My thumb hung in the air over the post button on my phone’s screen. I’d taken an adorable picture of my kitty, Ghost Cat, and the logical next step was to blast the image all over social media, but I was torn. I was proud of the photo’s subject, but ashamed of her location. If I posted the pic to show off Ghosty’s adorably expressive face, I would also be showing the world that my kitchen counters had been contaminated by the world’s cutest cat butt.
Would the humans in my life start thinking twice before taking a bite of something cooked in my kitchen? Should I hide my shame or embrace authenticity? I looked at Ghosty, who then jumped from the counter onto my shoulders, and I decided to hit post. This is me, I said to myself. I am a cat lady who lets her cat walk on the counter.
It wasn’t always like this. In the beginning, I tried to keep Ghost Cat off the counter. I would pluck her from the countertop and put her on the floor as my husband complained about “pee paws” in his prep space. We tried tinfoil, extra playtime, fragrant sprays — all the usual deterrents — to no avail. The countertop was just too tempting for Ghosty. She loved to catch drips from the tap or use the counter as a launch pad to reach the top of the fridge. It was obvious that my Ghost Cat wanted to be on the counter, and because I’ve always hated denying this rescue cat anything her little heart desires, I became increasingly permissive with respect to Ghosty’s kitchen privileges and decided to stock up on bleach in lieu of a backbone.
When we moved to a new house, we figured we had a second chance to teach Ghost Cat that countertops are not catwalks, and we started again with the deterrent regime. I’ll confess, I wasn’t as consistent as my husband. If I’m being totally honest, I was kind of grateful to have Ghost Cat’s company when I stood at the sink washing dishes. She would sit by the window behind the tap and watch the water run, or try to swat at the mounds of soap bubbles. Her cuteness distracted me from what she was actually doing — contaminating the counter. My husband would walk in and remind me how Ghost Cat’s cute little feet had recently been in contact with the litter box, and I would move her gently to the floor, my heart breaking a little bit as she’d let out an unmistakably disappointed meow.
My stance against counter surfing firmed up (and then softened again) after we brought home our second cat, Specter. When she first moved in she was too little to jump up onto the counter, so we tried to keep Ghosty down at her level and teach the kitten that kitchen surfaces are a no-cat zone. Unfortunately, Specter didn’t listen to as us much as she listened to Ghosty — who led Speck up to the counters as soon as she could make the jump. With two felines fighting for countertop freedom, I just couldn’t keep them off. I waved the proverbial white flag and accepted the fact that my cats had claimed the countertops as their natural habitat. It was over. The cats had won.
We started using our kitchen island as a cat-feeding station, and when we lost the island during our kitchen renovation, we started feeding the kitties on our actual countertop. They eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks right beside my mixer — and at this point I just refuse to feel bad about it. I don’t actually use that bit of counter for cooking, so what’s the harm? Ghost Cat and Specter believe kitchen countertops are the natural habitat of housecats, and really, who am I to say they’re wrong?
Part of me knows letting the cats counter surf is gross. I do everything on cutting boards. I disinfect before I cook and don’t store utensils out in the open. Basically, I treat my countertops as if they’re dirty — because they probably are.
I’ll accept that my Instagram account is enough to get me banned from participating in any bake sale, and that friends and family might wonder about the cat-hair content of any dish I bring to a potluck, but to that I say this: Don’t reject my cooking because Ghost Cat loafs on my countertops, reject my cooking because I can’t really cook. I can guarantee anything I make is uncontaminated by my cats; what I can’t guarantee is that it’s edible. Just ask my husband.