Many people want to keep their cats off counters and tables.
But the more you try to discipline a cat, the more you set yourself up for failure and a lousy relationship with your cat. (Honestly, this is partly what endears cats to me, but that’s another story.)
The good news is you can break your cats of their obsession with counters and tables without using discipline. I’ve checked advice written by a couple of successful cat behaviorists (Jackson Galaxy and Amy Shojai) against my own experience and prior reading, so I’m confident about the strategy I’m sharing with you here.
The most important thing about convincing a cat
What I’ve learned is “first, do no harm,” because with a cat the most important thing is trust. If your cat sees you as a punisher, his trust in you erodes quickly, which means any behavior you might think you’ve “corrected” can surface as another issue in a different costume.
Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy wrote that if a cat loses trust in you–even from you repeatedly pointing a squirt bottle at them—“…it can cause more behavior problems, fears and phobias that you hadn’t considered. Depending on your cat’s background, this may be a bigger Pandora’s box than with other cats.”
The other important point: they’re smart
Any good cat behaviorist will tell you that cats are smart enough to avoid something you disapprove of when you’re around, and then do it you’re not around. But you already knew that.
So the trick is:
1. Convince the cat that the counter is an unpleasant place to be whether or not you are around. Not that hard to do because once a cat deems something unpleasant they lose interest in it for good. Here’s how:
- For a few days keep typical landing areas on the counter covered with Sticky Paws double-sided tape. Cats hate the way it feels. It’s worked like a charm on sofa edges for us too. Leave it on for a few weeks, then remove it—it shouldn’t be needed anymore. They avoid the area then. It seems to remove easily without damaging anything.
- Alternatives: Try covering the countertop with aluminum foil. Or, if desperate, try a motion detecting nontoxic sprayer called Ssscat that you can get on Amazon.com.
2. Provide your cat with alternative high points in the house that they can jump on.
Cats are climbers and “anti-gravity” by nature. They don’t jump on counters simply to torture us.
An indoor cat tree or couple of permissible dressers or tables would work well.
As Jackson Galaxy wrote, this “will give your cats a place to climb…where you can praise them for doing what is, after all, natural to them.”
Of course, with any cat behavior that is challenging, there may be more going on than meets the eye. If the above doesn’t actually do the trick at your house, you may want to consider a consultation with a behaviorist like Galaxy or Shojai.