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5 tips to keep your cat off the kitchen counter

black and white cat sitting on white kitchen counter

Letting your pet climb onto the kitchen counter can be dangerous for your health and your cat's too

© kazoka - Shutterstock

Most cats love to jump up onto kitchen counters, which can be a bit annoying. Thankfully, there are a few tricks you can try to encourage your cat to keep their paws off.

By Justine Seraphin

Published on the 23/11/2021, 17:00

If you own a cat, then you may have already encountered this problem. Cats love to climb and jump up on high spaces such as counters, tables, or chairs. 

The issue is, cats go into the litter box with those fluffy paws, so when they then walk on the countertops, they’re spreading a bunch of bacteria that can actually be quite dangerous for us if ingested. Plus, cats who explore kitchen counters often don’t hesitate to help themselves to some food - whether it is healthy for them or not. So it’s really best to try and keep your cat off the counters. Here’s how.

Why do cats jump on counters, tables, and furniture?

To understand the following methods on how to keep your cats off the counters, you must first understand why they jump onto them in the first place.

1. Cats like high perches

Cats love to be high up. The sensation of being out of reach and seeing everyone from above makes them feel safe. Cats will naturally look for high up places to nap, groom themselves, or just hang out!

2. Cats like window views

If your counters or tables are close to a window, it’s likely that your cat likes to sit on them for a closer look at the outside world. Cats love to watch birds flying through the air and even people walking through the streets.

3. Cats like food

Like most animals, cats can be very food motivated. If you’ve got tasty food on the counter or table, they’re going to try to get to it any way they can.

4. Cats like running water

Most cats prefer running water to stagnant water in a bowl. In the kitchen, you’ve got the sink, and that might be what they’re attracted to.

5. Cats are curious

There’s often a lot going on on kitchen counters or tables, and most cats are very curious creatures. Plus, if your cat is understimulated, a simple thing like exploring an open kitchen cabinet can be a great source of entertainment for them.

6. Cats love to be with their people

Cats love spending time with their humans. If you’re in the kitchen, chances are they’re going to be right behind you, watching your every move and trying to engage with you.

7. Cats don’t know any better

Remember, climbing is a completely natural behaviour for cats. Plus, if you’ve been flexible with the rules (e.g. letting them on the table when there’s no food, but telling them off when there IS food), this can be quite confusing for your cat. They’ll only learn if you’re consistent.

How do I keep my cat off my kitchen worktops?

If your cat has a habit of jumping up onto the kitchen counters or table, be aware it’ll be a while before they’re able to modify this behaviour. But if you’re patient and keep their needs in mind, it’s possible!

1. Provide your cat with alternatives

As mentioned above, cats love to be up high. If you have no other high places available around the kitchen, then the counters or tables are your cat’s best options. To avoid your cat using your furniture as their perch, purchase a cat tree or two. If you don’t like the look of cat trees, you can purchase platforms and hamacs which can be nailed into your wall. Though more expensive, they are easier on the eyes, and they take up less floor space. 

You can encourage your cat to use them by spraying calming pheromones or placing catnip and treats on them. This will make them more appealing and welcoming to a cat than a kitchen counter. Place the cat trees/platforms near the kitchen so your cat can “hang out with you” while you cook without getting in the way.

Additionally, if your tables or counters are near the windows, consider purchasing a window hamac that your cat can use instead as a seat for window watching. 

2. Keep temptation to a minimum

At night and whenever else you’re not around to supervise, make sure there’s no food lying around on the counter or even scraps in the sink. The nice smells will only encourage your cat to climb up. Set your cat up for success and leave them no hope for a tasty snack on the counters. In addition, make sure you never feed your cat from the table or while you’re cooking from the countertops. This will only teach your cat that hanging around there gets them a tasty reward. 

If your cat is attracted to the sink due to the running water, try purchasing a water fountain for cats. That way, they’ll have their very own kitty sink to drink from!

3. Give them something else to do

If your cat is much too curious about the kitchen, try to redirect their behaviour to something else. Give them a catnip toy to play with or a puzzle feeder (on the floor of course), that will keep them entertained while you’re cooking.

4. Stay consistent and reward good behaviour

Your cat is not allowed on the table or the counters - period. Even if there’s no food on there. You have to be very clear with your cat. Any time they jump onto the counter, clap your hands together and say a firm “Get down!”. 

You can also reward them for being on the ground by giving them a treat and a pat when they’re not on the counter. This will associate good feelings to being on the floor.

5. Protect counters with repellents such as aluminum foil

If you feel like an offensive method is your only hope, there are different things you can try. Firstly, cats have very sensitive paws, and there are certain textures which they hate the feel of. Try placing aluminum foil, plastic film, sandpaper, or even double-sided tape on your counters. Cats hate the feel of these, so they will discourage them from ever wanting to jump onto the counters again.

Cats are also very sensitive to smells. For example, cats hate citrus smells, so try cleaning your countertops with citrus based cleaning products. Alternatively, put a few drops of peppermint essential oil in your kitchen cleaner. These smells should deter your cat.

Cats can be startled easily. Put a few coins into empty cans and place them on the edge of the counters. If your cat tries to jump up, the cans will fall and make a loud noise. This may intimidate your cat enough to keep them off the counters for good. If you’d like a more modern approach, you could purchase a motion activated air blower.

The essential thing in these techniques is that you are not the one administering the “punishment”. If you administer the punishment yourself, your cat will associate you with a negative feeling, which will be very damaging to your relationship. That’s why spraying your cat with water, for example, is not recommended. It will only teach your cat to fear you, and will leave them with deep-rooted anxiety.

Remember, modifying this behaviour could take time. Just be patient, consistent, and in the meantime, keep your kitchen cleaners handy! 

Frequently asked questions

What can I spray on my counters to keep cats off?

Does tin foil keep cats off counters?

Does spraying a cat with water work?