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How to keep your cat off your kitchen counter

Updated on July 26, 2008

Counteracting feline counter surfing


In order to keep your cat from counter surfing it may prove helpful to think as a cat.

A kitchen counter is very attractive to the cat's eyes. First of all it is high and we all know how much cats love heights, second it is interesting, because we know that cats are inquisitive in nature, and third a kitchen counter is rewarding, just think of how great it is to find some crumbs, good smells or better a whole roasted chicken!

Keeping cats off a counter can therefore, prove challenging. In order to grant success the cat should associate the counter with something negative rather than positive. Patience, consistency and swiftness of action are the key factors to consider in order to teach a cat that the counter is strictly off limits. Luckily, there are some tricks of the trade to help taper this unwanted behavior off.


Food definitely plays the most rewarding part when it comes to kitchen counter climbing. All it takes is some tasty food up there to teach a cat that a counter is definitely worth the trip. Try to take away foods, dirty dishes and try to keep it as immaculate as possible so the cat will find it pretty boring.

Keep in mind as well that some cats use the counter as a mean to reach the sink, where yummy dirty dishes and water are found. So it may be worth it to keep the sink clean as well.


You want to place these in strategic areas that would cause the cat to make them fall upon climbing up. The horrible noise created by the cans tumbling down should be sufficient to startle the most courageous cat and turn the counter into an unpleasant area. While the empty cans may look unattractive, just think of this as a temporary fix until your cat gets the message.


This can be used as a substitute to the cans and it consists of placing strips of aluminium foil all around the borders of the counter where the cat would first land should he/she climb. Stepping on aluminium foil is an unpleasant experience for cats because it is noisy and startling. Again, think of this as a temporary fix.


This works just as the aluminium foil or even better. Cats naturally hate the feeling of something sticky on their paws.


You need to catch your cat in action in order for this to be fully effective. In other words, your action should be very swift in order to work. This is how it works: your cat climbs up and you will quickly spray the cat. Your cat should associate the water with the action of climbing up. If you spray once the cat is up licking a dish he will think that all he did wrong was lick the dish while the climbing part was perfectly o.k.

Do not wet the cat too much, all you need is one spray making sure you do not aim at the face. I have found that a bottle that does "Shhh" works better. This method may be effective but the cat may quickly learn that it is safe to get on the counter when you are not around.

I have learned to pretend I am leaving and then hide somewhere nearby or watch from the outside window. If the cat goes on the counter assuming I was gone for good I would yell "No" and startle him. This way he learned that I may still be around even when he thinks I am gone. He has learned this way to never trust his instincts! I guess these episodes haunted him enough since he has never climbed on the counter again! I also used to leave the spray bottle over the counter as a deterrant since at the end simply seeing me with the spray bottle was enough to get the idea!


This should be used only as an ultimate resort when the other remedies have not worked. A scat mat is basically a mat that gives a very small shock when the cat climbs on it. It may seem a bit excessive but after all it is much safer than landing on a hot stove or eating something toxic.

Discouraging a cat from counter surfing is not just a question of hygiene but also of safety. Numerous cats each year accidentally step on a hot stove getting even serious third degree burns on their delicate paw pads. Some cats end up eating foods that are not good for them or having pots and pans fall on them on attempting to climb. Some cats have been injured by having a whole toaster fall on them or by accidentally ingesting chemicals used for cleaning.

It is important to understand that a cat will not learn straight away that the counter is off limits but rather it will take some time to learn, but in the long run, it is definitely worth it. It may take lots of consistency, patience and determination. but kitty will ultimately understand that his place is on the floor.


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    • mynameisnotpaul profile image

      mynameisnotpaul 8 years ago from Kentuckeh'

      I'll have to try these, my cats are completely stuck up and do as they please.... Not anymore! :)

    • profile image

      crackmonkey 8 years ago from San Diego

      my mom would just place a few cactus plants on the counter. She would position them just right so the cats wouldn't land on them, but as soon as they took a step they'd get a little prick, and of course jump down right away. I know it sounds cruel, it never did any damage. None of the cats ever got a cactus needle stuck in it, just poked a couple times.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      alexadry - thanks for the great tips. We just got a kitten and I'm reading up on what to do, preparing for situations like cat on the counter. He attempted to climb up on my hutch (where I keep the 100 year old plates) so I sprinkled a little hot pepper on the edge. That seemed to do the trick.

      I like the idea of spreading aluminum foil on the counter and will remember that one.

    • profile image

      Julia 8 years ago

      My cat drives my family and I nuts he is always up on the counter!We try so many different things but it never works.My cat doesn't look for food when he's up there though he just walks around on the counter.

    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 9 years ago from United States

      Excellent hub, tape on the conters worked for me. For some reason my cats think that being sprayed with a water bottle is some kind of new game :)