Cat flying or jumping through the air.
Cat flying or jumping through the air. Photography ©Andrey_Kuzmin | Getty Images.

How to Keep Cats Off Counters

Whether its to steal a piece of food or to get a better view of the kitchen, cats have a habit of jumping on the counter. Learn how you can break your cats bad habits.
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Many cats naturally aspire to great heights, which means they sometimes land on counters, a common no-no in households. Those who wish to change this counter-cruising habit often wonder if there’s a tried-and-true solution. There are a few solutions, and the first step is determining the reason why the cat gravitates to the elevated counter space.

Reasons cats like to jump on counters

  • There are desirable items — like food — readily accessible.
  • The counter is a “roadway” to an enticing spot, like a windowsill.
  • There’s fresh, running/dripping water available from a sink.
  • They’re bored.
  • They simply enjoy the elevation.

Ways to keep cats off of counters

Keep the counter space clear of alluring objects. This means placing food in cabinets and re-homing bag clips and other toy-like objects.

Add a tall cat condo or tree to satisfy the cat’s need for height. If possible, place it by a favorite window so kitty has easy, “legal” access to the spot. Or create a new favorite perch by placing a bird feeder outside a window.

A cat next to garlic cloves on a kitchen counter.
A cat next to garlic cloves on a kitchen counter. Photography © kazoka30 | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Repair leaky faucets, eliminating the draw of running water available by counter access. Perhaps offer the cat a water fountain that provides fresh, moving refreshment — on the floor.

If a chair is helping kitty jump, remove it.

Increase playtime with a cat who’s easily bored. Sometimes counter cruising behavior is a cry for attention, and extra engagement with kitty can satisfy that need and burn extra energy.

Cats don’t like sticky surfaces. Add double-sided tape to one side of cheap, plastic placemats and line the counter space with them. If the cat jumps onto the counter, the discomfort will likely cause her to retreat.

Reward positive behavior. If kitty jumps onto the cat tree instead of the counter, praise her with extra pets and attention or an occasional treat. Animals repeat what benefits them.

Considerations

Don’t punish the cat. He doesn’t make the connection between the punishment and the behavior that resulted in the punishment. Verbal and physical punishment can create fear of the human and even cause the cat to act out.

Some humans rely on a spray bottle as a deterrent to counter cruising. Unfortunately, this method creates a negative association between the human and the spray bottle — not necessarily between the bottle and the behavior. Additionally, kitty may continue with the behavior when the human isn’t around, which doesn’t ultimately change the problem.

There are safety issues associated with jumping onto a counter. Hot surfaces can burn sensitive paws, and dangerous kitchen items like knives pose a threat to curious kitties.

Humans — especially those with compromised or weak immune systems — could be at risk for sanitary issues associated with bacteria from dirty feline paws.

Make sure all family members are onboard with the plan. Consistency is key when it comes to behavior modification.

If all attempts to derail counter cruising don’t seem to work, contact a cat behaviorist for a consultation.

Dr. Marci Koski of Feline Behavior Solutions advises, “When it comes to training cats to curb behaviors, the important thing is to provide an appropriate outlet for the need that drives them to that behavior in the first place. This includes scratching furniture, ambushing people for play and, yes, jumping up on counter tops. Just because you tell them ‘Don’t do that!’ doesn’t mean that the instinctual drive to do a behavior stops — they have a need that must be met in some other way. Cats who like to counter surf want to be up high to see what’s going on, so give them a place to do that — an alternative — that works for both of you. If your cat is doing it because she’s hungry, keeping food off the counters will help, but she’ll still be hungry; feed her more frequent, smaller meals, or use food puzzles to help meet her needs.”

More about the author:

Angie Bailey, an award-winning writer, podcaster, and humorist, is the author of Texts from Mittens and Whiskerslist: The Kitty Classifieds. She’s written cat humor for over a decade, and lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé and two cats — Phoebe, a sassy senior and Janet, a teenage kitty with tons of tortitude.

Learn more about cat behavior on catster.com:

15 thoughts on “How to Keep Cats Off Counters”

  1. My girlfriend gives me the best quote when I complain about my two babies. She says “If you didn’t want them on the counter you should have gotten a dog” hahahaha

  2. Majyk just HAS to watch me do everything. I put a high stool for me to use in the kitchen. Instead it became his perch and he loves it, especially since I put a pad on it. Otherwise my furz have just trained me not to leave food on the counter for even a minute, but at least now Majyk doesn’t steal food if I look in the fridge. Of three cats, he is my main service cat and needs to be included in everything I do, according to him!

  3. I have 2 cats, the Calico loves the island bench counter tops and also the high wall kitchen cupboards and I’ve tried all of the above suggestions – nothing works – so she RULES. My tortie has no interest in doing that and her highest favourite spot is on the back of a chair in my study which has a view of the street and gets lots of sun.

  4. I wish we had the room to add a cat tree in the kitchen but we don’t. Cody jumps up on his own……….sometimes it doesn’t matter if there is anything there that would entice him or not, it’s just “Cody behavior” lol. I never use a spray bottle on him, my husband claps his hands to get him down……….I will usually yell at him (bad mama)….and sometimes I use HBO words…but…….for “normal” cats these tips are great!

    1. Caren, we have two cats, two cat trees, which they both love, plus lots of different sunny vantage spots to check whats happening outside and the Calico does the counter top/cupboard thing and the tortie isn’t interested at all.

  5. Adele Chatelain

    I LOVE the responses!!! You can tell the responders are real cat lovers! I tried to yell my cat off the kitchen counter, then tried suggested remedies; none worked. So….my cat has total access to the kitchen counter now. I love her…….

    1. We gave up too. Sometimes Harlee gets a time out in the office with the big window onto the bird feeders. Often we open the door when we are finished with the kitchen duties and she just stays in the office sleeping in her bed or watching the birds. We love her. Athletic little 7.5 bundle of fun and fur/

  6. I couldn’t agree more with Ed! Cats have cats behaviors and it doesn’t mean that they are bad, they are just cats. Mom of 4 kitties here (13,9,8,and 8 yrs old) and all of them jump on the kitchen counters. One goes up there to get some alone time and window view with some sunshine and the three others, just looking for food, often licking anything with some oil/fat on it (like a pan). I love them anyway :)

  7. Or, you just accept that you live with cats – cats who are home more than you, and who are awake at different times than you, and realize that they’ll go where they want to go regardless of what you want. I’m sorry, but the idea of keeping a determined cat off of an inviting surface? Laughable. If you don’t want cats on counters, don’t have counters.

    1. Robert Thompson

      I was thinking that if you don’t want cats on the counters then maybe you shouldn’t have a cat…but your suggestion is much better! Get rid of the counter! Actually, get rid of everything you don’t want the cat on.

  8. Kerry Vistisen

    None of this stuff ever worked with Beemer. We tried everything all the way up to using a scat mat. He just learned to avoid it somehow. He goes up there looking for food, though he won’t find anything 99% of the time. He started pulling the rubber gasket like thingy out of the garbage disposal. There isn’t any way to keep him from doing that except for keeping a cutting board over that side of the sink.

  9. Pingback: Tips on how to Hold Cats Off Counters – Cute funny cat kitten pictures videos

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