Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: March 11, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Cats love to be up high. Whether it’s the top of the cat tree or the top of the refrigerator, cats like to survey their territory from elevated vantage points. This is normal behavior for cats and goes back to their wild origins. Cats are hunters and climbing trees allowed them to lie in wait for prey as well as to escape for safety.
Since this love of heights appears to be hardwired even into domestic cats, it’s not surprising that counters and tables are favorites for cats. Since not all cat owners like their cats to have access to these spaces, it’s important to provide outlets for this natural drive. This will go a long way toward preventing “counter surfers” from jumping on counters and tables.
The following suggestions can help keep cats off counters and tables:
The 5 Methods to Keep Cats Off Kitchen Counters
1. Remove Temptation
Don’t leave food unattended on counters. Put leftovers away and rinse dishes and put them into the dishwasher, rather than leaving them on the counter or in the sink.
2. Double Sided Tape
Apply double-sided sticky tape to the edges of counters. Cats don’t like the feeling of the tape on their paws, and will usually be discouraged after one or two tries. You may have to keep reapplying the tape, and the sticky residue may be hard to remove from countertops.
3. Aluminum Foil
Tape a strip of aluminum foil to the edge of the counter. Cats dislike both the feel of it on their paws as well as the sound the foil makes.
Don’t use spray bottles as a deterrent. Spray bottles only teach the cat to be afraid of the person using it, and can damage the bond between cat and owner. This can be especially damaging if a cat is skittish or has a history of abuse.
4. Mechanical Deterrents
Mechanical devices like the SSSCAT (affiliate link*) deliver a blast of compressed air and/or a loud sound when the device senses a cat approaching. Unlike squirt bottles, which should never be used to train cats because they damage the bond between cat and owner (see “Watch Out,”) the cat won’t associate this “punishment” with the owner.
5. Provide Alternatives
Most importantly, provide vertical space alternatives to counters and tables for your cat. A small cat tree, about the same height or slightly higher than the counter, placed strategically in an area where the cat has a full view of the territory surrounding it, can stop counter surfing completely. Train your cat to use the cat furniture by using reward-based treat training.
By understanding why cats like to be in high places, and working with their natural instincts, you can prevent them from jumping up on counters and tables and keep everyone in the household happy.
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.