When getting a new kitten or cat, one of the issues pet owners can have difficulty with is keeping the cat off of kitchen counters and dining room tables. Approaching this issue from the perspective of the cat can go a long way in training the cat to keep off of these surfaces.

Why do cats like to go onto counters and tables? Cats have a natural tendency to want to climb and they tend to be drawn to higher places. Countertops and tables are just another area to explore and may offer interesting “toys” to play with like silverware or other things left on the counter, and food items to investigate or eat. Countertops and tables may also provide different and interesting views of the outdoors if windows are close, or a convenient way to get out of reach of rambunctious dogs or children.

These high places will be even more tempting if other alternatives are few. A good way to make countertops and tables less appealing is to provide other places that are more appealing. Several interesting cat towers, window perches or wall mounted cat “shelves” can give kitty the high places they seek. Use treats and toys to lure the cat to the places you want them to use, while making the places you don’t want them to go less appealing. Make sure counter tops are kept clutter free (eliminating makeshift “toys”) and always free of food items. Temporarily placing a carpet runner upside down on counters or tables creates an unpleasant texture that cats will often avoid. Cats also tend to dislike citrus scents, so cleaning counters with citrus scented products can  be helpful in some cases. Double sided tape on large pieces of cardboard set on the counter or table can help (cats don’t like the sticky surface on their feet), or you can try cat “scat mats” (check Amazon or Chewy) which are made for this purpose. You may need to experiment or change things up to see what works and the time it takes to change this habit will depend on the cat and the amount of more interesting places to go up high you provide.

Some cats are attracted to sinks because they learn there is “fresh” water available from faucets. Providing a “cat water fountain” (check Amazon or Chewy) can help provide the fresh, running water that your cat is seeking.

Avoid the temptation to use punishment (yelling or startling) or water bottles to squirt the cat. Doing so often just makes the cat avoid you rather than the counter. Startled cats are also more apt to scramble quickly and risk injuring themselves. Cats that are punished can become more anxious, because from their perspective your behavior is unpredictable and alarming. The connection between what they are doing and how you are reacting is often not understood. Since the “punishment” happens only when you are present, the association becomes about you rather than about going on the counter (nothing happens when kitty goes on the counter when no one is around).

Make sure your cat has plenty of different types of toys, paper bags, boxes and places to climb and explore. Rotate toys often to keep things interesting. Food puzzles can provide entertainment and enrichment keeping your cat occupied and mentally stimulated.

Having a plan in place, being consistent and offering your cat plenty of cat friendly places to get higher up will go a long way to help your cat learn that counter tops and tables are not worth investigating.