How to keep cats off counters

Cats climb on to counters for a variety of reasons. They’ll eagerly jump onto your counter if you’ve left food unattended and exposed. Or maybe the counter leads to an open window and they want to let themselves out. They may also climb onto the counter if they feel threatened or if they’ve been chased there in a play game with another of your pet cats or dogs. Kittens may climb onto a counter just out of curiosity and a sense of fun. The counter may grant them access to a curtain to climb or smoothing to sniff or knock over. And, finally, a cat may climb onto a counter just because they want to get somewhere and the counter is the easiest way to get there. After all, in their mind it’s their house, not yours! You’re just their personal servant!

To deter cats from climbing onto counters requires some common sense actions on your part and you will also need to teach’ your cat that it is wrong’ to climb on work surfaces. Some of the things that you can do include:

– Keep food covered or out of reach of cats. You can’t really expect your cat to resist the temptation of a plate of freshly cooked chicken drumsticks that you’ve left on a plate on your counter. Make a habit of being cat-aware when you’re dealing with food.

– Train your cat, from a young age, that it is wrong to climb up on surfaces and that it is very wrong to eat food that isn’t in their bowl. There’s a common misconception that cats (unlike dogs) can’t be trained. This is not correct. We had cats that would come in at night when we called them (by banging their dinner dishes on the ground) and who were well behaved with regards to kitchen counters and food that had been left out. They weren’t saints but by reinforcing (from an early age) that they shouldn’t be on counters, it was possible to limit such behaviour. Reinforcement comes through body language and the occasional cuff to their rear end. However, it should never go as far as actually causing physical pain. That’s just bullying and animal cruelty and can’t be condoned.

– Provide a cat flap. If the cat can easily let himself out through his cat flap, then he won’t need to sneak out of a partly opened window.

– Feed them well. Hungry cats are more likely to go looking for food. They will even climb onto kitchen surfaces and open cupboards if their beloved cat snacks are kept there! Cats that are well cared for and well feed (but not overfed) will be less likely to bother with other food.

– Provide them with plenty of opportunities to get exercise and to have some play time. Bored or annoyed cats will act in a way that is quite out of character with their normal manner. Our best behaved gentle little neutered male ripped a toilet roll to pieces one time because we’d been trying to keep him inside. I think we were due to go on holiday and didn’t want him to go running off before it was time to take him to the cat kennels!

Remember to show lots of affection to your cat when they do good things. Harsh words spoken when they go near a counter will be most effective when they know that your angry countenance is at odds with the usual warmth that you display to them. Cats may consider themselves to be the boss but they do want to please their humans. One way they do this is to bring you little (and usually unwelcome) gifts but they will also show that they like your presence by living (more or less) by your rules.

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