Have you ever been enjoying a good show while relaxing on the couch only to have your peace-and-quiet shattered by a crash from your kitchen? If you’re like so many cat parents, you quickly realize that, once again, your cat is dancing on the countertop and found a bit of mischief to get into up there.
Every cat owner knows that cats love to explore, and countertops are no exception. In fact, the kitchen and bathroom counters are two of their favorite places. So, the question is: “Why do cats need to climb?” We will explain why cats like to jump up in the first place, and how to keep your countertops and furniture kitty-free while providing your feline friend with the necessary enrichment they need.
Why Cats Jump On Countertops
Cats were built to climb and hunt, and they’ve never lost these instincts. The desire to gain perspective and escape ground level remains strongly embedded in our domesticated cats.
It isn’t by chance that these impulses are so strong in our feline friends which is why enrichment is vital for cats to have a full and happy life. Being up above gives them a good view of their surroundings so they can see prey and predators. It’s no wonder that climbing is one of the first things kittens learn, and it is one thing that almost all adult cats simply love.
They Want to Find Food
Cats in nature climb trees looking for food. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone when their cat prowls around countertops, looking for tasty treats. Who could expect their cat to pass up an uncovered bowl of tuna fish left carelessly on the counter, after all?
Anxiety May Be the Culprit
Being above their surroundings gives cats a sense of security. It stems from their instinct to spot a possible meal or to keep from being a possible meal.
It doesn’t matter if your cat has never been outside and needed to avoid predators. Or chased a little rodent around the kitchen looking to make a meal of it–this is a behavior that is hard-wired into their being, and sometimes you just can’t fight mother nature.
Vertical space is a way that timid cats, especially in a multi-cat household, can get their own space. On the counter, your cat is away from the other cats and can nap and play without being bothered.
Cats are curious and love to play and explore. While a dog might like napping, cats prefer to check everything out. They are fun-loving creatures and love life. So…they like to jump up on your counter, just because…because they have a good time doing it! And even squeeze in a nap should the desire arise.
If your cat is one of the most playful cat breeds, you may find they're a bit more boisterous when it comes to countertop-time.
Is Your Cat’s Climbing Instinct Harmless?
For the most part, cats cannot get into too much trouble on your countertop. However, there are some negative outcomes that can arise from your cat’s desire to climb:
A higher risk of getting hurt: The kitchen is home to several dangers that could harm your beloved cat, including:
- Hot pots and pans
- Toxic foods and medications
- Glass items that can break
- Spray cleaners
Cats can also slip off wet counters and not land on all fours resulting in strains, sprains, or even broken bones. Plus, senior cats that are in the habit of jumping up can risk getting injured.
While this issue may seem humorous at first, it’s quite serious. High-rise syndrome occurs when a cat launches out of an unscreened window in pursuit of a bird, squirrel, or just a need to explore. Because cats naturally do not fear height, they can get themselves into serious trouble by falling from some height. Cats that land without harm can become disoriented by their surroundings and run into the road or another dangerous situation.
What Can You Do to Prevent Your Cat from Climbing Your Counter?
Just because your cat loves to play on the counter doesn’t mean that you have to let them. By preventing your cat from frolicking on the counter, you may be preventing a trip to the vet. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to discourage your curious kitty from roaming your countertops.
1. Provide Alternative Enrichment Opportunities
Cats need to explore, climb, and interact with their surroundings. Not only does climbing provide mental stimulation and keep their minds sharp, but it also helps keep their muscles toned and their coordination tuned.
So, give your cat something else to explore. There are many cat trees and kitty condos on the market from $25 and up. These will help satisfy their desire to climb and play, giving them something to do other than explore your counters.
Just having toys to play with can give them an outlet for their extra energy. Toy mice and birds, toys that are suspended and swing back and forth, or balls that they can swat at and chase around the floor are all good choices. And don’t forget that if they are chasing a toy, they won’t be pouncing on your stocking feet.
2. Don't Leave Food Out
Even the best-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 or eating it. No need to tempt fate.
Understanding your cat's feeding habits can also give you a leg-up on how to keep your can's content with just their diet.
3. Foil and Other Deterrents
Cats have sensitive feet, so covering your counters, especially the edge where they would land when they jump, can teach them that counters aren’t as fun as they thought. Things like double-sided tape, aluminum foil, and contact paper (sticky side up) teach cats to avoid those surfaces.
4. Other Deterrents
You can also try blowing a whistle when your cat jumps up on the counter or give them a squirt from a spray bottle or squirt gun. It will startle them and eventually should teach them that counters are not as fun as they used to be.Use Detering Pheromones
Since anxious cats look for ways to relieve their tension, and jumping up on your countertops is one of them, helping your cat to relax can lessen their urge to jump. According to Dr. Tynes, “pheromones can help to provide a sense of safety and well-being.”
There are many plug-ins, collars, sprays, and wipes to choose from such as Feliway. A calm cat is a happy cat and will be more content and less likely to terrorize your counters.
Keeping Your Cat Content & Off the Counter
So, if your cats like to tap dance on your counter, keep in mind that it's part of their natural instincts. Your cat may simply be telling you they need a few more opportunities to exercise their instinctual desire to play, explore, and see the world from a different perspective. We recommend first trying additional enrichment and engagement to see if satisfying your cat’s need to play and climb can help.
Then, if you are still finding cat hair on kitchen surfaces, you have a lot of options:
- Store food immediately after use
- Cover the counter with things your cat won’t want on their paws
- Make your counters odor-unfriendly for your cat
- Deter them when they hop up by startling noises or spraying them with water
- Calm them with pheromones, so they don’t feel the need to spend time on your countertops
And if your cat is happy and content, you will be too!