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How to Keep Your Cat Off the Counter

Learn why cats like to be on counters.

You don't want your kitty on the kitchen counter. Not only are there dangerous things up there for her, like knives and potentially feline-toxic foods, but it's also unsanitary for you. You don't want kitty litter or worse to end up in your food.

But lots of cats like to jump on the kitchen counter, and it can be a daunting task to think about getting them to stop. When you're there, you can push your cat down, but when you're not home, the kitchen counter might be free range for your cat's lounging pleasure.

Luckily, there are some ways you can teach your cat to stay off the counter, even when you aren't there to enforce the rule.

Why Do Cats Jump on Counters?

Before you begin training your cat to stay off the counter, it helps to understand why many cats do it, to begin with. There are a few reasons, and your cat might have any or all of them:

  • Cats like high places. Being more elevated than the majority of what goes on in the space is soothing to cats. They feel safer when they're above the fray and can look down on what's happening. They may even feel like mighty hunters, hiding up high and ready to pounce down on unsuspecting prey.
  • Cats love windows. Many cats absolutely love looking out the window, and counters often give them better access to windows.
  • Cats are curious. They like to know what's going on, and the kitchen counter often has a lot going on. They want to know what's up there, what you're doing, and whether they can help.
  • Cats like being with you. Your cat loves you, and you spend a lot of time working at the kitchen counter. So being there is naturally enticing to your kitty.
  • There are good smells there. Let's face it. There's food on your counter sometimes, and the smell can bring your cat looking for a tasty treat. And if she's ever found one, you can bet she'll be checking back for more often.

Don't Tolerate the Behavior Sometimes and Insist She Get Down Others

It's hard to be consistent about things like this when you're super busy, but it's important that your kitty understands there's never a time when it's okay with you that she's on the counter or dining room table. That means you can't ignore it sometimes and make a big deal out of it other times.

Figure Out Cat-Appropriate Alternatives

To train your cat not to jump on the counter or table, it works best and fastest if you make the counter as unattractive as possible for jumping on while simultaneously providing an alternative that's more rewarding for the cat.

You can try double-sided tape or tin foil on the counter to dissuade your kitty from jumping up there. At the same time, put some cat furniture or a sturdy stool nearby that's tall enough that your cat will be able to hang out and see what you're doing while you're working there. That might satisfy her curiosity and desire to be near you while keeping her off the counter.

To encourage your kitty to sit on the stool or cat furniture, entice her up there and offer a treat and give praise when she complies. Talk to her while you're working at the counter, giving her positive reinforcement for doing what you want her to do.

You can also try doing an interactive play session before working on your meal. That might help tire your kitty out and make her more likely to sleep through your meal prep time.

Counter as an Escape Route

A unique situation occurs when your cat gets on the counter to escape harassment, usually being chased by a dog or child. If that's the case, you'll need to make sure your cat has other vertical escape routes and possibly not leave her unsupervised with the dog or child.

Suddenly Ravenous Cats

If your cat was never a "counter surfer" before but suddenly jumps up there every chance she gets, explicitly going to town eating everything that she can, there might be a medical problem going on. Hyperthyroidism, specifically, can lead to an increased appetite with weight loss and might cause a cat to want all kinds of people food suddenly.

If your cat seems like she can't get enough food all of a sudden, visit the veterinarian right away.

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