How to Keep Your Cat Off the Counter

Experts explain the behavioral training that will finally put a stop to this bad habit.

Ask any cat owner and they'll probably say the same: Cats love jumping onto counters. "Being up high is a natural behavior that allows cats to survey their territory and helps them feel safe from potential threats," says certified feline training and behavior specialist Paula Garber. "They might also jump onto counters to access food or other interesting items, to look out a window, to get attention from humans, or to avoid another cat or a dog, or a young child." While having your cat on the counter might be okay in some cases, there are certain instances—like when you're cooking—where it could be downright dangerous. "Having your cat on the counter could lead to physical injury through contact with knives and other sharp kitchen utensils; burns and fires through access to the stove and control knobs; and poisoning by getting into foods, plants, flowers, cleaners, and other toxic substances," Garber explains. "And it is well known that cats like to knock items off of counters, and if those items are glass or similarly breakable into sharp pieces, they can pose a risk to humans and other animals in the home."

Ready to hear how to stop your beloved feline friend from getting too comfy on their countertop perch? Here are a handful of things Garber says you can do to keep your cat off your countertops for good.

Keep your counters clean and clear.

It might seem like a no-brainer but if there's anything on your counter that's interesting to your cat, there's a good chance they'll want to jump up there. "Keep food, dirty dishes, cat treats, toys, plants, flowers, and other enticing items off the counters," Garber says. "Also avoid storing your cat's food and treats in above-counter cabinets."

Supply a different window perch.

If your cat likes to jump onto the counter to look out a window, Garber suggests creating an alternative place for it to perch. "Cover the window with a blind or window film, and provide an alternative elevated perch to give the cat access to a different window nearby," she says. "Lure the cat to the perch with treats and toys, and positively reinforce the cat for being on the perch with verbal praise, attention, treats—whatever is rewarding to your individual cat."

Install a cat tree (or two).

If your cat is jumping onto the counter to avoid another animal or a young child, Garber recommends placing tall cat trees around your home so your cat will have a safe place to hide. "Like countertops, cat trees offer a place for cats to get up high and away from dogs or children," Garber says.

Try clicker training.

If you weren't already hip to clicker training—a pet training method where clicking sounds are used to reinforce positive behaviors—then now's the time to smarten up. "Clicker training your cat to go to a perch, a cat bed or mat, or the floor is a fun way to teach your cat an alternative behavior to jumping on the counter while providing mental stimulation, social contact with you, and opportunities to earn reinforcers," Garber says.

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