How to Keep Cats Off Counters

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: January 28, 2018
How to Keep Cats Off Counters

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We all know how curious cats can be. Pair this with an insatiable appetite for snacks and the kitchen can be the worst place to keep them in their place. It's not that we don't want our cats to be up high. Partly we need to keep them down for their own safety. Kitchens can be a place with sharp objects, dangerous appliances and food which will do them more harm than good. The other major factor is our desire to enjoy a home cooked meal which doesn't have a hairball as a major ingredient.

Unfortunately, many cats have a desire to move on up to higher ground. This means if we want to know how to keep cats off counters, we need to to go against their natural instinct and risk causing behavioral problems. This is why AnimalWised has everything you need for both cat-free kitchen counter tops and a happy kitty.

You may also be interested in: How to Keep Cats Off the Back of the Couch

Why do cats jump on counters?

  • Why do cats do most things? The main reasons are food and general curiosity. As kitchen counters are where we often prepare food, it doesn't take a cat's keen sense of smell to work out there may be some up there. The action it takes to open up a pack of ramen for ourselves is similar to that for when we open up a sachet of cat food for our pets. If our cat sees us carrying out these tasks, it's not inconvencible they might make an assumption that you are preparing food for them.
  • Another reason why cats like to jump on counters is sheer instinct. Cats get stuck in trees for similar reasons. They like to be up high to survey the land for action, stay safe from predators and a simple desire to explore their environment. If this gets to the point where they are going up high all the time, it is likely to do with something called high-rise syndrome. This is when a cat's desire to be in a high up place is so high it puts their safety in jeopardy. It usually stems from being unable to discern how bad the fall might hurt them. When you apply this phenomenon to household levels like counter tops and shelves, it can cause them to jump up irresponsibly.
  • Many cats aren't simply preoccupied with food and height. They also have a fascination with running water. Many YouTube videos will show cats lapping, swatting and playing with water sources. In the kitchen, the main water source is the sink and faucet. When you turn this on, the cat can hear the sound of running water and be naturally attracted to it.

Stopping your cat from jumping onto counters and places in your home they shouldn't is not an easy task. You will need to not only deter them from going up, but not use deterrents which will make the cat's behavior even worse. Here we show you what to do and what not to do when keeping your cat off the counter.

Making counters unappealing

The first thing you need to do is reduce your cat's curiosity. There are lots of high up places around the house your cat might be ignoring, although they'll probably all get investigated at some point. The reason your cat wants to jump up on the kitchen counter so much is because it is such an appealing place for them. Making it unappealing might be a mild inconvenience in terms of organizing your kitchen, but it may be better than constantly having to swat your cat away from the Beef Wellington.

  • Remove all enticing food: for general hygiene reasons, you will not want to keep food out on the kitchen counter at the best of times. Leaving perishables out can attract ants and encourage their deterioration. When it comes to being a cat owner, there is the added factor of having it gobbled up without your permission. Don't leave food out on the counter, especially food with high protein content such as meat. This will make jumping up there irresistible.
  • Leave fruit out: there are foods which cats like to eat, but may not be good for them. Then there is food which they absolutely loathe. Citrus fruit such as lemons and oranges are great sources of vitamin C for humans, but are often seen as quite unpleasant to cats. However, some cats don't mind the smell at all. Some cats don't like the smell of bananas either, but this is usually up to the individual cat.
  • Don't leave your counters cluttered: many cats simply like to play and bat around smaller objects. Whether they think they might be some form of prey or are simply wanting to toy around, having cluttered counters provides temptation. Reducing this temptation may help reduce jumping on counter tops.
How to Keep Cats Off Counters - Making counters unappealing

Deterrents to keep cats off counters

There are many ways you can keep your cat off the counter, but not all of them will be beneficial to your cat. This is both in terms of your cat's happiness and the relationship between pet and owner. Rather than striking fear into your pet, making them a scaredy cat in the process, you can use gentle deterrents. If your cat jumping onto counters is a big problem, then you can increase the action a little, but of course you will never want to cause your cat any harm.

  • Sticky tape: there are companies which sell special cat deterrent sticky tape. This is a tape which is stretched out across the edge of a counter top. Whenever the cat jumps up, their paws stick to the tape which they find disconcerting, so they jump back down. While it may be effective, this ‘special’ tape is really just double sided sticky tape. Invest in some of this and it will be just as useful. There are videos on YouTube of ownder using very sticky adhesive pads which stick to the cats and make them jump quickly off the counter. This not only traumatizes the cat, but if they are sticky enough can rip off fur and even skin, so be very careful.
  • Aluminium foil: similar to the sticky tape, you can stretch out the foil at the edge of the counter. Cats generally don't like the sensation of foil under their paws, so this may deter them. However, it is not quite as effective and some cats won't mind it. Also, both the tape and foil can be a nuisance to you when trying to use your kitchen for its original purpose.
  • Motion sensor: a more technologically advanced deterrent is to use a motion sensor. These can be purchased easily from many pet stores. How they work is when the cat walks across the beam, a spray of water mist will be released and spook the cat into jumping back down. It is a similar approach to a spray bottle many use to stop bad cat behavior. Some find this cruel, but it is a mild deterrent which won't harm the cat if used in moderation.
  • Clapping: if you clap or make a shoo noise whenever the cat jumps up on the counter, it can be an effective deterrent. The two problems associated with this are the fact that you are not always around to do it and that you can scare the cat too much if you are violent with your claps.
  • Provide alternatives: one of the best ways to keep cats off counter tops is to provide lots of places for them to jump up onto. Keeping a clear windowsill might be a good way to quench the cat's desire for height without having them be on your clean counters. Another way is to have a cat bed and place it on a higher place, such as a kitchen chair. However, this may also just be a way to boost them up to higher places. Ideally, a cat post with a high up flat top to rest is going to work best.

Things to avoid when keeping cats off counters

The first thing you need to make sure you avoid when keeping cat's off counters is to never encourage them in the first place. Cats are not obedient in the same way as dogs, but if you let them go up on counter tops, they may think you have given them permission. Do not feed them scraps or treats from the counter top. Do not even keep treats in the cupboards below or above counter tops. All you are doing is setting out the area as a place of interest. Keep treats elsewhere, preferably away from the kitchen altogether.

When feeding your cat its actual cat food, make sure to do this away from counter tops also. This way you will set aside a feeding area which is not going to interfere with your human food. If you have a big enough kitchen, you can do this at the other side of where you prepare meals. Otherwise, do it in some neutral territory.

Of course, you could just let your cats wander wherever they like. Many pet owners do. Just remember that your cat many be carrying mites, insects or disease on them which can be transferred to food. They may even be carriers of disease which don't affect the cat, but can be detrimental to you and your family's health. Preventing your cat from jumping on the counter is better than curing whatever it is they pass on.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Keep Cats Off Counters, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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