A cat lying on its side on a kitchen countertop.

Nothing is safe when cats jump on the countertops: cups spilled, picture frames tossed off the ledge and snacks eaten. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to make Fluffy stay off those alluring counters. So if you’re wondering how to correct common cat behaviors and stop your cat from jumping on the counter, read on!

Despite stereotypes of crying kittens stuck in trees, cats are agile and competent climbers. In the wild, they used this skill to hide from prey, rest in warm places away from predators and survey their territory. In your home, cats are still attempting to do these things, and it’s your breakables that pay the price.

What NOT to Do When Keeping Cats Off Tables or Kitchen Counters

  • Don’t scold or physically apply punishment when the cat jumps. Your cat might get off the counter that one time, but they won’t learn to stay down — they will only learn to be frightened of you.
  • After your cat jumps up, don’t shove them off of a ledge. They might fall and get hurt. Instead, keep a spray bottle handy. A light spritz of water every time your cat hops on the counter or table will discourage some cats in a hurry. Others might not care!
  • Don’t use loud or painful environmental punishers (like motion detectors that make loud noises). Your cat may become skittish and frightened of the entire room or house, not just that area.
  • Don’t leave food scraps on the table or kitchen counters. They’re like treats to cats!

​​Instead, consider these steps to discourage your cats from being kings of the countertops.

Step 1: Figure out why your cat is so drawn to those areas.

When wondering how to keep a cat off the table or how to stop a cat from jumping on counter tops, it helps to consider why they’re so interested in the first place. What are their reasons? Are they perching on the windowsill to watch birds? Snoozing on the warm fridge? Or just prowling around, looking for stuff to do and being destructive? All of these symptoms are your cat trying to talk to you about their environment. Maybe they just want a little of your attention, and that’s where you are.

Step 2: Provide substitutes to kitchen counters or tables.

Before you can successfully dissuade your cat from hanging out on the counters and tables, you will need to fulfill their needs in other ways. Perhaps a cat tree or climbing shelves, access to other windows, or a pet bed in a warm place would be a welcome substitute. Cat trees are readily available in every pet store. Just ask for cat trees or the cat tower aisle.

If your cat is knocking items off of shelves and tables, you may need to increase the mental stimulation of your home by providing new or different toys and games. Your cat’s behavior might be less than desirable because they have too much mental or physical energy.

Step 3: Make the countertops less alluring.

If your feline friend is drawn to the warmth and view of the window, close the blinds. If they like to snack, make sure the counters are clean and there are no dishes in the sink. If your cat likes to prowl the countertops, provide a cat counter deterrent! Temporarily cover them with aluminum foil to provide an unpleasant but harmless texture. When cats jump, they don’t like surprises, and the feel of unexpected aluminum foil will make them think twice next time. Double- sided tape can work the same way but isn’t great for some surfaces. Cats hate both textures!

Step 4: Provide playtime, every day.

Your cat needs to exercise for at least 10 minutes twice per day. Playing together will increase your bond and provide stimulation so Kitty won’t be so tempted by the interesting countertops. Try some tried-and-true kitty classics, like chasing a string or spraying toys with liquid catnip.

Step 5: Choose your battles.

Many cat owners choose to allow some kitchen counter climbing. Cats are natural climbers, and many cats like to be around their human families, drawn to high places in the room where their humans are hanging out. If your kitty simply can’t break their countertop habit, you may need to accept it as the price of admission for that cat’s love and companionship. Just frequently clean the kitchen counter so you’re not interacting with litter box residue!

Keep Your Cat Happy and Out of Trouble? Easy!

Wondering how to keep your cat off of counters and tables sometimes seems like a full-time job. But with a little investigation, some alternative climbing perches, positive reinforcement, and maybe even some clicker training methods, keeping your cat off the counter might be easier than you think.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.