How to Keep Cats Off Counters

How to Keep Cats Off Counters
(Nick Karvounis/Shutterstock)

One of the difficulties I’ve had with my new kitten, Whiskers, is that he likes to jump up on the kitchen counters. It’s actually hard to get mad at him for it, because he genuinely doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with it. When I react, he looks at me like, “What?” I realize he doesn’t know any better and it’s my job to learn how to keep cats off counters and train him the right way. Here are the tips I’ve learned so far to keep cats off kitchen counters. I hope these help you too!


Why Do Cats Jump Up on Counters?

First, let’s talk about the reasons why cats jump up on kitchen counters to begin with:

Cats love to be in high places. It’s a natural instinct for cats to want to be up high because it’s a great vantage point to watch out for predators and also to find prey.

Counters are cool in the summer. I had a cat several years ago who would spend most summer days laying in the tub because it was a cool surface LOL

Cats are built for jumping, and they like it.

They sometimes find food on the counters.

Cats like running water. They might like drinking from the faucet.

There’s fun stuff up there like utensils. Sometimes cats are just bored and looking for something to play with.

Is it Bad for Your Cat to Be on Your Counters?

It can be. And here’s why:
It’s unsanitary. The cat’s been in the litter box. They can spread harmful bacteria and even parasites to your counter tops with their feet. Always make sure you clean your countertop every day, especially before you prepare food.

It’s unsafe for your cat. Cats can injure themselves by jumping up onto sharp objects or a hot stove. They could expose themselves to poisonous cleaning products or eat food that’s bad for them.

(Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash)
(Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash)

How to Keep a Cat Off the Counter

One of the best ways to keep your cat off the counters is to make sure you don’t leave food out. That’s the biggest reason they’re getting up there. Then, make the countertop unpleasant for your cat by putting these things on the counters:

Double-sided sticky tape. This is actually made to stop cats from scratching furniture, but it’ll work to keep them off the counters as well.

Aluminum foil. The sound this makes when they jump on it usually startles them.

Cookie sheets. Again, the sound startles them, especially if they knock one off the counter and it falls on the floor – super loud and scary!

Clear plastic runners with nubs. These are uncomfortable for your cat to step on. (These also work well to keep your cat off the couch and other furniture, by the way).

Do not use spray deterrents, essential oils or any sort of bleach or other chemicals. These can be toxic to cats.

Remove all Temptations

Make sure your counters are clear of things like an open butter dish, fun things like utensils, crumbs, food, and bread. My cat Whiskers decided he likes my dish sponge and my SOS pad and I kept finding these on the kitchen floor in the morning. So now I put those away at night.
Make it Harder for Them to Jump Up Many cats can jump on the counter right from the floor, but you might try removing chairs or stools that are making it easier for them to jump on the counter, or place something like sticky tape or foil on that chair.

Provide Alternatives

Whiskers in a cat tree. (Courtesy of Debra Sherman)
Whiskers in a cat tree. (Courtesy of Debra Sherman)

Your cat might enjoy getting on the counter just to be in a higher place, and for a better vantage point to see everything. You might try getting them a cat tree or a window perch. That’s my cat, Whiskers in his cat tree in the pic. He spends several hours a day in it.

Make sure your cat has enough toys to keep them busy. You might try getting a couple interactive toys to keep them entertained and help burn up energy. For more information on how you can keep your cat entertained, read my article, How to Keep Indoor Cats Happy.
When you find your cat on the counter, try removing them and placing them on their cat tree or window perch, then reward them with a treat.

Try to Chill Out About This

Don’t punish your cat or scream at them for getting on the counters. This will only make them afraid of you and stressed-out cats can develop all sorts of behavioral problems.
Also, realize it’s just not worth it to constantly be angry or upset because your cat keeps getting on the counter. Discourage them as much as possible, but then just make a habit of wiping your counter with a Clorox Wipe before preparing food, make sure the counter is safe for your cat by not leaving out sharp utensils or leaving a hot stovetop unattended. And don’t keep any of your valuable breakables on the counter.

Remember that cats are cats. Their instincts will remain intact. They enjoy jumping up, being up high, finding food and playing with anything they can get their paws on. The love, companionship, affection and entertainment our cats provide for us on a daily basis far outweighs a simple annoyance like getting on the kitchen counters.

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Debra is the author of People Loving Animals, a blog devoted to the care, health, and training of dogs and cats. Debra donates 10% of all commissions earned to animal charities. To learn more about Debra visit
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