Have you ever been enjoying a good show while relaxing on the couch, only to have your peace and quiet interrupted by a crash in the kitchen? If you’re like many cat parents, you may have a cat who loves to get into mischief while dancing on your countertops!
Every cat parent knows that kitties love to explore—and countertops are no exception! Kitchen and bathroom counters are among some of the favorite high places where our fabulous felines like to spend time.
But why is it that cats like to climb and perch up high? We'll explain where your kitty's motivation comes from, and how to provide them with positive reinforcement that redirects their interest away from your kitchen counters to other places that provide them with the safety, vantage point, and enrichment they crave.
Why Cats Jump On Countertops
Cats were built to climb and hunt, and they’ve never lost these instincts. The desire to gain a better perspective in trees and other high places by escaping the ground remains strongly embedded in our domesticated cats.
They Want to Find Food
It isn’t by chance that the impulse to jump and climb is so strong. Cats in nature climb trees and jump to other high places to survey the land. This allows them to see the movement of rodents and other ground-level prey, as well as hide themselves in the high places that birds frequent.
Countertops in your home provide a similar function for your kitty, as they provide them with a clearer view of their surroundings. A cat prowling around a countertop can more easily see different locations that hold tasty treats—and it's likely no surprise that they will also go for the easy wins, such as an uncovered bowl of tuna fish left out in the open.
They Want to Feel Safe
As you might imagine, higher ground also helps your cat to feel more safe. It’s no wonder that climbing is one of the first things kittens learn, and that nearly all adult cats love to be up high. High vantage points give cats a sense of security, which stems from their instinct to spot a meal—or to keep from becoming a meal.
Even if your cat has never been outside and had to avoid predators, this behavior is hardwired. Sometimes you just can’t fight Mother Nature!
Vertical space, especially in a multi-cat household, can provide your kitty with a place that they don't have to share. If they have few to no other options, your countertop may be the place they choose for a little "me time", where they can nap and play without being bothered.
Cats are curious. They love to play, explore, and generally check everything out. They are adventurous creatures who love life and lots of fun through play.
If your cat is one of the more playful cat breeds, you may find that they are more prone to exploring your countertops.
Can Countertop Climbing Harm Your Cat?
Your cat’s desire to climb on your countertop may pose a risk to their safety, such as a burn from a hot surface or open flame. Potential dangers on and near countertops include:
Knives and other sharp utensils
Hot surfaces, such as the stove
Inappropriate foods that can be toxic, such as garlic
Breakable materials, such as glass
Wet counters may also pose a slipping hazard that affects your kitty's ability to land properly, which could result in strains, strains, or other physical harm. Senior cats that are in the habit of jumping can also be more prone to injury.
High-rise syndrome occurs when a cat launches out of windows without screens in pursuit of prey, such as a bird or squirrel, or just as a result of their innate need to explore. Cats do not fear height, so they can get themselves into serious trouble if they are several stories up in an apartment complex. However, even cats that land unharmed can become disoriented by their surroundings, and quickly find themselves in other potentially dangerous situations.
How to Prevent Your Cat from Climbing Your Counter
Luckily, there are many options for positive reinforcement to redirect your curious kitty's interest away from your countertops.
1. Provide Other Enrichment Opportunities
Climbing provides mental stimulation and keeps your kitty's mind sharp. It also helps with coordination and keeping their muscles toned.
There are many affordable climbing and perching options available for your kitty—from cat trees to kitty condos. These can help satisfy their desire to reach new height, and direct their interest away from your counters.
Toys are always a great way to engage your cat, help them exercise, and ensure that their days are enriched with lots of opportunities for play. Toy mice and birds, toys that are suspended and swing back and forth, or balls that your kitty can swat at and chase around the floor are all good outlets for their extra energy. Some kitties love the simpler things when it comes to toys, such as that paper towel or toilet paper roll that you were going to recycle!
2. Properly Store Food
Even the the most well-fed cat can’t be blamed for hopping onto the counter if you leave delicious food unattended. Make it a habit to put tempting food away as soon as you are done preparing it. No need to tempt fate!
Understanding your cat's feeding habits can also give you a leg-up on how to keep them content and uninterested in counters and other human food preparation spaces.
3. Clicker Training
Clicker training is another positive reinforcement option for teaching cats "new tricks" and redirecting inappropriate behavior such as jumping on your countertops. Learn more about this method in our blog, "How to Train a Cat".
4. Make Surfaces Less Appealing
Cats have sensitive feet, so covering edges or particular spots that theyfrequent, may help redirect their desire to jump on your counters. Safe options include double-sided tape and contact paper (sticky side up) teach cats to avoid countertop surfaces. Cats generally pick up on this quickly, and will look elsewhere for places to jump (such as up your new cat tree).
**5. Incorporate Calming Products
According to PetMD, pheromones can be helpful because they send comforting messages to your cat that support feelings of safety and calm. Since one reason that cats jump to high places is to feel safe, pheromones can be a good addition to a new routine of positive reinforcement that also incorporates healthy stimulation with alternative vertical space and toys.
There are many pheromone options such as plug-in diffusers, collars, sprays, and wipes that are made specifically for cats to help them feel safe and calm. A calm cat is a happy cat!
If your cat likes to tap dance on your counter, keep in mind that it's part of their instinct. Your cat may simply be telling you that they need a few more opportunities to exercise their natural desire to play, explore, and see the world from a higher perspective.
There are many positive reinforcement options to help redirect your cat's interest:
Store food immediately after use, which also helps keep odors that may appeal to your cat to a minimum.
Cover the counter with things your cat won’t want on their paws (e.g., sticky tape) to help them safely learn that the counter isn't a place for them.
Provide alternate vertical spaces, such as cat climbing trees and comfy places for them to rest and relax up high.
Engage their interest with different toys and be sure to play with them throughout the day. When you can't be around, consider motion sensor toys.
Incorporate pheromones into your household, such as with plug-in diffusers, calming sprays, or calming collars and wipes.
These simple fixes can help better engage your cat's interest and keep them feeling safe and happy. Try to introduce some of these into a new routine, and let us know how it's going!