Does Your Cat Live on the Counter? How to Keep Cats Off Counters!

Cats love them. We hate them on them.
Tayler Tayler (35)
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My cats, Val and Halla, love jumping on the counters. They love jumping atop them and spreading their little litter infested paws all over the surfaces where I make breakfast, brew tea, meal prep. They love it so much, in fact, that it's like a little game to them. It's particularly bad during the holidays when I have to cat-proof my Xmas tree and decorations!

My kitty knows she's not meant to be there—but there she is—and, by golly, what am I going to do about it?

Recently, and thankfully, Halla has lost interest in this pastime but Val—oh sweet, demonic little Val—loves this practice still.

When I first adopted them, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to find a way to keep them permanently off of my countertops but I have found a few tips and tricks along the way that have helped keep them grounded.

A brief note on training cats

If you've ever tried to give a cat a bath, then you know just how different cats are from dogs. It's my understanding and experience that training a cat is not like training a dog (not that I have much experience with dog training, mind you) and I've found that, even if a tactic works for her for a few weeks, she'll still jump onto the counter and stare at me in defiance. Her tail will twitch. She knows she's not meant to be there—but there she is—and, by golly, what am I going to do about it?

Dramatics aside—cats are creatures of their own and need an ample amount of patience when dealing with them. (If you've ever tried to give a cat a pill, you know of what I speak!)

This guide will attempt to solve the age-old question: how do I keep my cats off counters?

Pet Training ClickerPet Training Clicker ×1
Aluminum FoilAluminum Foil ×1
Double-sided foam tapeDouble-sided foam tape ×1

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Tinfoil.

A popular option recently, tinfoil can be placed on countertops to startle any kitty that leaps onto the surface.

Called "booby-trapping!"

How to

  • Place tinfoil on your countertops.

Why this works

  • The combination of the sound and feel of tinfoil under their paws is supposed to startle them as they jump onto the counters, effectively conditioning them.

Potential downsides

  • Some cats are smart enough to figure out that they can just knock the foil to the floor and continue their rampage about your cooking space.

This has worked for my cats, especially Val. Foiled again, kitties.

Tape on counter.

Similar to tinfoil and a lot less invasive, double-sided tape can dissuade cats from seeking higher points on counters.

How to

  • Take double-sided tape and peel off one side of it.
  • Line up the tape against the edge of the counter and press the sticky side down, pressing hard so it sticks.
  • Peel off the protective layer for the other sticky side of the tape.

Why this works

  • Cats can't stand the feeling of tape on their paws or fur and they'll be dissuaded after one or two attempts to jump on the counter.

Potential downsides

  • Unlike tinfoil which can be pushed off, sticky tape is carefully attached to the surface of the counter. You do have to live with sticky tape for a while until your cat gets the idea.

I know it might be frustrating but stick to you guns here. It'll pay off.

Cat getting treat.

This option involves positive reinforcement and involves a little training.

How to

  • Every time your cat jumps onto the counter, offer them a single treat, and entice them from the counter.
  • Before you give them a treat, click your clicker.
  • Eventually, your cat will associate the clicker with a reward, allowing you to entice them off the counter in the future.
  • Keep in mind that you don't have to treat them every time you lure them from the counters.

Why this works

  • Cats often respond better to positive reinforcement as opposed to negative. They'll be more motivated to cooperate with you.

Potentail downsides

  • Your cat may try and use this system to abuse treats so watch out for any extra counter-hopping in an attempt to get treats.
Cat on cat tree.

Cats jump on counters, not to be pests, but because they like having access to high grounds so they can safely survey their homes. If you find your cat jumping onto counters, they might be craving a high spot.

Let your cat branch out!

How to

  • Find a cat tree that will work in your apartment or house.
  • Try positioning it near windows or other furniture that your cat likes to frequent.

Why this works

  • A cat tree will help to satisfy your cat's needs for sitting on a high perch. As an added bonus it also helps to distract them from, not only your counters but other things they might be paying too much attention to.

Potential downsides

  • Cat trees can be quite large and cumbersome which can make fitting them into small apartments and houses difficult.
Cat on counter.

This final and simplest option on this list is cleaning your counters. Here's how it works.

How to

  • Keep your counters clean of clutter and especially clean of food.
  • Try cleaning with a citrus-scented cleaning agent.

Why this works

  • Cats are curious creatures - they want to investigate any foreign scent or sight. They might be drawn to the crumbs or leftovers you have laying around.
  • They're also extremely sensitive to the smell of citrus which can be an easy way to keep them from exploring places they shouldn't be.

Good luck and remember - patience is key with cats!