Keeping Cats Off Counters and Tables

The domestic cat’s ancestors used to climb and perch in trees in order to hunt and to survey their territory. Nearly 75% of the world’s wild cats live in forested areas. Is it any wonder that pet cats jump onto the kitchen counter? However, many people do object to this natural behavior. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to prevent or break this habit in your cat.

First, understanding that the need to perch is instinctual in cats, you must provide an acceptable elevated place for your cat. Cat trees are available in a myriad of sizes and designs. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money to satisfy your cat. Clearing off an upper shelf of a bookcase can accommodate your cat just as well as a tree. Some cats don’t need to be very high up and are happy with a windowsill or window perch. Keep in mind that in a larger home, more than one option will likely be required.

Encourage your cat to choose the location(s) you have picked for her by placing treats or catnip there or giving her a spoon of canned food there. Praise and pet her when she rests on her perch. A shelf can be made more attractive by outfitting it with a bed or towel. Some cats will use their perches more often if doing so gives them the chance to watch birds and squirrels outside.

Second, counters and other off-limits areas need to be made unattractive to your cat. Be sure that no food is left unattended on counters or tables. “Booby trap” the counter by placing any of the following on the surface:

  • Sticky Paws brand (or similar) double-sided tape
  • Upside-down carpet runner or X-Mat Original Pet Mat
  • Coir welcome mats
  • Premier Spray Sentry – a can of citronella oil that sprays when motion is detected
  • Ssscat – like the Spray Sentry but also sounds an alarm

None of these will harm your cat but they should be annoying enough that your cat chooses to avoid them.

Yelling at, hitting, or spraying your cat with water will not solve this problem. They will merely teach your cat to not be on the counter in your presence; she will still go there when you – and the punishment – are not around.


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