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How to Prevent Your Cat from Jumping on Counters and Tables

how to stop your cat from jumping on countertops

Last Updated by Brandon F. on May 21, 2020

Cats naturally want to explore and climb.  Their bodies, thanks to their strong legs, great sense of balance, and sharp claws, are perfect for reaching the tall areas of your home.  Also, cats naturally feel safer and secure when elevated as it allows them to get a better view of their surroundings and any potential threats that might lie in wait.

While these traits might be good (and necessary) in the wild, they can become a nuisance in an indoor setting where there aren’t any threats that need to be avoided.  Long-haired cats can leave behind hair, cats with claws can scratch table surfaces, and there may be exposed food or drinks on tables that cats could potentially get into.

Because of these reasons and many others, a lot of owners try to encourage their cats to stay off of counters and tables.  But that isn’t always an easy thing to do!  To help, we will go over a few Do’s (and Dont’s!) for preventing your cat from jumping on counters and tables.

Don’t Discourage a Cat From Being a Cat

Before we go over our list, we want to emphasize that there point here isn’t to stop cats from jumping and climbing.  These are ingrained traits of cats and trying to take them away is like trying to take running and smelling away from dogs or swimming and bedding for fish.  These are essential parts of a cat’s life and trying to teach your cat to not be a cat is not only a fruitless endeavor but could leave your cat stressed and unhappy.

Instead, the goal here is to encourage your cat to jump, climb, and explore in areas that you deem as acceptable.

This brings us to our first tip:

Buy a Cat Tree, Cat Maze, or install shelves especially for your cat

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Cat trees are becoming increasingly popular and are heaven-sent for owners of apartments or small homes who want to constrict their cat’s climbing and jumping habits to one location.  There are cat trees that you simply stand upon the ground and other, more elaborate ones that you can hang from the ceiling or even mount to the wall!  You have probably seen some photos or Youtube videos of cat owners who have gone all out and constructed elaborate cat mazes that wind throughout the walls of their home.

While we think that may be a bit unnecessary for most people, it goes to show the level of flexibility you can have.

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For people who don’t want the sometimes unattractive appearance of a cat tree in their living area and would prefer something more subtle, consider installing an elevated shelf just for your cat to climb on.  You can initially put food, treats, or water upon this new shelf to encourage your cat to jump up and explore.  After a short period, your cat will be trained to want to jump up there naturally and this may help them to avoid jumping on tables and counters that are off-limits.

For some people, there simply won’t be room to install a cat tree or a new shelf.  In that case, consider our next tip:

Using Cat Repellents

Cat repellents can come in several forms. There are commercial products that come in both sprays and granule form that you can spray/sprinkle on to areas that you want to keep cat-free.  These scents and fumes associated with these repellents are designed to be a turn-off to cats and something that they will try to avoid.

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If there is a particular counter or tabletop that your cat seems to absolutely love, try putting some of this repellent into the area for a couple of weeks and see if it teaches your cat to avoid that area.  Over time, your cat may be naturally inclined to avoid it and you won’t have to continue using the repellent.

That being said, a lot of people aren’t huge fans of repellents.  The thought of having to pour or spray a foul-smelling material on to areas of our home constantly isn’t something that a lot of people will want to mess with.

Other commercial repellents take advantage of sound and sometimes light.  These products have a motion sensor and will emit an ultrasonic sound and/or bright flashing lights when triggered.

The benefit of these is that there isn’t any sort of pungent and messy spray or material that you have to apply to surfaces.  This helps to avoid annoying things such as cleanup and reapplication.

However, it does mean that you might have to deal with putting up with high-frequency noises and/or annoying lights going off.  And this might also potentially bother pets that you might own such as dogs or other cats that don’t happen to have an issue with jumping on counters.  Also, these are typically outdoor products so trying to set one up inside my big a bigger hassle than it is worth.

For many, using repellents may be somewhat of a “nuclear” option.  If you are wanting to create a deterrent for cats jumping on tables and counters but without the use of chemicals or high-frequency noises, you could take a more passive route:

Create Distractions or Obstacles on Counters/Tabletops

This approach entails putting potentially annoying distractions and/or obstacles on top of counters and tables that your cat likes to jump on.  This can include things such as a strip of aluminum foil that will make noise and crumble up when your cat jumps on it, bells that will jingle whenever you cat moves them, or paper sacks that will slide and crumble when your cat lands on it.

cat aluminum foil

Laying a sheet of aluminum foil on the edge of a table is a good way to make your cat want to avoid jumping on it.

Other good examples that we have come across are laying down sheets of baking sheets, placing the double-sided sticky tape on the edges of the counters, or creating a “noise trap”.  A good noise trap is putting some spare change into an empty soda can.  Place this soda can at the edge of the counter in a spot that will require your cat knocking it over to jump on the counter.

These subtle but effective obstacles can make what was once a favorite hangout spot for you can turn into nothing more than a nuisance.  Cats like the area that they land on to be smooth and not create a lot of noise upon impact.  This goes back to their feline traits of being stealthy.

A more proactive approach involves actively monitoring your cat.  When you happen to see your feline jump onto an area he or she is not supposed to be, going over and making noise and distracting your cat can be equally effective.  The goal here is to instill in your cat the notion that any time that he or she jumps onto that counter or tabletop, annoying things occur.  Once they create the connection between the action and that result, they are much less likely to continue to jump there.

Also, it goes without saying, but avoid putting food, water, or anything that might interest a cat on the table.  If there is constant food sitting on that particular table, that might be what is causing the cat to jump up there.  Also, if your cat is constantly searching for food, make sure that it is being adequately fed and consider feeding smaller servings more times per day to appease its desire to search for food.

Things NOT to Do

We have gone through some helpful tips to try to stop your cat from jumping on tables and countertops.  Now we will go over some things NOT to do.

Don’t Physically Punish Your Cat by Spanking or Swatting

Physical punishment is rarely the correct answer.  Typically, your cat won’t associate you spanking it as punishment for jumping on a table.  Instead, it will just come to fear to be around you.  It is important to create a connection between what your cat is doing wrong and its punishment and physical violence is not the way to go.

Don’t Yell at Your Cat

Similar to physical punishment, loudly screaming at your cat will only work to confuse and frighten it.  While a cat can be taught to react to commands and sounds, taking the “loud and angry” approach isn’t the proper method.

Don’t Push Your Cat Off of the Counter

Some people might think that a good distraction is to physically push or shoo your cat off of a tabletop or counter.  This is not effective because, by the time that your cat is on the counter, it has already moved on from its thought process and will not connect you physically pushing it off as a form of punishment.  The cat needs to discover through its initial actions with the tabletop that it is not an enjoyable place to be which is why physical distractions or repellents are more effective.  You also run the risk of potentially injuring your cat by pushing it off of an elevated location.

Don’t Create Traps Intended to Hurt Your Cat

Unfortunately, we have seen people in the past rig up pseudo “cat traps” by modifying mouse traps, using thumbtacks/sharp objects, and other terrible ideas.  We never encourage you to do anything that could potentially physically harm your cat and find these methods very cruel.

Don’t Use Spray Bottles

no spray bottles on cats

Many people think that spraying a cat with a spray bottle is a happy medium between physical punishment and not harming the cat.  While a spray bottle full of water may not be as physically dangerous as, say, a mousetrap, we still don’t recommend this approach.

Spraying cats with water is very stressful to the cat and it can learn to fear to be around you in the process.  As we have discussed above, a cat will have a difficult time associating its jumping on top of a counter with the stressful act of being sprayed with water and the more likely result is that it will simply come to fear/resent you.

Conclusion

We hope that this article will help you on your path to stop your cat from jumping on tables and countertops.  Like most things, there are some right ways to fix a problem and some wrong ways too.  We encourage you to be proactive in teaching your cat the rules of the house while not doing things that will harm your feline friend or make them fear you.

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