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How to Cat-Proof a Fish Tank: 7 Tips & Tricks

black cat looking at the aquarium fish
Image Credit: DMITRII STARTCEV, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

Cats are drawn to quick, darting movements, and the colorful fish in the tank in your living room never fail to awaken their hunter’s instincts. Unfortunately, our cuddly kitties are never satisfied with admiring the glittery scales from afar.

More often than not, you’ll find your cat exploring places that you didn’t know that they could get to. The fish tank in the corner is one of the most fascinating things in your home.

While your cat might be well-behaved when you’re in the room, long days spent out of your house mean your fish are unprotected. To reduce the risk of stressing your fish too much, here are seven ways to protect your fish tank from your cat.

3 cat face divider

How to Cat-Proof a Fish Tank

1. Aluminum Foil

Stopping your cat from jumping onto surfaces is easier said than done, but there are ways to gently convince them not to bother.

Place sheets of aluminum foil underneath the fish tank or on top of it. This way, when your cat jumps up, it’ll crinkle beneath their weight. Most felines don’t like the sound that the foil makes, and it’ll ward them off.

Replacing the aluminum foil can get expensive, though. Depending on how often your cat jumps up, you may have to replace the torn sheets more frequently.

  • Cats don’t like the crinkling noise
  • Easy solution
  • Aluminum foil can be expensive
aluminum foil
Image Credit: Rupert Kittinger-Sereinig, Pixabay

2. Cat Repellent

Certain smells can be effective in discouraging your cat to explore places. Citrus, like lemon, lime, and orange, is a scent that felines tend to avoid. You can also buy commercial cat repellent sprays.

The issue here becomes remembering to spray the area. Once the scent fades, there won’t be anything fending off your cat until you reapply it.

You can also get specially designed mats to deter cats too. They work by using static-like pulses of low-powered electricity. While it’s harmless to your cat and will convince them not to jump onto the aquarium, some owners consider electric deterrents to be cruel.

  • You can make deterrent sprays at home
  • Not all scents are cat-safe
  • Some owners dislike using electric deterrents

3. Cover the Tank

Part of the reason that cats are so interested in fish tanks is the sight of the bright, colorful fish with their darting movements. If you’re out of the house for any amount of time, nothing is stopping your kitty from venturing closer to pester your fish.

One potential solution is to cover the tank when you’re at work or sleeping. You can use towels or an old blanket. As long as it hides the fish from your cat, anything will do.

There is a downside to this. If you have a cat that likes to play with dangling fabric — whether it’s curtains or a sweater on the back of a chair — they may pull down the whole thing. Make sure both the tank and the blanket are secure. You could use cardboard to cover the glass instead.

  • Hides the fish from sight
  • Recycles old blankets or cardboard
  • Some cats will play with the blanket
cat at the top of the aquarium
Image Credit: Maleo, Shutterstock

4. Create a Distraction

Distracting your cat can be handled in several ways and can be paired with other solutions for the best results. Toys for your cat to play with while you’re at work can help.

Puzzle toys, where they have to find the treats inside, will keep their attention off the fish in the tank. Placing a cat tree next to a window overlooking your garden, if you have one, can help too. The location will give your cat somewhere high to sit while watching any birds that visit your yard.

  • Works while you’re away
  • Cat trees and toys can be expensive

5. Lidded fish tanks

Not all fish tanks come with lids, but the ones that do are useful for many reasons. The lids serve to prevent escape artist fish, help keep dirt out of the water, and can even hold LED lights to help aquarium plants grow.

When it comes to your cat, a secure lid won’t stop them from jumping up, but it will prevent them from spending their day fishing. You can’t stop your fish from attracting your cat’s attention, but you can make them inaccessible to your kitty.

  • Prevents cats from reaching your fish
  • Doesn’t prevent cats from sitting on or by the tank
a cat sitting near the fish aquarium
Image Credit: Libre, Shutterstock

6. Shut the Door

When all else fails, leaving the fish tank in a closable room and shutting your cat out is the best method. It’s also the most successful, especially when you’re away at work or asleep.

While it might seem cruel to refuse your cat access to one of the rooms in your house, provided that you haven’t shut their litter tray in with the fish tank, your cat won’t care. Without access to the fish that they love to bother, your feline will find something else interesting to do, like take a nap or play with a stuffed toy.

In the end, shutting the door is the only effective way to keep your cat away from your fish.

  • Easy
  • Effective
  • The fish tank needs to be in a room with a door

7. Sticky Surfaces

One solution is to put double-sided sticky tape on and/or around the fish tank. Cats are picky about where they place their feet; it’s part of the reason that they can be so fussy about the type of litter that they use.

If you’ve ever walked barefoot across gravel or a rocky beach, you’ll know just how sharp some objects can be to your sensitive feet. Cats are much the same way and will try to avoid surfaces that they don’t like walking across.

Sticky surfaces work simply because cats don’t like how it interferes with their paws.

  • Cats don’t like having things stuck to their paws
  • Double-sided tape can collect dirt
man's finger touches double sided tape
Image Credit: Ekaterina43, Shutterstock

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As hunting champions, cats will always take notice of prey creatures like fish. Their shimmering scales, bright colors, and darting movements all work to draw your cat’s attention. While it gives your cat something to focus on, your fish won’t appreciate having the attention of a predator.

The tips here are all possible ways to keep your fish tank safe from your cat. Depending on your cat and how persistent they are, some methods will work better than others. When in doubt, keep your cat out of the room entirely and shut the door. Your fish will thank you for it.

Featured Image: DMITRII STARTCEV, Shutterstock

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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