How to Keep Cats Off Counters Successfully

by Alexa

Owning a cat can bring love, laughter, cuddles, and lots of adventure into your life. They’re curious creatures who love to explore. Cats can go from splaying out on the floor in full relaxation mode to springing up onto high surfaces like countertops. While it’s fun to watch their wild traits play out, their perching on unwanted places can be a nuisance.

If you’ve ever wondered how to keep cats off counters, we have you covered with this guide.

Why Do Cats Jump on Counters?

Why Do Cats Jump on Counters?

Cats are expressive creatures. When they feel threatened (or even just disturbed), they’ll express their natural instinct to climb. “High vantage points allow your cat to observe the world from a place of safety and escape if it feels the need to do so,” explain the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals.

Other times, it’s just about what feels good mentally and physically. Cats are built to climb, with physical attributes like hydraulic haunches that spring them through the air, and claws meant for gripping and pulling them up to high places. Their curious attitudes keep them on their toes as they seek spaces to explore. 

How to Keep Cats off Counters

Although it’s instinctual for their species, finding cats on counters can be frustrating. The gross bacteria on the bottom of their paws from burying their excrement in their litter trays, grime on their bodies from outdoor adventures, and fur shedding abound not only leave behind a mess but can dirty up your countertops and leave bacteria behind. If the surfaces they land on are where you cook or eat, it’s especially yucky.

You may have tried some training tactics to keep your cats off counters, but haven’t figured out how to make them stick. Luckily, these methods for how to keep cats off counters should do the trick in keeping felines on the floor by resisting the temptation in the first place.

Note: Remember, the least effective way to correct unwanted cat behavior is by scaring your cat. Do not physically or verbally punish them. Your cat may respond by hiding when you’re around, and jumping on the countertop when you’re out of sight. 

Remove Temptation

If your cat smells something they like, they’re going to go after it. If you leave food on the counter, they’ll gladly spring to the smell.

Keep counters clean of food, including crumbs and scraps, unless of course you’re cooking or eating yourself. The same goes for glasses of water—cats love to curiously stick their noses in your abandoned cup, so be sure to remove the temptation.

If your cat likes to jump on the counter while you’re eating or cooking food, try distracting them with their food by filling up and giving them their own treat-hunting or feeding toy. This will encourage them to use their natural hunting instincts to maneuver their treat out instead of climbing up to eat your meal.

DIY cat run with high shelves

Redirect Their Interest

If your cat still searches for higher ground in the form of your counters, try giving them another place to explore. Cat furniture such as cat trees, and wall-mounted shelves displayed at varying heights are great options.

A kitty condo or DIY cat hammock like the one made in the video above gives cats the option to climb and rest.

If placed near a window, they’ll have all the things they love: a front-row seat to the outside world, the warmth of the sun, the opportunity to climb, and a designated space for their hourly cat nap.

Aluminum foil on the countertop

Cover the Countertop With an Unpleasant Material

Despite your best efforts to place knickknacks on countertops, you may have noticed cats somehow find the one sliver of space available on counters to claim their own. However, if you cover the countertop with an unpleasant material, it may be just the trick to keep cats off.

According to the experts at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), cats strongly dislike the following materials:

  • Sticky paper or tape
  • Aluminum foil
  • Heavy plastic or a plastic carpet runner (knubby side up)
  • Sandpaper

Try taping sheets of these materials on counters in areas you want to be off-limits to your pet. When your cat jumps up, they’ll likely jump right off at the feeling of the unpleasant material under their paws.

Use Loud Noises

Keep a jar of coins, dried beans, or uncooked pasta on the counter. When your cat jumps on the counter, discourage them by shaking the jar so it makes a rattling noise.

Or try balancing lightweight cookie sheets on the edge of the counter. If your cat jumps up, the sheets will likely topple over, making an unpleasant noise.

A simple, stern “No,” might even work. Just remember: You’re not trying to scare your cat, but making these noises will likely teach your cat not to run the risk of jumping on the counter again.

Oranges on the kitchen counter

Use Scents to Deter Them

Another way to keep cats off counters is to deter them with unpleasant-to-them scents. The MSPCA recommends these scents to drive cats away: 

  • Citronella
  • Perfumes
  • Solid air fresheners
  • Citrus
  • Aloe
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Oil of wintergreen

Try soaking pieces of cloth or cotton balls in one of these substances and placing them on the countertop. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your pet if you use this tactic—essential oils are dangerous for cats to consume. Or, try to opt for countertop cleaners that come in these scents.

How to Clean Counters After Cat Activity

Whether or not you know where your cat’s paws have been, it’s a good idea to disinfect your countertops after the cat has come in contact with them. Wipe down your counters with a clean towel and an antibacterial agent after you spot your cat on the counter and before any sort of food preparation.

Keeping Cats Off Counters

Do you have a cat that loves to jump on kitchen counters? If so, do you have any tips to share? Comment below—we love to hear from you!

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2 of 5 comments
  • JaredCarrillo JaredCarrillo on Jul 20, 2023

    Thanks! My cat is driving me crazy because of this stupid habit

  • TobiasSlater TobiasSlater on Aug 01, 2023

    From my experience, a few things that have helped are providing alternative elevated surfaces like cat trees or shelves, using double-sided tape on the edges of the counter, and keeping the counters clear of enticing items. Redirecting their attention with interactive toys and positive reinforcement when they stay off the counters can also work wonders. I have Ragdolls, and it worked for me. So, check it out!