4 ways to keep your cat off the kitchen counter

Do you struggle to stop your cat from jumping on the kitchen counter? You are not alone. For many people, including those who love their cats and consider them part of the family, countertops in the kitchen are places they would like to see free of cats.

Unfortunately, cats love to climb. Combine this with curiosity, and you will find it is hard to prevent a cat from jumping on a kitchen counter. Or is it?

Forest cat on a kitchen counter besides sink
Photo by Aleksandr Zotov

In this article, you will learn how to keep your cats off kitchen counters, while still maintaining a loving relationship with your pet.

1. Use a repellent to keep your cat off the kitchen counter

The best way to keep cats away from kitchen counters is to use a repellent. It’s way better than squirting water or yelling at your cat because, depending on its ingredients, repellent has two critical features. (1) It is consistent, which will make your cat learn faster. (2) It works independently of your presence, which will save your relationship.

Motion activated pet deterrents are bet tools to keep cats off the counter
Motion-activated pet deterrents are the best tools for keeping cats off the counter

Not all cat repellents work the same way or have the same effectiveness. Here is a list of the most successful repellents to keep cats off counters:

  • Motion-activated pet deterrents. sssCat is a small battery-operated device that detects motion and releases an air burst whenever a cat approaches. It’s not harmful, but it is scary for cats. The best part, sssCat provides consistency, working every single time your cat jumps on the counter. Pretty soon, he will not even try to approach it. You can buy sssCat here.
  • Double-sided sticky tape. By sticking it on a counter, you will make a sticky surface on which most cats do not like to step. Tape works pretty well to repel cats if it is used correctly. The downside is that you have to observe which parts of the counter your cat jumps on; you really can’t cover the whole table with the sticky tape. Also, you will have to set up and remove the sticky tape several times a day. Depending on the brand and quality, it may leave sticky stains after removal.
  • Aluminum foil. This is another thing that cats do not like to step on because walking on it creates a rustling sound that they dislike. The hardest part is placing the foil on a spot on which the cat will jump and then keeping it in place (a small strip of Scotch tape will be useful). Unlike double-sided tape, it’s much easier to set up and remove when not needed.
  • Citrus fruit peels. Do you eat lemons and oranges? Their peels are great cat deterrents. Unfortunately, citrus peels dry quickly and become ineffective, usually within a few hours. No one eats that many mandarins.
  • Tin cans, filled with dry beans. Another technique involves filling a tin can (or several) with beans, peas, or similar matter and placing it on the edge of the kitchen counter. The idea is that as your cat jumps on the counter, he will knock the can over and the noise will scare him away. In real life, it’s tough to place a can so the cat will predictably knock it over. Besides, even if it happens, nothing stops your cat from coming back a minute later.
  • Find more ways to deter cats here.

2. Distract your cat when he tries to jump on the counter

Now, we’ve done some nasty stuff; it’s time to make things better for your cat. No one likes being scared, right? So here’s what you can do.

As soon as you notice that your cat is approaching the counter, distract him. You can throw a toy or kibble in the opposite direction, or you may call your cat to you. Pet him, give him a treat, or play with him if he responds. This way, you will reward him for good behavior.

You may also try a clicker, which will help you to reward your cat for good behavior and eliminate the need to carry treats with you all the time. Call your cat to you; if he comes, click a clicker, which gives you time to get the treat. You can find more information about clicker training here.

3. Provide an alternative to the counter

Cats love heights, which is one of the main reasons why they want to be on counters – besides food scraps and curiosity, of course. That being said, your cat needs to climb up! It’s a necessity with roots in your cat’s instincts, and, if you think the kitchen worktops are not an option (which is okay), you should think of another place that serves this purpose.

How about a cat tree in the kitchen? Place it in the kitchen so your cat can see what you are doing on the counter but not where he could use it as a stepping stone to the counter. It may not keep your cat off the counter entirely, but it will make things a lot easier and less stressful for your cat.

Other options might include installing shelves appropriate to your cat’s weight or a window perch in places where your cat spends his time. Our house has all three. Window sills are wide enough for cats to jump on them; we have several cat trees in different locations, and we also have shelves that form passages from one cat tree to another without them having to descend to the floor. Cats love it.

4. Stop encouraging your cat to jump on the counter

Cats usually jump on the counter because they know there must be something compelling there. In most cases, it’s food left on worktops, but cats may also be interested in other things: an outside view, running tap water, a plant on the counter, possible communication with you, and (as discussed above) a top view of your apartment.

Maybe you should stop keeping food on the counter when you are away. Put it in a fridge or a cupboard. Some people enjoy how their cat plays with the tap water but get mad if the cat jumps on the counter at other times. If that’s the case, you need to choose between letting your cat play with the water or keeping him off the counter. It can’t be both.

cats jump on kitchen counter to drink from tap
photo by Ian Stannard CC

Whatever the reason, simple observations may show you what your cat is doing up there. Once you know what is that he’s interested in, you should be able to think of a solution. Sooner or later, if a cat jumps on the counter and does not find what he’s after, he’ll stop doing it.

The last piece of advice is spending some quality time with your cat and making his surrounding more appealing to him.

Quite often, cats misbehave because of pure boredom. We, pet owners, love to note at these times that cats do such and such because they are cats, and cats do whatever they please. That is true, but we’d like to view this statement differently.

If a cat is prohibited from doing things that he likes, he will find some alternative things to do. The bad part is, those new things might not be enjoyed by their owners. Maybe it’s time to find something that you and your cat both like and do it. This, in turn, will keep your cat off the kitchen counter without too much hassle.

Does your cat misbehave in other ways, too? See our list of most common cat behavior problems and, of course, their solutions.