If you’ve ever had a cat, you have likely had to deal with them jumping on the counters. While this may not particularly bother you, it can be annoying and (let’s be honest) unsanitary. There are lots of theories about how to keep cats off counters, but some can be harmful to the relationship between you and your pet.
Here’s how to keep your cat off the counter without harming your bond:
Why Do Cats Jump on Counters?
Let’s start with the reasons behind why your cat wants to be on the counter in the first place.
Most cats are social animals and they enjoy the company of their two legged companions. What’s the best way for them to be near you while you’re in the kitchen? That’s right, to jump on the counter, this puts them up high and closer to your eye level where they can easily get your attention and socialize with you.
The second reason is that cats enjoy being up high where they can watch out for predators (or the family dog) and to hunt for prey (or treats). While our feline roommates don’t need to be on high alert for predators or prey anymore, they’re hardwired to like high places.
How to Keep Cats off Counters
While our cats may be important members of our families, they don’t understand our social etiquette and it’s our job to teach them in a way they can understand. Consider these following steps for helping your cat understand that the counter is a no go:
Buy your cat a tree to climb on: Not just any old tree, of course, but a specially-made cat tree. Make sure the cat tree you pick has several different perches at a few different heights, especially if you have a multi-cat home. Keep in mind that some cats prefer perches with a horizontal spread, while others like high vertical towers.
Use food-based training: Once you have the cat tree set up, you can begin training your cat to use it. Many cats will simply prefer their tree to the counter, so you may not need to do any training at all. But if you find your kitty is still counter surfing, it’s time to get out the treats.
Cats can be finicky eaters, so you may have to try a few different high-value treats before you find one they like. Turkey, tuna and sardines are some cat favorites. Start giving your cat treats any time she is on her cat tree while you are in the kitchen. This will cause her to begin associating her cat tree with the yummy treats you are providing.
Any time you catch her on the counter, gently pick her up and place her on the floor and then ignore her until she jumps on the tree. Eventually, she will begin to understand that when she jumps on the counter you remove her and ignore her, but when she jumps on the cat tree she gets lots of love and yummy snacks.
Make the counter less appealing: If you have been trying this method for a few weeks and still haven’t noticed a marked improvement, the next step would be to add something your cat doesn’t like to the counter, like double sided tape.
Line the edges of your counter and off-limit places she likes to sit with double sided tape. The feeling of the tape on her paws will be uncomfortable and she will eventually get the idea that it’s not fun to sit on the counter.
This method of training is a great one for cats, and the harsher ones (like squirt bottles) can cause fear and negative associations with you. Creating fear in cats is the last thing you want to do because, in extreme cases, it can cause aggression and health issues like urinating outside of the litter box.
With the right tools and some yummy treats even the most persistent cat can learn to leave the counters to the humans and hang out on their tree.