How to train your cat to stay off the counter

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By Emily Bruer

If you’ve ever had a cat you likely have had to deal with them jumping on the counters. While this may not particularly bother you, it can be annoying and (let’s be honest) unsanitary.

There are lots of theories about the best way to go about this, but many can actually damage the relationship between you and your feline friend. Follow the steps in this article and you can train your cat without breaking your bond!

Why is the counter so darned attractive, anyway?

Let’s start with the reasons behind why your cat wants to be on the counter in the first place.

Most cats are social animals and they enjoy the company of their two legged companions. What’s the best way for them to be near you while you’re in the kitchen?

That’s right, to jump on the counter, this puts them up high and closer to your eye level where they can easily get your attention and socialize with you.

The second reason is that cats enjoy being up high, where they can watch out for predators (or the family dog) and to hunt for prey (or treats). While our feline roommates don’t need to be on high alert for predators or prey anymore, they’re hardwired to like high places.

Now, for the training

While our cats may be our fur-kids, they don’t understand our social etiquette and it’s our job to teach them in a way they can understand.

Buy your cat a tree to climb on – Not just any old tree, of course, but a specially made cat tree.

You can pick one up at just about any bricks and mortar or online retailer. You want to make sure the tree you pick has several different perches at a few different heights, especially if you have a multi-cat home. Keep in mind that some cats prefer perches with a horizontal spread, while others like high vertical towers. 

Food training – Once you have the tree all set up, you can begin training your cat. Many cats will simply prefer their tree to the counter, so you may not need to do any training at all. But if you find your kitty is still counter surfing, it’s time to get out the treats.

Cats can be finicky eaters, so you may have to try a few different high value treats before you find one she likes. My cat’s favorites are turkey, tuna, and sardines.

Start giving your kitty treats any time she is on her cat tree while you are in the kitchen. This will cause her to begin associating her cat tree with the yummy treats you are providing!

Any time you catch her on the counter gently pick her up and place her on the floor and then ignore her until she jumps on the tree.

Eventually she will begin to understand that when she jumps on the counter you remove her and ignore her, but when she jumps on the cat tree she gets lots of love and yummy snacks.

If that doesn’t work – If you have been trying this method for a few weeks and still haven’t noticed a marked improvement, the next step would be to add something the kitty doesn’t like to the counter – double sided tape.

Line the edges of the counter and places she likes to sit with double sided tape. The feeling of the tape on her paws will be uncomfortable and she will eventually get the idea that it’s not fun to sit on the counter.

This method of training is a great one for kitties, as the harsher ones (like squirt bottles) can cause fear and negative associations with you. Creating fear in cats is the last thing you want to do, as in extreme cases it can cause aggression and urinating outside of the litter box. (It’s also not a very nice thing to do to your little buddy.)

So stick with these tips, because with the right tools and some yummy treats even the most stubborn cat can learn to leave the counters to the humans and hang out on her tree!

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.

2 thoughts on “How to train your cat to stay off the counter

  1. My favorite trick is the “soda can with a penny in it” trick. Two cans along the counter’s edge with dental floss between them. Someone jumps onto the counter and hits the floss – cans go spilling all over the place and LORD the noise! Kitty learns pretty quick that it’s just not a good idea. If worried about kitty getting tangled in the floss – try just shaking the can from another part of the room when they’re up there. The noise deterrent is a huge success for me, and kitty gets the idea really quickly. With long fur cats, the sticky tape doesn’t always have the impact it could.

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