Cats and Countertops

You’re in the process of cooking dinner and your feline friend wants to offer unsolicited help. Cats that jump on counters can not only be frustrating, but can also pose a danger to themselves: a cat that jumps on counters can get hurt on hot stovetops, sharp knives, or consume potentially unsafe food.

Offer Alternatives to Countertops and Tables:

It’s best not to stifle your cat’s normal jumping and climbing behavior. Your cat will be much happier if you can provide her with acceptable outlets for climbing, jumping, escaping, resting and inspecting the environment. If you don’t, your cat will likely persist in leaping up onto forbidden surfaces. Indoor cat “tree” furniture with natural bark or carpeting and comfortable platforms is an ideal substitute. Kitty condos (another type of indoor vertical furniture designed for cats), with abundant comfortable perching and sleeping areas, are very appealing to most cats. Offer plenty of comfortable nesting beds in warm areas or with burrowing material for extra warmth.

Discouraging Your Cat from Jumping on Countertops and Tables:

If you provide your cat with alternatives for climbing and, at the same time, arrange the environment so that places like countertops and tables are scary for your cat, you may be able to teach her to avoid those specific areas.

You can dissuade your cat from entering banned areas by using “environmental punishers,” which punish her remotely, without you being present. Cats are sensitive animals, so it’s never a good idea to shoo a cat away with your hands or threaten her with a spray bottle. Too often, your cat just learns to be afraid of you. Instead, arrange for the environment to punish your cat directly. For instance, if your cat likes to jump from the floor onto the kitchen counter, balance some lightweight cookie sheets on the edge of the counter. When your cat jumps up, she’ll land on the sheets. They’ll move and possibly topple over, making some unpleasant noise while she leaps back onto the floor. Your cat shouldn’t be harmed by this experience, but she’ll be unlikely to risk jumping on the counter again. Similarly, you can try something that has an unpleasant texture on the counter tops. Double sided tape, aluminum foil and bubble wrap can all deter your cat from jumping onto a surface. Environmental punishers are used to scare your cat away from forbidden areas; never use one if there is a chance she can be physically harmed by the device. Some cats also seem to have an aversion to lemon scents. Place lemon scent air fresheners in areas that you don’t want your cat to go near.

The main advantage to using an environmental punisher is that it happens whether you’re present or not. Your cat won’t learn to simply wait until you’re not around to do things like jump up on countertops and tables. Instead, she’ll discover that it’s never safe to do those things. Since you won’t always be there when your cat gets punished, she won’t associate an environmental punisher with you. You don’t want her to decide that you’re the scary thing! Do not scold your cat verbally, spank her or hit her for getting on countertops and tables. It’s highly unlikely that this kind of punishment will teach her to stay off. More likely, she’ll just become frightened of you.

Make sure to never leave enticing bits of food on the counter when not at home and be sure the cat has access to food and water at all times.