How to Keep Cats Off Counters
There are many cat owners out there that find it nearly impossible to keep their cat off of the counter.
It can be quite frustrating to discover at least one cat hair in every meal prepared and to see those cute little paws that just finished scratching in the litter box now meandering between serving bowls that are full of food.
Why Exactly Do Cats Enjoy Being on Counters?
Climbing to new heights and surveying life from this elevated perspective simply comes naturally for cats. It is thought that cats feel safer when they are in a high perch, able to spot any danger before it gets too close.
Many cats are also attracted to counters due to the smell of all that irresistible food and think that it is perfectly fine to help themselves.
Is There Any Hope for Cat Owners Who are at Their Wits’ End?
Yes, there is hope! There are quite a few tips, tricks and ideas to teach cats that counters are not where they belong. Each cat is different, of course, but one of, or a combination of, the following ideas are bound to help break the counter exploring habit that your cat seems to enjoy so much.
Start Training Your Cat That Counters Are Off-limits as Soon as Possible
If you have a kitten, there is no time like the present to begin training. It is much easier to nip a problem in the bud than it is to correct an established behavior in an older cat. As soon as you bring the kitten home, begin teaching him the house rules. Do not forget that rules must be enforced.
Never Give Positive Reinforcement For Bad Behavior
Suppose you walk into the kitchen, see the cat on the counter and absently give him a few strokes under his chin. Unintentionally, you have just praised the cat for doing something that you do not want him to do. This is counterproductive to your goal of having cat-free counters. Do not do it!
A Few Things That You Should Not Do
When the cat jumps on the counter, skids into the dish that was ready to go into the oven and sends it crashing to the floor, screaming at your cat might be your first instinct. Yelling could damage the relationship that you have with your kitty and should definitely be avoided. Hitting or shoving the cat could also destroy that loving bond.
Attempt to Understand Why Your Cat Finds the Counter so Appealing
A cat sees the world differently than people do. Jacque Lynn Schultz suggests trying to discover what exactly it is that the cat finds so appealing, then remove the temptation. This is really common sense. If, for example, your cat sits on the counter to watch the birds at the bird feeder, move the feeder to another place in the yard, out of your cat’s view.
Be Patient With Your Cat as Training Continues
According to PetMD, cats can indeed take cues from people. However, a cat’s short term memory only lasts about a minute. Patience will be important when training a cat to stay off of counters. Keep in mind that while training your cat to bypass counters is important for sanitary reasons, it is also important to maintain a good relationship with your cat.
Essential Oils Can Dissuade Cats From Jumping on the Counters
Eucalyptus, citronella and citrus essential oils can be used to dampen a cat’s love of counters. The smell of these three oils naturally keeps cats away, according to Emax Health. For a more powerful punch, try mixing the three oils together in the spray bottle and dilute with a bit of water. Spritz the counters every so often.
Try Luring Cats to a More Suitable Elevated Location
Emax Health also suggests using catnip or valerian root essential oils to encourage your cat to lounge in areas that you deem appropriate. Most cats love the smell of these oils and will return to the spot where they can be found again and again. Remember to praise and pet your cat when he is where you want him to be.
Offer Cats Alternative Lofty Vantage Points
A sturdy cat tree offers your cat a safe, elevated place on which to play or lounge. Try sprinkling a bit of catnip on the flat surfaces of the tree to make it even more irresistible. By providing your cat with a fun, safe alternative to the counters, you might be able to reclaim your sanity.
Build Your Own Cat Tree
If you are handy with a hammer and have access to some wood and carpet scraps, you could build your cat the customized cat tree of his dreams. Matt Heere has a great video explaining each step of the project. It is sure to provide inspiration to get ideas flowing. You could use his exact plans, or get creative and make yours totally unique.
Go a Step Further With a Deluxe Kitty Condo
A kitty condo is a more elaborate version of a cat tree. There are a lot of different designs to choose from, any of which would provide an alternative to the counters. This deluxe example will provide hours of entertainment and distraction for your cat.
Get Creative and Build Your Own Unique Kitty Condo
Use your imagination and create a custom kitty condo perfectly tailored to your cat’s preferences. Some special features could include a scratching post, a hammock, a hidey-hole, tunnels, pillows, etc. The splendid new kitty condo will be much more attractive to your cat than those boring old kitchen counters.
Provide a Private, Cozy Spot Just for Your Cat
The reason the cat is jumping onto the counter may be that he needs a break from the puppy chasing him or the toddler stepping on his tail. Make sure your cat has a specially designated place where he can hide or go to be alone for a while. After all, we all need a break occasionally.
Make Certain That Your Cat is Well Fed Before You Prepare Meals
Perhaps it goes without saying, but your cat could be jumping on the counter because he is hungry and searching for food. Before family meal preparations begin, feed your cat his dinner in another room and close the door if possible. Many cats enjoy a long nap after eating, so do not feel bad about closing the door on him.
Is it Possible That Your Cat is Just Thirsty?
Many cats adore lapping water from a dripping faucet. If a cat does not have access to fresh, clean water, he might jump on the counter in order to reach the faucet. Always be sure that your cat has plenty of fresh water available and that no faucets are dripping.
Try Moving the Cat’s Food and Water Bowls to Another Room
If your cat’s bowls are located in the kitchen, he undoubtedly associates the kitchen with his meals. Moving the cat’s bowls to another room, such as the laundry room, will break the cat’s association with your kitchen and his meals. This may completely phase out his desire to be on the counter.
Do Not Leave Food Out on the Counter
Cats have an excellent sense of smell. If there is any food left out on the counter, even if it is just a few crumbs, you can be sure that your cat knows about it. Keeping the kitchen clean and all food properly stored away will help you reach your goal of having cat-free counters.
Take Care of Those Dirty Dishy Right Away
Avoid piling dirty dishes in the sink to do later. If you do not have time to wash them or to put them in the dishwasher, let them soak in a sink full of hot, soapy water. This will prevent your cat from getting on the counter in order to “help” wash the dishes.
An Inexpensive Option to Try is Aluminum Foil
Most cats do not care for the feeling of walking on aluminum foil, so covering the counters with foil can be a great deterrent. Simply lay down sheets of slightly crumpled aluminum foil whenever you are not using the counters. These sheets can be used over and over again until the cat takes the hint.
Double Sided Tape Can Also Help Keep Cats Off of Counters
Cat whisperer Jackson Galaxy recommends mounting the sticky tape on an inexpensive placemat and placing it on the counter where the cat tends to land. A few pieces of cardboard covered with the tape would work for covering larger areas. Either option will be easy to pick up and put back down as desired.
Double Sided Tape Can be Purchased Specifically For Cat Training
A product called Sticky Paws works the same way as the double sided tape idea does, but it is designed specifically for cat training and comes with 32.8 feet of tape per roll. Arrange pieces of cardboard on the counter and strategically place the Sticky Paws tape all over the cardboard. Relax and wait for your cat to try to make his move.
Give Sandpaper a Try
Cats do not enjoy walking on sandpaper because of the gritty texture, so covering the counters with it could be very effective in keeping cats off. Additionally, when the cat jumps onto the sandpaper, it will probably slide across the counter, adding to your cat’s unhappy experience.
Upside Down Carpet Protectors Do Not Feel Good Either
A couple of well-placed carpet protector mats with the spiny protrusions facing up will definitely make counters undesirable for cats. They are also quite easy to pick up and relocate when you need to use the counter.
A Quick Squirt of Water can be Used in Training
If you have removed the aluminum foil or sticky tape so that you can prepare a meal, keeping a water-filled squirt bottle nearby might be a good idea. Lured by the scent of food, your cat may once again find the counters irresistible. One quick squirt of water, not on the cat’s face, of course, will chase him off of the counter and away from your food.
Keep a Rolled Up Newspaper Handy
Whenever you spot your kitty landing on the counter, grab that roll of newspaper and give the counter – not the cat – a hard smack. This unforeseen surprise will dissuade the cat from returning to the counter. You can leave the newspaper there as a reminder for your cat.
A Verbal Reprimand Might be Enough For Some Cats
For cats with a rather timid personality, a firm No! might be enough to frighten the cat away and prevent any future counter explorations. For cats that are not so timid, try repeating No! several times quickly and with a slightly raised voice. The goal here is not to yell, just to let him know that you are not kidding around.
Growl or Hiss at the Cat
You might feel rather silly at the thought of growling or hissing at your feline friend, but the results may be worth the embarrassment. As soon as you catch your cat in the act, dash up to him and either growl menacingly or hiss as fiercely as possible. The cat will likely be so shocked at this strange turn of events that he will quickly vacate the counter.
Aluminum Cans Will Make a Wonderful Racket When Knocked Over
Try placing empty aluminum cans all along the edges of your counters to form a makeshift wall. When a cat attempts to jump up on the counter, he will crash into the cans. The noise of the cans falling will encourage him to think twice about jumping up there again.
An Empty Bottle Filled With Dried Beans Can Become a Training Tool
A handful or two of dried beans dropped into an empty soda bottle can be given a good shake every time the cat tries to make himself comfortable on top of the counters. The loud, rattling noise will not hurt him, but he will certainly find it unpleasant.
A Tin Can be Turned into a Loud Noise-maker Too
Drop a few pennies or small rocks into an empty tin can and keep it close to the counter. Every time you see your cat getting ready to make himself at home on the counter, give that can a couple of shakes. The noise will surely startle him and encourage him not to come back to the counter.
An Air Horn Will Definitely be Loud Enough to Scare the Cat Off of the Counter
If you and your family can tolerate the extremely loud and annoying noise of an air horn, such as this one, give it a try. The instant that you spy your cat making the leap, give him a bit of discouragement with the air horn. The short, very loud blast of noise is sure to make your cat scramble to find a safer, quieter spot.
Cats Usually Hate the Smell of Vinegar
Paris Permenter suggests using vinegar to deter cats from areas like counters. Try wiping down the counters with vinegar several times throughout the day or dilute the vinegar with water and put in a squirt bottle to lightly mist the counters every so often. You can also simply leave a small bowl full of vinegar on the counter to deter cats.
Citrus Peels Can Discourage Cats From Getting on Counters
Cats have a natural aversion to citrus fruits, especially the peels. Take advantage of this fact and scatter some peels from oranges, lemons or limes across the counter to repel cats. When you notice the peels becoming hard and dry, replace with some fresh ones.
Switch to a Citrus Based Cleaner to Sanitize the Kitchen Counters
Hopefully, you are sanitizing your kitchen counters regularly anyway, so try switching to a citrus based cleanser. Citrus not only smells clean but also does an amazing job of sanitizing. The light citrus odor left behind may be enough of a deterrent to encourage your cat to stay off of the counters.
Sprinkle Ground Coffee on Your Counters
Most cats find it very unpleasant to walk on a surface that has been covered in coffee grounds. The texture does not feel good on their paws, so they will learn to avoid the offending counter. An added bonus to this idea is the wonderful aroma that will delight coffee lovers.
If Your Family Does Not Drink Coffee, Try Grits Instead
Uncooked grits sprinkled all over the counter will feel terrible to a cat’s delicate paws. This uncomfortable, gritty feeling should send the cat looking for a nicer, more comfortable place to relax.
Some Cats Respond Well to Training With a Clicker
Cathealth explains that once a cat has learned to associate treats or rewards with each click, all that you have to do is click and reward each time your cat is in an acceptable spot, like his cat tree. Soon, he should realize that there is no reward for being on the counter.
Make the Edges of the Counter Precarious
When the cat is jumping onto the counter, it is likely that when he lands, it is near the edge. Make this area into an unstable landing place by balancing baking sheets on the edge so that they are half-on and half-off of the counter. When the kitty tries to jump up, he and the baking sheets will fall to the floor and make quite a racket.
Here is Another Idea Involving Baking Sheets
Gather some baking sheets and place them on the counter, covering as much space as you can. Fill each one with enough water to entirely cover the bottom, and wait for your cat to make his move. You might walk into your kitchen later and discover a wet mess, but the cat’s negative experience is one that he will not be likely to forget anytime soon.
Use Items That Your Cat Does Not Like to Keep Him Off
Knowing what things your cat is not fond of can be a big advantage for you. If, for instance, your cat is terrified of the Dustbuster, be sure to leave it on the counter that you would like to remain cat-free. Loud, obnoxious children’s toys that your cat is afraid of would be a good idea too.
Running an Oscillating Fan on the Counter Might Help Deter a Cat
Most cats do not appreciate a forceful breeze blowing directly on them. Try using an oscillating fan to prevent the cat from jumping onto your counters. The side to side motion will cover large areas and the constant breeze will discourage cats from exploring the counters.
Cover the Counters With Bubble Wrap
That delightful sound of bubbles popping, that some people find addicting, is pretty scary for cats. The unanticipated popping sounds produced when the cats walk across the bubble wrap should be a huge deterrent. This idea is inexpensive and easy to set up and to remove.
Move Tables, Chairs, Benches, and Stools Away From the Counters
Franny Syufy advises eliminating the “boost” to solve the issue of cats on the counter. If you notice that your cat always uses another piece of furniture as a launching pad to jump onto the counter, simply move the furniture farther away from the counter. This should remedy the problem.
Try Closing the Blinds or Curtains
Most cats love to gaze out of windows and to savor the sunshine streaming in. Perhaps your cat enjoys being on your counter because of the lovely view of all the little birds splashing in the birdbath. Closing the blinds might make the counter seem much less desirable.
Move Any Plants on the Counter to Another Location
Your cat may be spending time on the counter because of the plants kept there. While cats may enjoy stretching out by or nibbling on your favorite houseplants, this could be dangerous according to care2. Many common houseplants are toxic to cats and should be kept either out of reach or not at all.
Make Sure Your Cat has Plenty of Entertainment
Providing lots of toys and enrichment activities for cats may help curb any naughty behavior, like jumping onto the counter. A cat might decide to nap on the counter because there is nothing else to do. Toys provide exercise and mental stimulation, both of which can help eliminate any bad behavior caused by boredom.
Install an Alarm System
A vibration sensing device called Tattle Tale Sonic Pet Training Alarm could be the answer you are looking for. This battery operated device will produce a loud, two-second alarm when it detects a vibration. Simply place the device on the counter and let it train your cat for you. Remember to turn it off before you attempt to use the counter.
A Silent Electronic Alarm System is Also an Option
The CatScram Electronic Cat Repellent device, when placed on the counter, detects motion and emits a high pitched squeal when activated. The noise is totally inaudible to people and dogs. This product proudly boasts a 94.7% success rate.
Try a Motion Activated Spray Can
PetSafe SSSCAT Spray System placed on the counter will emit a stainless, odorless and harmless spray when a cat jumps up onto the counter. It uses infrared to detect motion up to three feet away. After a few scares from the spray, your cat will likely learn to avoid any counters.
Try a Product That Uses Pheromones and Sounds to Modify Bad Behavior in Cats
Sentry makes a behavior correction spray called Stop That! When sprayed, this product emits an attention-getting hiss of air along with a pheromone that works to calm the animal and redirect the cat’s attention. This combination of noise and smell is quite effective at eliminating unwanted behavior in your cat.
A Pet Training Mat can Produce Great Results
A flexible mat called PetSafe ScatMat produces a static pulse when your cat walks on it. The mat can be adjusted to a low, medium or high power setting. This product is easy to use and quite efficient at teaching your cat that counters are not for him.
You Can Use Cat Repellent Spray
There a quite a few repellent sprays to choose from, all of which are designed to keep cats away. Here is an all natural one that comes in four different herbal scents. Staying clear of chemicals is always a smart idea when it comes to your pets. Cover your counters with cardboard and spray liberally to repel cats.
Oil Covered Plastic Wrap Will Provide an Unpleasant Experience
Cover the counter with plastic wrap and apply a thin coating of vegetable oil. This slippery surface will give your cat quite a disagreeable experience upon landing on the counter. This method would best be used overnight or when you plan to be away for a while.
Wet Towels Will Make Counters Unappealing to Your Cat
Simply put down a single layer of wet towels on your counters to show your cat that being on the counter is a bad idea. Cats generally do not care for being wet, so this is an obvious solution.
Purchase a Pet Barrier Training System for Your Cat
A Pawz Away Indoor Pet Barrier consists of a receiver collar which fits around your cat’s neck, and a transmitter, which you would place on the counter. When your cat approaches the transmitter on the counter, he will hear audible tones and feel a static correction until he moves away from the area.
Use a Combination of Ideas for a Highly Effective Approach
Making use of two or more ideas simultaneously can make training an easier job. Grace Fitzpatrick has made a great video that explains how to use noise and a squirt bottle at the same time to effectively reinforce training.
According to Grace, the cat soon will learn to associate the noise with getting sprayed and the spray bottle will no longer be required.
Remember That Your Cat Trusts and Depends on You
Whichever method you choose to try, please do so with love. You worked hard to gain the trust of your cat, and it would be a shame to destroy that. Your cat looks to you to provide for all of his needs and depends on you completely. When you become frustrated, take a deep breath and remember that you love him.
There is Indeed Hope for Cat Owners That Would Like Cat-Free Counters
With so many ideas to put into practice, you are bound to find the one that works for you and your cat. Undesirable behaviors, like the cat jumping on the counter, can rob you of the joy that comes with sharing your life with a cat. Properly dealing with negative behaviors can make life more pleasant for both of you.