A cat sitting on top of a kitchen counter.

Countering Counter-Commanding Cats

Some cat owners are unfazed by finding their feline friend on a kitchen counter or the dining room table. Others — and especially non-cat-owning people — are completely grossed out by the thought of a cat walking, sitting or lounging on those surfaces — especially when they consider where those paws have tread.

If you have a counter-commanding cat and wish your kitty would hang out somewhere else, here are some strategies to help you keep your cat off the kitchen counter or dining table.

Why do cats like being up high, anyway?

Like their counter-surfing canine counterparts, cats learn to patrol kitchen counters, stovetops and tables if they find tasty tidbits or if they’re perpetually hungry. Jumping and climbing to high places are also normal behaviors for cats. They love being up high to survey their territory, escape a stressful situation or to find some peace and quiet. Indoor cat “tree” furniture with a variety of surfaces and comfortable platforms is an excellent alternative to your kitchen counters.

What you can do to keep cats off of counters and tables

While a cat’s love of high places may be natural, the kitchen counter and stove top can be dangerous places. It’s also not a good idea to stifle your cat’s normal jumping and climbing behavior. The simplest solution to reduce and possibly prevent cat counter surfing behavior is to make counters and other “forbidden” high spots uninteresting and even unpleasant places to be. Consider these tips, provided by Vetstreet.com and ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist/WebMD:

  • Provide acceptable outlets for climbing, jumping, escaping, resting and surveying the environment. Indoor cat “tree” furniture with natural bark, sisal or carpeting and comfortable platforms is a great alternative — especially if it can be placed near a window for your cat to look out.
  • Put away food and clean countertops thoroughly after food preparation. You don’t want to inadvertently reward your kitty with tasty surprises and reinforce the idea that the counter is the place to be.
  • Don’t feed your cat on the kitchen counter. Preventing the behavior in the first place is key. But for some cat owners who also have cat-food-stealing dogs, feeding Mittens on the kitchen counter is a good alternative. If you’re okay with your cat on the counter, there’s no reason to change your feeding practice. But if feeding kitty on the kitchen counter grosses you (or a significant other) out, consider finding someplace else for your cat to eat.
  • Make kitchen counters an uninteresting, unpleasant place. Because most cats don’t like the feeling of walking on aluminum foil or double-sided tape, you can try covering counters with these materials.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Dogs aren’t the only pets who respond to positive rewards. When your cat jumps on a cat tree or chair instead of a counter or table, be sure to reward them with a favorite treat or gentle scratches around the ears.

Punishing your cat for acting cat-like won’t prevent future visits to counters or tabletops. And setting booby traps to deter kitchen counter excursions could result in injury or fearfulness. Providing alternative elevated hangouts and keeping food stored away, however, can thwart counter-commanding cat behavior. And then again, we are talking about cats… who often do as they please anyway!

RELATED POST: Will 2018 Be the Year You Stop Overlooking Bad Pet Behaviors?

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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