Can You Train Cats Not To Go On Kitchen Counters?

Why Do Cats Love Getting Up on Your Counters So Much?

Is your cat constantly jumping onto kitchen counters and other surfaces? This frustrating and unsanitary behavior is common in many cats. But why do they do it, and what can you do to keep them off?

Cats love elevated spaces, and will often explore and walk across any raised area they can access. Counters and tables provide the perfect vantage point for curious kitties. Cats also love being in the middle of household activity and will jump up to investigate anytime food preparation or cooking is happening.

While it’s normal for cats to be drawn to counters, it can pose risks for both pet and owner. In this article, we’ll cover why cats counter surf, problems it can cause, and effective training techniques to teach your cat to stay off kitchen counters and other furniture.

Why Cats Go on Counters

Many cats will jump onto counters for a variety of natural reasons. One main motivation is their natural instinct to seek high vantage points for hunting or security purposes. In the home, elevated surfaces like counters allow cats to survey their territory from above (Slate).

Cats may also jump on counters while in search of food or water, especially if their normal food bowls are empty. When curious or bored, cats may explore counters simply to investigate what’s there. And for attention-seeking cats, counters offer a convenient way to get their owner’s attention (Argos).

Risks of Countertop Surfing

Cats walking on kitchen counters can pose several risks that cat owners should be aware of:

Contaminating food prep areas – Cat paws can pick up bacteria and parasites. According to Mayo Clinic, cat feces can contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, which can infect humans through contact. Allowing cats on counters where food is prepared and served increases risk of contamination and foodborne illness ( Thoroughly cleaning counters and not allowing cats while food prep is happening is advised.

Burns from hot surfaces – If cats jump onto hot stoves or surfaces fresh out of the oven, they risk serious burns. Keeping cats off cooking surfaces when in use reduces this risk.

Falling from high places – Cats can fall from countertops and injure themselves. Providing alternative elevated surfaces like cat trees reduces this risk.

Breaking items – Cats exploring counters may inadvertently knock over or break items stored there. Keeping valuables secured and reinforcing “off” training protects belongings.

Training Techniques

There are several effective techniques you can use to train your cat to stay off kitchen counters:

Use treats to reward staying off counters – One of the best training methods is positive reinforcement. Give your cat treats and praise when they are on the floor or an approved cat tree/perch, and ignore them when they’re on the counter. They will learn that being on the floor brings rewards. As soon as your cat jumps down from the counter, reward them. Over time, they will associate leaving the counter with getting a treat. Be patient and consistent with this method.[1]

Provide alternative high spaces for cats – Make sure your cat has access to other elevated surfaces like cat trees, shelves, or perches. Place these near windows or where your cat likes to spend time. Giving them approved places to climb and perch will reduce their need to use the counters.

Use citrus or tin foil as deterrents – Place citrus peels or strips of tin foil on the counter when not in use. Cats dislike the scent and texture. However, this is just a temporary deterrent, not a standalone training method. Remove the peels/foil before using the counter yourself.[2]

Keep counters clean and free of food – Don’t leave any food, dirty dishes or tempting smells on the counters. This removes the reward and motivation for jumping up. Maintain clean counters at all times.

Positive Reinforcement

One effective training technique is to use positive reinforcement. This involves rewarding your cat with treats, praise or affection when they demonstrate the desired behavior of avoiding the kitchen counters. You want to reinforce the action of being on the floor rather than on the counters.

According to experts at Chirpy Cats, you can do this by keeping treats on you and immediately rewarding your cat when you see them on the floor in the kitchen. You can also pair the treat with verbal praise like “good kitty!” so they start associating the praise with avoiding the counters.

Petting or giving extra affection when they are on the floor and not attempting to jump on counters will also reinforce that desirable behavior. The key is to be consistent and reward every time they choose the floor over the counters so they learn that’s where they get your praise and affection.

Provide Alternatives

One effective way to discourage cats from jumping on kitchen counters is to provide appealing alternatives that satisfy their natural instinct to climb and perch up high. According to the ASPCA, placing cat trees, shelves, and perches in rooms away from the kitchen can divert cats away from counters by giving them appropriate surfaces to climb and rest on.1 Structured cat furniture with different levels, platforms, scratching surfaces, and hideaways allows cats to climb, play, scratch, and survey their territory from a height. Strategically placing cat furniture near windows, in living rooms, or in home offices can meet a cat’s need to perch high and observe the home.

The key is providing surfaces that cats find more attractive and comfortable than kitchen counters. Cat trees and shelving units made of natural materials like wood and sisal rope are ideal because they allow cats to scratch and climb. Placing toys, treats, catnip, and padded surfaces on cat furniture makes them even more enticing to cats. By directing cats toward appropriate outlets for their natural climbing and perching behaviors, cat furniture reduces unwanted counter surfing and allows cats to satisfy their instincts in a safe, healthy way.


There are several deterrents you can use to try to keep cats off kitchen counters. Two common options are aluminum foil and double-sided tape. Laying sheets of aluminum foil or strips of double-sided tape along the countertops creates an unpleasant surface for cats to walk on, which should deter them from jumping up.

You can also try using citrus scents, as many cats strongly dislike the smell of citrus. Apply some lemon or orange essential oils along the edges of the counter, or place slices of oranges and lemons along the counter edges. Just be careful with essential oils around cats, as some like citronella can be toxic to them in high concentrations. The smell of citrus may be unpleasant enough to keep the cat from jumping up.

Some key things to note about deterrents:
– They may discourage but not completely prevent counter surfing, so you likely need to pair them with other training techniques (Source).
– They need to be reapplied frequently to stay effective as the scents fade.
– Cats can potentially get used to the deterrents over time.

Deterrents can be part of an effective counter surfing prevention strategy, but generally work best alongside active training techniques focused on positive reinforcement.

Environment Changes

Making some changes to your cat’s environment can help discourage them from jumping on kitchen counters. Here are some tips:

Keep counters clean and free of food scraps. Cats can smell leftover food particles, which will entice them to jump up and investigate. Thoroughly wiping down surfaces helps remove any tempting smells. You can also try a cat-safe cleaning spray made with citrus, lavender, or lemongrass.

Block access to the kitchen when you’re not around. Use baby gates or closed doors to prevent your cat from entering and jumping on counters while unattended. This restricts their access and reduces opportunities to engage in the unwanted behavior.

Make sure trash cans are covered and food is sealed or stored in cabinets. Don’t leave dirty dishes or empty food wrappers sitting out. Keeping counters clutter-free and tidying up after meals are key for deterring curious cats.

Consistency is Key

When training cats to stay off kitchen counters, consistency is absolutely crucial. As the experts from Wisconsin Humane Society note, “Consistency is the most important key to stopping your cat from counter-jumping.” Here are some tips for maintaining consistency:

– Train all household members on techniques – Make sure everyone in the household is on the same page when it comes to training the cat. Explain the techniques being used so everyone can reinforce them consistently.

– Apply training daily – Don’t just train occasionally; make it a daily routine to reinforce wanted behaviors and deter unwanted ones. Cats thrive on consistency.

– Be patient, it takes time to break habit – Like any behavior change, breaking a habit takes time and persistence. It may take weeks or months for a cat to fully stop jumping on counters. Remain patient and keep applying the training techniques consistently.

When to Seek Help

If you’ve consistently implemented the training techniques for 3-4 weeks with little improvement in your cat’s behavior, it may be time to seek professional help. According to, lack of progress could indicate an underlying medical issue causing the behavior, or high levels of stress and anxiety in your cat.

Signs your cat may be struggling with anxiety include aggression, excessive vocalization, and inappropriate urination. If you notice any of these issues in addition to persistent counter surfing, discuss them with your veterinarian to rule out potential health problems. Your vet may recommend anti-anxiety medication or pheromone diffusers to help calm your cat.

You can also consider working with a certified cat behaviorist. They can observe your cat’s behavior patterns and environment first-hand to provide tailored training recommendations. A consultation with an expert may reveal small tweaks that can make a big difference in curbing your cat’s counter surfing for good.

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