No matter how much you love your cat, there are a quite few things you’re likely to want to make sure he or she never does. For me, jumping up on counters has always been one of those things.
My reason for disliking cats up on counters? There are quite a number actually: all related to pet safety or human hygiene.
Counters are dangerous places. Kitchen knives can be forgotten on counters; pet-toxic food could also be accidentally left out. There’s no way I want my cat accidentally jumping onto a kitchen knife, or taking a whiff of an unsafe human food, deciding it smells good enough, then eating a morsel when I’m not even at home to realize and take him straight to the vet.
Hot stoves also posit a danger. Yes, they are likely to be avoided when a cat knows it’s hot, but if a cat gets used to jumping up on counters and the stove when it’s cool, I can imagine a day might come when that cat may accidentally jump directly onto a hot stove, thinking it’ll be cool like so many times before. Finally, the idea of litter those bits and pieces within it all over surfaces we humans cook and eat off of, I can’t imagine is particularly hygienic for pet owners. I wouldn’t like to cook in a human bathroom, and I don’t want cat bathroom bits in places I cook and eat either.
Since your here, my guess is you’ve had similar thoughts about the pet dangers and human hygiene issues related to letting a cat up on kitchen counters. You may have tried taking the first step toward training your cat before, but didn’t quite figure out how to make it stick, or you may have been too unsure of how to start the training process at all.
My hope is that this article will show you how easy the entire process is to undergo, and how simple troubleshooting will be if your training gets thrown out the window for a little while and kitty re-offends. Ideally, seeing the simplicity of this process and having all the steps laid out for you to refer back to will encourage you to give this a proper shot – I’m sure you can get it to stick with a little time and effort. Let’s start at the beginning…
Part I: Figuring Out Why Your Cat Wants to Be on the Counter
Before you start the actual training process, it’s incredibly important to identify why your cat actually wants to be on top of the counter in the first place. The following are a number of different reasons why a cat might like hopping up onto counter tops (if I’ve left out any you can think of, leave your idea in the comments below!).
Identifying the cause or causes behind your cat’s desire to get up on the counters is incredibly beneficial, as it allows you to tackle the reason head on by creating a replacement behaviour for the one you’re trying to get rid of.
Can’t figure out which reason is the right one? Take your best guess and act based on that guess. If your cat still goes up onto the counters, take another guess and try resolving the problem with that technique. Eventually, you’ll hit the nail on the head, even if you don’t get the right answer the first time around. Now let’s get into the possible motivations behind this behaviour!
Option 1: Because food is involved.
Whether your cat jumps up onto the counter while you’re cooking or while you’re eating, her intention is pretty clear: she wants to be where the food’s at! In situations where this is the absolute only time your cat is jumping onto counters, you have the easiest job of all because the solution is extra simple…
Solution: Pull out a chair for your cat while you’re cooking and/or eating. Give your cat kibble or cat-safe human foods you would regularly give your cat to snack on, but only when your cat is seated in this dedicated spot, rather than the kitchen counter.
Option 2: Because it’s a nice high spot to hang out in.
Cats absolutely adore jumping, and since they have the ability to jump quite high, they like to take advantage of this biological skill frequently in their day to day lives. Think about how many outdoor cats get themselves stuck up in trees and you’ll realize just how ingrained this behaviour is in them!
Even if you live in a large house with plenty of spots for kitty to spend time in, having some high locations that are human-approved for your cat to take advantage of is important. Of course, having some high spots for kitty to hang out in becomes even more important if you live tight quarters with your pet – as vertical space can make even the smallest of apartments feel quite spacious to felines.
Whether this means grabbing a massive cat jungle gym if you have the space to spare, or a narrow, tall cat tree/a few smaller cat trees if you’re tight on it, or whether it means simply re-arranging furniture you’ve already got so kitty can jump onto the back of the sofa, then onto a dresser, and finally onto the top of a bookshelf – maximizing the vertical space in your house would really help out your kitty, and the lack thereof could be the only reason your cat is jumping up on kitchen counters.
Solution: Make sure there are plenty of high surfaces besides counters for your cat to jump up on. Need some helpful ideas for making this happen? Check out the section in this article on enhancing vertical space.
Option 3: Because there’s a nice open window nearby.
If your cat jumps onto the counter, then immediately proceeds to sit by an open window, sniffing and dozing off in the happy breeze, you know what your cat is after has absolutely nothing to do with the counter, and absolutely everything to do with the open window.
Solution: Open up another window you’re happy to have your cat sit in front of. Need a spot for your cat to hang out because the ledge isn’t comfy enough? Grab a cushy window seat for kitty. Your cat’s almost certain to choose the new window over the old one by the counters after that luxurious addition!
Option 4: Because the sink is a nice place to lick fresh water droplets out of.
Not quite sure why your cat is going up, but sometimes find your cat sitting in the sink? If you’ve got tiles on the floor, your cat’s almost certainly not going into the sink to cool off – but to have a little lick of the droplets of water that come fresh from the tap.
Cats are really picky when it comes to how they like their drinking water, so much so that many pet parents have trouble getting their cats to drink enough. But if you’ve discovered your cat in a sink, chances are you’ve stumbled onto her favourite way to have water without realizing.
Solution: Find a replacement for the kitchen sink. Turn on the tap ever-so-slightly for your cat to lick droplets out of the bathroom sink, or a bathtub or shower instead. Offering your cat the same sort of option for drinking, but in a human-approved place is an excellent recipe for successfully keeping your cat off the counters.
Can’t use the washroom sink or tub for this? Try grabbing a cat fountain to fulfill your cat’s drinking wants instead. While it’s not quite the same as fresh tap water or tiny water droplets in the sink, it is an alternative many cats who are picky about water sources are happy to use.
Option 5: Because it gets her your attention.
Yes, there are times when really and truly, the only thing your cat wants out of you is attention. If your cat jumps on counters and you have a hunch it’s for none of the reasons above – it may just be an attention-seeking technique your cat has discovered will get her what she wants.
Solution: Leave out a chair that your cat can jump onto instead of the counters, and when she goes up on the chair, be sure to give her all the affection and attention you can afford.
Part II: Training Your Cat to Stop Going Up on Counters
Now let’s get into the training process. Again, I promise it’s not very complicated. Yes, this section may look long, but it’s primarily teeny steps that are really mostly common sense. I like to spell everything out, though, just in case anyone prefers instructions laid out that way.
Step 1: Have one or more alternate cat approved spaces for your cat ready to go.
After figuring out the reason why your cat likes jumping onto counters, have a space ready in your head to try as an alternate when your cat finally does jump on the counters.
For cats that jump for food, this means having a chair next to the counter ready. For cats that hop up on counters to lick water out of the sink, having a bathtub ready… You get the picture.
Step 2: Whenever your cat jumps up on the counter, say “no!”
Just saw your cat hop onto the counter top? Time to kick into action. Immediately say, “No!” loudly and assertively, so your cat gets that she shouldn’t be there, and then…
Step 3: Immediately pick up your cat and relocate him or her the approved alternate space.
Grab your cat, transfer her to the spot you’ve picked out that will give her what she wants without being on the counter. Eventually, this new human-approved spot will become associated with getting that particular want pet. Instead of thinking about going to the counter, your cat will begin to think of going straight to this spot.
Step 4: Give your cat what she wants in the approved space.
Cat wanted attention? Give her cuddles in the approved space. Cat wanted food? Give a bit of food. Cat wanted droplets of water? Time to turn on that tap ever-so-slightly to give kitty the kind of water she enjoys having.
Step 5: Cat re-offend? Repeat steps 2-4 whenever your cat jumps on a counter again.
Each and every single time your cat jumps onto the counters, repeat the process of saying “no,” relocating your cat to the human-approved spot, and giving her what she wants. Your cat will get the picture, though it may take a few times.
Things not seeming to work out so well? Try testing to see if there’s a different reason why your cat likes being up on counters.
Step 6: If on her own, your cat goes to the alternate space, reward him or her immediately.
With whatever your cat wanted to get out of jumping on counters: some food, some attention, some water, etc. – continue to delve these desirables out whenever your cat appears in the right human-approved, cat dedicated spot.
Cat just wanted to be on the counter top because it’s a high vantage point? Feel free to spoil your cat a bit with treats, cuddles, catnip, or play to say thank you to her for behaving. You know what rewards your cat likes best – use them to your advantage to keep that place in her mind as a happy one.
Part III: Preventing Relapse
Now, you may think things would get a little tricky if your cat relapses, but it’s a lot easier to train a cat to slip back into the correct rhythm of things than it is to train a cat from scratch – not that this is hard to do in the first place. Re-training just takes a few bouts of repeating the training process.
More into preventative measures? There are a few things you can be doing to prevent relapse from happening in the first place, so you don’t ever need to re-train your cat from scratch. They include things like:
- Keeping counters clear of food as much as possible (So kitty isn’t tempted to jump up to get it!)
- Always having a chair out for kitty when it’s time for you to eat.
- When your cat does jump up on the counters on the off chance – don’t let this behaviour slide. Always say no and move him or her to a preferred spot straight away.
- Do your best not to forget to reward kitty for going to alternate spaces, even if it’s been a long time since training. Rewards should be given out for good behaviour, even after the naughty behaviour has been eradicated.
That’s it! Make it to the end and you’re almost guaranteed a job well done and a cat well trained.
Your Experiences With Cats on Counters?
Are there specific places you prefer cats not to be in? Have you ever tried training a cat to keep out of these spots? Why or why not?
If you’ve successfully managed to train your cats to keep off counters – how long did it take? Have your cats ever relapsed?
If you’ve ever given it a shot unsuccessfully, would you try it again?
Love to hear about your experiences in the comments down below!