How to Keep Cats Off the Counter

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CBC, explains how to prevent cats from counter surfing.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: May 9, 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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Q: Our cats are about a year old now, and they jump on our counters a lot. We have already tried removing the dirty dishes every night, but they still jump up on the counter. We have an open kitchen, so it makes it difficult to block the area off. Are there any sprays that are safe to use in the kitchen to deter them?

A: Cats have good reasons for counter surfing. Some counter surfers indulge their hobby in order to scrounge for overlooked scraps of food, missed from the last cleanup. Additionally, cats like to be up high. Counters give cats the perfect opportunity to be almost eye-to-eye with their human companions.

Keeping cats off of counters involves management and behavior modification. I do not recommend the use of cans that hiss or mats that shock. There are other more humane, effective and gentler approaches for keeping cats off of counters.

Good management is a key component for stopping the counter surfing habit. It is important to do a thorough cleaning that involves more then washing dishes every night. The counters and sink need to be free of all food bits that are appealing to a scrounging cat.

After the counters and sink are cleaned, make the counter an unappealing location for the cats to hang out. One product that works is Sticky Paws®, which is double-sided tape that helps deter counter surfers. Stick it on plastic table mats and then place the mats on the counter. Cats don’t like the feel of the tape on their paws and usually will avoid surfaces that have the double-sided tape on them.

In tandem with making the counters unappealing for the cats, it is vital that you provide the cats with other places to sit that are more pleasant then the counters. Since cats want to be up high, provide them with high stools next to the counter. Whenever they are on the stools praise them and give them treats.

The goal is to make the stools more fun to hang out on then the counters. Reward and interact with your cats whenever they are on the stools and ignore them when they are on the counters. Gradually your cats will figure out that the high stools are more rewarding places to be then the counters.

Clicker training works very well for this as well. Click here to watch as I train my cats in the video "Clicker Training Made Simple."

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Reader Comments

Amanda    Brevard, NC

10/19/2008 6:54:19 PM

Thanks for the tips. All 3 of our cats counter surf and knock things off, etc... I will use these tips now that know, to keep them off the counters. I've wanted to build something for them to perch on.
Thanks again!

Noelle    Beecher, IL

10/19/2008 6:34:34 PM

Thanks for the good advice. This can be a problem, and it's best to fix it early on.

ean    Oceanside, CA

10/19/2008 3:50:17 PM

I 'll try it!

Anna    Maple Grove, MN

10/19/2008 3:37:40 PM

Good tips!

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