Dogs typically counter surf specifically for food, so removing the temptation of food is often enough to change the habit. Cats, on the other hand, choose to cruise counters for a number of reasons. While tasty snacks are certainly one motivator, cats also hop up on the counter to drink from the faucet’s running water, get closer to their humans, or simply get to a higher perch. Putting any scraps of food away and keeping your counters clean are excellent first steps, but if food isn’t the motivator, removing it won’t change the behavior.
Pet parents who have chosen to share their home with a cat need not despair, however. A basic understanding of cats’ motivation for being there in the first place, coupled with a little ingenuity, will help discourage this behavior, even with the stubbornest of felines.
Eliminate the Middle Ground
As Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Though a good many feline family members access the counter space by jumping straight up from the floor, others need an extra boost. Watch how your cat gets up on the counter and eliminate any chairs, tables, or other surfaces that may make it easier for them to reach the counters. Some pet parents may even want to install child-proof latches on drawers as some cats pull out drawers to use as a stairway to reach the surface of the counter.
Offer Options for Running Water
Cats often prefer to drink running water rather than drinking out of traditional bowls. A dripping or running faucet may be all the temptation your cat needs to jump up on the counter. Fixing any leaking faucets and turning the water off completely when you’re done at the sink may be enough to deter your feline family member from cruising the counters. For those cats who are particularly insistent on having running water to drink, you can give them an alternative to the kitchen counter by leaving the water running in the bathroom or acquiring one of the several varieties of pet bowls with water fountains built into them.
Another reason that countertops are so enticing to cats is that they appease the cat’s natural desire to be up off the ground. In the wild, cats are both predator and prey. A higher perch not only allows them to stay hidden from predators but gives them an advantage when hunting prey. Providing nearby cat perches that are taller than the counters themselves gives your pet an appropriate alternative so that they aren’t as tempted to get up on the counters.
Create Enticing Spaces
Counters provide a cool comfortable surface to lie on, a higher vantage point, and proximity to their human, so you can understand why the counter is such a comfy and coveted spot to snooze. One way to reduce your cat’s urge to spend time on the counter is to create other comfortable, enticing spaces to spend their time in. Surround the space with live, pet-friendly plants, or position it near a window to look out of to make it an extra tempting space for your feline family member.
Add Physical Deterrents
If all else fails, pet parents can easily make the counter an unpleasant place for your cat’s paws to land, without harming the counters. The majority of cats don’t like the smell or taste of cayenne pepper, but it’s non-toxic to both cats and dogs. Sprinkling some on the counters may discourage your cat from jumping up. The way crinkling aluminum foil feels and sounds is distasteful to most cats as well, and taping it around the edges of the counters may deter them from jumping up. Double-sided sticky tape and plastic carpet runners, nub-side up, can also be good deterrents when placed on the counter.
A note about essential oils: Certain essential oils, such as citrus, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus are touted as all-natural cat repellents. Essential oils can be extremely concentrated and some of the plants used to make them can be toxic to felines. Not only is it unsafe to ingest certain plants and essential oils, but several of them can also cause neurological difficulties when absorbed through the skin or inhaled!
However much your cat covets their counter time, the kitchen counter is not the safest place for them. Kitchen counters often have items that could be dangerous for a cat to interact with, such as sharp cooking utensils, plastic wrap, or cleaning solutions. It’s not all that safe for the humans in the house, either. While cats are generally pretty fastidious animals, they do use their paws to dig in the litter box and they like to explore out-of-the-way nooks and crannies.
Making the counter less accessible, less attractive, and less comfortable will help to make getting on the counter less rewarding to your cat. Offering your cat cozy corners to sleep in and high perches to watch you from gives them an alternative to the counters. Using the suggestions outlined here, you can both encourage your cat to explore new cozy corners and discourage them from setting their paws on the counter.
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