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How to Keep Your Cat Off of the Kitchen Counter

By: Dr. Liz Bales

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Who isn’t struggling to keep their cats off of the kitchen counter? Cats seem magnetically drawn to the very place where we least want them to be.

Actually, there is a reason they are drawn to the kitchen counter, and here’s why. A cat will always seek to be on the highest surface in the room that they can easily get to. This instinct serves them well in nature; cats climb to the highest available perch so that they are safe and able to survey their surroundings for danger.

Let’s think about how that plays out in your kitchen. Is the kitchen counter the highest place in the room that they can get to easily? Go into your kitchen and look around…..Go ahead, I’ll wait….Yep. I thought so. 

So, how do you keep cats off of the kitchen counter? You may have been told to spray cats with water or even to use motion activated halloween ghoul to scare them away. Or how about using aluminum foil or sticky tape because cats dislike walking on those surfaces? These tactics usually don’t work.  And, to make matters worse, punishment-based techniques make cats scared, anxious, and stressed, which can cause other behaviour problems.

With Mother Nature’s strong drive, is it possible to keep your cat off of the kitchen counter?

Yes.

First, let’s look at why they are up there in the first place. Cats need to climb and perch in the highest place in the room to feel safe. Once we humans understand this, we can start to look at the problem differently. Instead of scaring your cat and punishing them in ways they don’t understand, you can give your cat an even better place in your kitchen to feel safe.

Find a climbing and perching solution for your kitchen that is easy for your cat to use and higher than the kitchen counter, giving them a great view of the room.  This can be a cat tree, bookshelves or even a beautiful climbing wall.

Once you install your solution, your cat might take some time to get used to the new and improved perching place. Don’t get frustrated. As a solitary survivor, cats instinctively know that no one is coming to protect them or save them from danger. Cats feel safe when things in their environment smell like them. You can take your cat’s favourite bedding and rub it on the new kitchen climber to help put your cat’s scent on it. Then, you can make a Hansel and Gretel style trail of treats up onto the climber and feed your cat’s food and treats up on the perch to encourage exploration. Then, every time your cat jumps on your counter, gently and kindly pick him up and place him on the new perch.

Soon enough, your cat will prefer their cozy option to your counters.

That’s how you solve cat problems. Knowledge, creativity and kindness for the win!

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