how to train cats to stay off counters

How to Train Cats to Stay off Counters

It’s a simple fact that cats like being up high, but do you really want them to be climbing all over your kitchen counters and work surfaces? Follow these simple guidelines for ensuring that your cats are only climbing in places they’re welcome.

If your cat enjoys climbing then you could consider buying a cat scratching tower for him to enjoy. Obviously don’t make a big fuss about this new thing or the fact that you really want your cat to climb it rather than anything else, because obviously as soon as he knows you want him to climb it, your cat will never go anywhere near it.

Also, schedule some playtime with your pet at least once a day and invest in some puzzle toys to keep him active and engaged. If he’s stimulated and happy with the appropriate play and climbing opportunities, he is less likely to want to climb on the work surfaces.

Related Post: Best Interactive Cat Toys

cat on the counter

Pick Your Battles

Remember cats like going where you don’t want them to go, so they are likely to try – at least a few times – to climb up onto your kitchen counters, precisely because you don’t want them to do it, but there are things you can do to make the experience less inviting.

  • Don’t encourage your cat to climb up onto the kitchen counters and if they do, remove them immediately and put them on the floor. If they continue to climb up then exclude them from the kitchen, especially when you’re preparing food, that way they won’t see any temptations for jumping up to try their luck for a treat.
  • Don’t leave food or anything inviting looking on the surfaces between meals or food preparation times, if there is nothing worth exploring/eating, your cats will quickly lose interest.
  • Cats do actually like fresh running water, so if they notice your taps running, they may jump up and try and get a drink. You ‘may’ decide to give them a treat and let them drink from the running tap (which you might feel better about them drinking than out of the toilet, or the green puddle water they seem to enjoy outside), but remember that if you encourage this sort of behaviour your cat is going to believe that climbing up on the counters is an acceptable behaviour to you.

Don’t punish your cat for climbing up by shouting or throwing water at him, just remove him from the situation promptly and if he continues with the undesired behaviour try one of the ideas below.

You May Also Like: Cat Water Fountains

If You Cat Needs a Reminder That Kitchen Counters Are Not for Cats

  • Keep your counters clean and free of food or clutter, if they provide no interest then your cats will probably stop climbing up.
  • Put some pennies or some small pebbles in an empty can and when your cat climbs up, give the can a shake to frighten him off (this also works for undesirable behaviour generally).
  • Put a strip of foil across the front and sides of the counter. Not only do cats, not like the feel of foil in their paws, they don’t like the sound it makes, so laying some across the entry points to your worktop could deter them.
  • Buy some cheap placemats and some double sided sticky tape. Cover the mats with strips of the tape and then place them (tape side up, or you’ll ruin your counters and your cat won’t notice anything). Your cat will hate the sticky feeling on his paws. When he’s stopped climbing up on the counters, gradually remove the mats one each day until they are all gone). If your cat starts climbing on the surfaces again, put the mats back and follow the same pattern as before.

Cats are natural climbers and are also naturally inquisitive, so don’t give them a reason to want to climb onto your kitchen counters by leaving food out or by putting any of their toys or belongings onto the counter.

Related Post: Best Cat Toys

cat on the kitchen counter

If they do climb up, let them see that there is nothing of interest, remove them firmly but gently and consider not letting them into the kitchen whilst you are preparing food.

Do not encourage them to climb up onto tables and do not feed them scraps from your plate as you are eating meals as this will only confuse them about the kind of behaviour that is acceptable to you.

If you have to find a way to discourage cats from your kitchen surfaces do not punish them, rather use some of the suggestions above to help them understand that some high places are off limits.


  1. Wendy C. Fries, Enforcing No-Cat Zones, WebMD
  2. Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, How Can I Keep My Cat Off Kitchen Counters?, VetStreet
  3. Correcting Unwanted Cat Behavior, The MSPCA–Angell

Leave a reply

Please enter your name here
Please enter your comment!