What is the attraction between cats and kitchen counters? No matter how many times we tell them no, they insist we said yes. We tell them to get down; they come back up. If you constantly battle with your cats and kitchen counters, the first thing you need to do is understand why they are up there, and it may not be why you think.
As with any behavior changes you should always consider your cat’s health as a potential issue. For example, if your cat is getting on the counter and peeing it may have a urinary problem. Always start with an exam with your veterinarian.
Why cats and kitchen counters?
Often, your cat being on the counter is food related, attention seeking, or-sorry- normal cat behavior. If you routinely leave food out on the counter, it is only a matter of time before your cat decides it is fair game. The first thing to address is to remove temptations and targets. The food needs to be put away, but also consider items that may stimulate your cat’s interest. Plants, wooden spoons, straws, almost anything can be a toy to your cat. Paying attention to what they are doing on the counter before you run them off may give you the answer to preventing them from getting up there in the first place.
If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, your cat may be getting on the counter just to interact with you. There are many cat owners that still buy into the idea that cats are aloof, solitary creatures that don’t want attention. Because of that belief, they don’t interact with their cats as much as they do with their dogs and they end up with exactly what they predicted- a cat that is used to being alone and therefore doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable with much human interaction. But some cats try and initiate that human interaction on their own. Have you been on the phone and suddenly had the cat on your lap rubbing around your face, or weaving in and out of your legs and pawing for you to pick them up? Ever wonder why? How many cats do you know that understand what a phone is? All they know is that you are in a room talking and no one else is there so obviously you must be talking to them! When you are working in the kitchen you are in the same space where their food comes from, you are doing interesting things with interesting items, and the counter seems like a good space to interact with you.
The most basic reason why your cat might be getting on your counter is that cats like heights. They want to be up where they can survey their domain. They want to be elevated above any potential prey.
Preventing cats and kitchen counters:
If you know your cat at all, you know that getting the behavior you want is more about compromise than control. If you want your cat to get off the counter, try giving your cat a better alternative. Give them a perch or a tower from which they can watch you work. Pull up a stool let them watch from there (a snack on the stool will help them learn that it is their place.) Some people will try and use a squirt bottle to deter the counter surfing, but that comes with the risk of the cat developing a fear of the person rather than a dislike for the counter. The solution to this can be found in the many products that deter cats from jumping up that don’t rely on the owner activating them, such as the air canisters that hiss or the flip/snap devices that look like mild-mannered mouse traps. Homemade solutions can be found in laying out aluminum foil (cats don’t generally like the feel) or using double-sided tape. Hint: put double sided tape on placemats for easy use and removal! Whatever you try, remember that patience is your greatest tool. Good luck!