Cats are born with the ability to climb and jump. Cats in the wild climb trees and leap great distances to navigate their territory, avoid danger, and find food. As a result, it's not surprising that many domesticated cats try to engage these instincts even when they live indoors.
As a result, cats may jump onto items in your home that you want them to avoid. You'll need to devise strategies to keep your pet off of countertops, tables, and other surfaces.
What Causes Cats to Jump on the Counter?
Cats are drawn to kitchen counters like a magnet for a variety of reasons. Once you've determined why your cat enjoys the countertop so much, you can use that knowledge to modify or redirect your cat's behavior.
- Cats are fascinated by heights. Combine any two cats with a climbing tree or cat tower and you've got yourself a ready-made game of "King of the Hill." Countertops are just high enough that most cats can jump up from the ground or get assistance from a well-placed chair.
- The kitchen counters smell wonderful! They're frequently stocked with enticing foods like raw chicken parts, ground beef, or leftover tuna casserole that can be reheated for dinner. A sloppy-clean countertop could harbor crumbs and spills that a cat would enjoy nibbling on.
- Cats enjoy the sound of running water. Some cats are also drawn to running water in the kitchen sink, and for many cats, this is their primary source of water. Although the kitchen sink is most likely cleaner than the toilet, there are better options for your cat.
Alternatives to Climbing on Countertops and Tables
The most basic way to keep your cat off your counters is to provide another outlet for their natural climbing or jumping behavior. Both you and your cat will be happier if they have a variety of approved jumping and climbing areas.
Cat "trees," or furniture designed specifically for indoor cats to scratch, climb, and explore, are great ways to keep your cat entertained. These "trees" frequently include platforms for your cat to sit on as well as interesting poles and columns to climb. They provide a safe way for your cat to get into high places.
Kitty condos are similar to cat trees, but they place a greater emphasis on resting and hiding spots. Placing either near a window provides a sunny spot for your cat to observe the world go by.
If your cat jumps on your counters in search of food, provide another way for them to get special "treats." Healthy-weight cats can be fed free, whereas overweight cats may be fed several smaller meals throughout the day.
To encourage your cat to use natural behaviors to find more food, use "hunting" toys that contain small amounts of kibble. To avoid reinforcing their counter-surfing behavior, keep your counters clean and free of tempting foods.
How to Prevent Counter Jumping
You can use a few training methods to get your cat to stay off the counter. These have proven to be effective, but consistency is required if you want your cat to get off and stay off the kitchen countertops.
Try the method that works best for you and/or that your cat responds to the best.
- Apply sticky tape to the counter's edge. Cats despise the feel of sticky tape. They'll be discouraged after one or two attempts if they feel the tape on the edge of the counter. The disadvantage is that you may have to reapply the tape indefinitely, and the adhesive may be difficult to remove afterwards. In addition, the cat might outwit you and find a way to get on the counter by avoiding the edge.
- Tape a strip of crinkled aluminum foil down the center of the counter. Cats are put off not only by the feel of it on their toes, but also by the noise. Be aware that this method may be inconvenient and wasteful in terms of how you use your countertop.
- Make use of clicker training. Positive reinforcement, rather than punishment, works best for cats. If you see your cat on the counter looking for food, offer them a treat or another reward, such as throwing a toy on the floor near the counter, to entice them away. Pair the reward with a clicker that makes a sound once they've jumped off. Eventually, your cat will associate the clicker with the reward, and the clicker can be used to entice your cat away from the counter on its own.
- Remove the chair. If your cat can only get on the counter with the assistance of a chair, move the chair and remove the boost.
- Make legal jumping targets available. Purchase (or construct) a climbing tree or a cat tower for your cat. Make it interesting enough to keep the cat's attention, and "sweeten the deal" every now and then by hiding a tasty treat at the top. When your cat uses the climbing tree, pet and praises it so that it associates the new kitty furniture with good feelings.
- Maintain a clean countertop. Remove some of the temptations by not leaving food, crumbs, or other treats that your cat may be drawn to on the counter.
- Take care of the faucet. If your cat is constantly drinking from the faucet, determine whether there are any stressors near the water bowl (is it near the litterbox, near a heavily trafficked area, etc.) and remove the stressors. Your cat may prefer cold, freshwater from the faucet, so replace their water several times per day and add an ice cube or two to keep the temperature down. It's wasteful and tempting for the cat to leave the faucet running. You can also purchase a kitty water fountain to keep the water in the bowl moving.
The 'don'ts' of preventing cats from jumping on counters
While watching cats climb can be aggravating, you should never:
- Push or shoo your cat from a high vantage point. This could result in physical harm.
- Keep dangerous foods out of reach of curious cats. On our We Talk Cat blog, you can learn about the foods you should not feed your cat.
- To discipline your cat for jumping, scold them verbally or hit them. This is more likely to make them afraid of you than to keep them from jumping.
If nothing seems to be working despite your consistency and effort, it may be time to seek the assistance of a feline behavioral therapist. In this case, the specialist will most likely come to your home to assess the situation and devise new behavior modification techniques to assist you in keeping your cat off the countertop.