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Countering Counter-Surfing Cats

How to Keep Counters Clean and Cats Safe

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Photo of Cat Tig in a Kitchen Pot

Tig in a Kitchen Pot

Photo Credit: © Erica
One of the more common discussions in the Cats Forum as well as my email box is "how do I keep my cats off the kitchen counter?" Indeed, some of the forum members are of the conviction that it's okay to let their cats counter-surf. However, I'm with the side that views this practice as unwise, because of potential hazards to the cats, such as jumping on a hot stove or ingesting cleaning products' residue that might remain in a sink or on the counter.

Kitchen Counters attract cats like a magnet, for several reasons:

  • They Love Heights.
    Get any two cats together with a climbing tree or cat tower and you'll have a ready-made game of "King of the Hill." In this game, as in the wild, the top cat is the Top Cat.
  • Kitchen Counters Smell Good!
    They're often loaded with tempting things to eat, such as raw chicken parts, ground beef, or yesterday's tuna casserole.
  • Cats Like Fresh Running Water
    Some cats also are attracted to running water in the kitchen sink, and for many cats, this is their main source for drinking water. Better than the toilet, I'm sure, but there are better alternatives.
  • Cats Tend to Go Where You Don't Want Them
    What can I say? That's a matter of "cats being cats," but remember we're supposed to be smarter than them.

Here are some ways of keeping cats off the counter that have been found to be successful by some readers:

  • Apply Sticky Tape to the Edge. Cats hate the feeling of sticky tape, and will be discouraged after one or two tries. The disadvantage is that you may have to keep reapplying it indefinitely, and the sticky stuff may be difficult to clean up afterward.
  • Tape a Strip of Aluminum Foil. It's not only the feel of it on their toes, but the noise that deters cats.
  • The Pennies in a Can Trick. This is an old tried-and-true means of deterring cats from many forms of undesirable behavior. Drop a few pennies (or pebbles) in an empty aluminum can and tape the opening. When you see your cat start to jump on the counter, shake the can loudly. The problem here is that he'll learn it's okay to jump when you're not around.

    Another method is to place several of these "shaker cans" right at the edge of the counter with just two or three inches betweeen them. One jump will bring down all the cans, and make a terrific racket, which will also bring down the cat.

  • The Spray Bottle. I don't generally approve of using a spray bottle for discipline, because some people just get carried away and end up drenching the cat. However, ONE very quick spray set to fine mist will do the trick for that one time. If you can manage to do it so the cat doesn't connect you with the uncomfortable feeling, it may be a permanent solution. (However it's my opinion that cats are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.)
Commercial Deterrents

Although it may seem to be a Draconian solution, there is an excellent product called Ssscat! which uses a three-pronged approach. An electric-eye sensor on top of a canister which detects the motion of the cat. A loud alarm sounds, coupled with a quick spray of harmless gas. The unit is adjustable, and the spray can be turned off for sound conditioning.

Another Product, called the Tattle Tale utilizes a vibration detection and a two second alarm, and then automatically resets itself.

Although not a deterrent in itself, an automatic water dispenser can be the solution for cats that counter surf exclusively for the purpose of finding fresh drinking water. I've compared the top brands on the market here.

Give Him Legal Jumping Targets

Invest in (or build) a climbing tree or a cat tower for your kitty. Make it interesting enough to hold his attention, and once in awhile, "sweeten the deal" by hiding a tasty treat at the top. Pet him and praise him when he uses his climbing tree, so he will associate it with positive feelings.

By using a little ingenuity and staying "one jump" ahead of your cat, you should be able to discourage counter-surfing by your cat.

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