavioral therapist. In this type of situation, the specialist will likely come into your home. They will assess the situation and help you, and your cat, come up with some behavior modifications and practices to help prevent the cat from jumping on the countertops.