How to Train Your Cat to Keep Off Counters


You probably know that “herding cats” is an impossible task about the futility of getting a group of individuals to go in the same direction. While it may be tough to bring a clowder of cats to consensus, you absolutely can train a cat to follow rules you set and to do fun tricks. Here’s how.

Cat training relies on trust: earn it from kitty before you begin


If you’re planning to train your cat to keep away from areas or to do other fun things like fetch or high five, the first thing you need to work on is your relationship with kitty. Both humans and animals want to work with, be around, and please those they have a connection with. Cats are no exception, so become friends with kitty before moving to training. Both humans and animals want to work with, be around, and please those they have a connection with. Cats are no exception, so become friends with kitty before moving to training.


Knowing how to speak cat is also important for successful training. Cat language differs from human, but we can learn to decipher what kitty is telling us with their body language and the noises they make. You’ll want to brush up on your cat language skills before beginning training so you can communicate more effectively what you want kitty to do as well as when you (and kitty) are pleased or displeased by an action. before beginning training so you can communicate more effectively what you want kitty to do as well as when you (and kitty) are pleased or displeased by an action.


If you’re unsure what kitty may be feeling, follow these tips for how to know if your cat is happy, and try to keep training sessions short, frequent, and fun.

How do you keep cats off counters?


The trick to teaching cats to keep away from certain areas like countertops is to make the off-limits areas less enticing and other areas more desirable – all while understanding kitty psychology and instinct. Here are 5 ways to help train your cat to stay off of counters and tables:


  1. Make the surface sticky or crinkly.
  2. Reduce access and appeal.
  3. Associate loud noise with the counter.
  4. Use scents that cats dislike.
  5. Make sure the faucet is completely off.


1. Keep cats off counters by making the surface sticky or crinkly


One of the best tools to train cats not to do something is packing tape or double-sided tape. Cats do not like sticky surfaces and will keep away from areas that don’t feel good on their paws. Use this to your advantage to make countertops and tables no fun to climb on. Here are 3 ways:


  • Put loops of tape along the edge of your counter, sticky side up. You can do this in the evening before you go to bed or in the morning before you leave for work to deter kitty from jumping. You can also buy cat training tape that is sticky on two sides, which also works great on sofa arms and other furniture you want to train kitty not to scratch.
  • Buy inexpensive placements or use cardboard, and apply the tape to them. If you don’t want to put the tape directly on your countertop (and have to take it off each time you want to prep food), put the tape on sheets of cardboard or a placemat and then put them on the counter when you’re not using it. Same principle as #1, but easier to remove quickly and doesn’t leave sticky residue to clean off on your counter or tabletop.
  • Use aluminum foil on your countertop. Although foil isn’t sticky, the slick and crinkly surface is one cats don’t enjoy on their paws. Instead of tape, try covering the front edge of your countertop with aluminum foil to deter kitty.


2. Reduce your cat’s access to the countertop and lower temptation


Cats want to get on countertops because they are curious explorers and because they enjoy being up high. Your counter may also have remnants of food: either actual crumbs and bits or the scent of last night’s salmon, making it a tempting location for a possible treat.


To help keep cats from counters make sure you:


  • Clean up dishes with food remnants from countertops and kitchen sinks.
  • Wipe down countertops after preparing food. See tip #4 about using a scented cleaner that offends kitty.


Also, don’t make it easier for kitty to jump on counters. Remove any stools, carts, boxes or other items that kitty can spring from to get onto counters. Note: most cats can easily jump from the floor to a standard counter height, so this doesn’t stop all access, but it can reduce the circuit in kitty’s game of The Floor is Lava and deter older or less agile cats who need the boost.


3. Associate being on the counter with a negative outcome


Cats do not like loud noises and can learn to associate a noise with an action or location. That works for both positive and negative reinforcement, so associating the countertop with an unpleasant sound and outcome can help deter future attempts to jump up.


If you see your cat jump on the counter, clapping loudly will encourage them to jump back down. To use the same principle but without having to watch, try placing cookie sheets on the counter or table, with part of the sheet hanging over the edge. If kitty jumps up, the metal tray will crash to the ground when your cat’s paws hit it. Be aware though: kitty may wake you up in the middle of the night with their attempt, but it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence!


4. Use a solution with a scent cats dislike


Cats (and dogs) dislike citrus smells, so using a cleaning solution that is lemon-scented will help make the counters less appealing. Peppermint and eucalyptus are other strong scents you can use to deter cats from lounging on countertops or tables.


5. Keep the faucet off and address any drips


Many cats love running water and some get downright obsessed with faucets and sinks. The kitchen sink and the water that drips from its faucet are big reasons why many cats want to get on the counter in the first place. Make sure you turn the faucet off completely and if you have a drippy faucet – no matter how small – it will be irresistible to most cats. Fix the drip, reduce kitty’s faucet fixation!


cat jumping onto the kitchen counter

Never use physical punishment when training a cat

While there are several ways to train a cat, one thing you should not do is use physical punishment or attempt to dominate a cat. Cats do not understand that a punishment is connected to an action they did, so all you are doing is making them afraid of you or an object, like a spray bottle.


Holding down a cat to “show that you’re the alpha” may work with dogs, but it will cause you to break the bond with a cat and have them retreat from you. You’ll go backward in your relationship and your training, so don’t try any domination or physical punishment methods when trying to train your cat.


Litter training your cat

Before you train a cat to do anything else, make sure they are litter box trained. Read more about it in our how to litter train a kitten article.

Tips to freshen things up

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