Second Story Kitty? Tips for Grounding Countertop Cruising Cats

Do you struggle with how to keep cats off counters? Cats become pests with their determination to stay above it all. They cruise kitchen countertops, lounge atop doors and leap to refrigerator tops to ambush treats.

Today I’m traveling to New York to give a talk at the BlogPurr event about the different kinds of “cat parents” from drama-mamma to doting dad. Do your cats get away with everything, or are you a strict “parent?” It seemed appropriate to focus today’s blog on a common kitty challenge.

The urge to be the top cat seems a universal kitty vice. By understanding why cats scale the heights, cat care givers can provide legal outlets that keep both the kitty happy, and out of your butter dish.


Why Cats Love Heights

Cats come pre-programmed to seek elevated lounging spots. Think about it–a kitty walking on the wild side wants to see enemies (and potential munch-able critters) but remain invisible. A cat quite literally believes she “owns” the space she can see.

Cats also control each other’s interactions—or even the dog’s movements—with pointed stares. This cats-eye-power packs even more punch from an elevated perch, giving the cat ownership and control over even more territory. The cat that commands the highest perch is the high-cat-on-the-totem pole in that particular room. You’ll also see cats pointedly SCRATCH in full view of another cat (or dog…or human) to declare ownership. Refer to these 7 scratch training tips to deal with clawing kitties.

What’s The Attraction?

Individual cats may have specific preferences for lounge spots. But in general, there are five reasons cats seek a particular place.

  • The taller the perch, the more important the cat.
  • Perches near important pathways like windows or stairways offer high kitty value.
  • Cats are furry heat-seeking missiles, so the tops of warm TVs or computer monitors, or snuggled under lamps prove irresistible. My cat loves to sleep in the paper well of my printer.
  • Lounging requires a soft, comfy surface like the back of chairs.
  • Kitchen counters and stove tops smell yummy or even have snacks within paw reach that keep the cat burglar returning to the scene of the cat crime.

You won’t keep your cat on the ground. Cats tend to avoid low spots with no view, or that are cold and uncomfortable. So give your cat what she wants with irresistible legal perch options and make forbidden spots unattractive.

kitten climbing ladder

Cats naturally love heights.

How to Keep Cats Off Counters & Grounding High Rise Cats

Evaluate your cat’s favorite perches, and make your choice better. My cat Seren loves to lounge on top of the piano (height) beneath a lamp (warmth) next to the window (view). To purr-suade her otherwise, we placed a three-tiered cat tree that’s TALLER than the piano and has a softer surface (comfort), still under the lamp beside the piano, and still in front of the window.

  • For your cat household, have at least one cat tree (or acceptable high-value lounge spot) for each cat. Otherwise, they may argue over who gets first dibs.
  • Make the legal lounge taller than the forbidden object, but nearby so the location remains attractive. An empty bookshelf can work, or even an inexpensive ladder. Put a cat bed stocked with kitty treats on the paint rack.
  • Make off-limits spots unattractive. Booby-trap counters so they’re no longer comfy. Double-sided tape products like Sticky Paws applied to place mats can be scattered on forbidden surfaces, for example.
  • Cats hate weird textures, too. Aluminum foil that covers stove tops can keep some cats at bay.
  • For hard case cats, invest in clear plastic carpet runner to line the counter top, dining table or other illegal location. Just place it nub-side up, and kitty will seek a more comfy spot to lounge.
  • You can also set up the SSScat Product, an aerosol can with a motion detector that hisses air to shoo critters away even when you’re not there.

Karma Cat In PrinterChoose which battles to fight, because it’s hard to win them all—and you want your cat to like you. My cats are not allowed on the mantel where they play gravity experiments with fine breakables. But they won the battle of the dining room table where Karma and Seren lounge in plush cat beds beneath a stained glass lamp.

I’ve also trained Seren to exit the printer when I need it. Karma hasn’t quite gotten that messagNEW-CatCompet-COVER-kindlee yet, though. In families, sometimes you must compromise.

What about you? How do you manage your counter top cruising kitties? Do tell!

Learn about more cat behavior issues in ComPETability.

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Second Story Kitty? Tips for Grounding Countertop Cruising Cats — 32 Comments

  1. With my family it has always been a matter of simple consistency and vigilance. But we’ve also had a lot of cats who are just plain eager to please. The only one I can recall my parents having real trouble with (aside from the occasional isolated countertop incident) is a cat who was given to us as an adult by someone who used to feed her on the counter to keep the cat food away from the dog, so no matter how much my folks tried she would not un-learn her counter-surfing ways.

    Our new kitten Night still tries to get up onto things he shouldn’t now and then, but the events are becoming rarer, and usually coincide with when he is having a rough teething day – so he feels icky and he acts out to try and get us to notice him. I alternate between a shake can and a can of compressed air as noisemakers for when he gets up on stuff, though if those aren’t at hand we go for the firm “no”. Thus far he has only gotten on the counter once, and that was in the middle of a morning run. We have a big tin we keep our rice in that apparently makes a nice step up to the counter that he was using as part of his racetrack. I have since put a piece of cardboard with sticky tape all over it on top of the tin, but so far there is no evidence he has tried to get up there again. Apparently mommy and daddy yelling “NO” in stereo was enough for him. LOL But he’s also pretty well behaved for his age.

    His biggest problem is trying to get my attention by sticking paws up on the coffee table (only when I am sitting at it), and trying to get up on the TV stand (big reflective surface when the TV is off so we suspect he is trying to go play with the “other kitty”). He does get into less mischief now that we have a couple of strategically placed cat trees – one near a window, the other in view of the kitchen. We are trying to find a good one for the bedroom for him, but all the ones in our current price range have noisy parts attached so we’re still on the hunt.

    We also suspect the countertops are unattractive because we clean with vinegar in our house. Originally I started using it as a pet-safe floor cleaner, but now the counters get cleaned with it too, and they get wiped down a lot more often than the floor, so the counters almost always smell like it.

    A couple of perches he managed to dissuade himself from because they came with built in booby traps. My keyboard currently has a piece of matte board inside a very large plastic bag on top of it, and when he jumped up there once it fell along with him and made such a racket he ran out of the room and has yet to try and jump up there again. He jumped up on the dresser once as well and scattered a bunch of stuff that, while it annoyed mommy for having to clean it all up, did apparently deter him from trying that again anytime soon.

    We have a TEMPORARY “no back of couch” rule in place only because he still does kamikaze leaps off of it when he is in race mode. We intend to let that rule fall away once he is older and a little bit calmer, because it IS a nice perch, just after having two previous cats injure themselves leaping off of things, we don’t want to take risks.

  2. It’s interesting, because James says he’s sort of like a tamer version of what Anubis was like as a kitten, so he may end up with a similar personality.

    Of course as we speak I am trying to calm him from rocketing around the house because he has started huffing and panting and if he doesn’t nap soon he will go into Crazies 2.0 from trying to pretend he is not sleepy.

  3. Amy these are great tips! I may have to try that product that you said “hisses” or something like that. Cody is a cat that seeks out the counter because he is ALWAYS on a quest for food. I have tried aluminum foil (it doesn’t bother him one bit lol), never tried “Sticky Paws” may have to give that a “go” too!! It was FABULOUS seeing you in NYC, it had been WAY too long!!!!!

    • Glad the tips are helpful!

      So good to see you there too, Caren! I was honored and thrilled for Merck to host me to come and speak at the BlogPurr event. Got so great pix of the kitty cafe, too, will post soon.

  4. I know my kitties get on the counter, but they have the courtesy to jump down when they hear us coming. 🙂 We have tried foil on the counter and it worked. But overall, they simply do what they want when we’re not around. I may have to try out some of your tips above. Thank you!

    • Ah yes…that’s the “time/share” mentality. When you (the “big cat”) come into the room and own that territory, they jump off. When you aren’t there, it’s open season because YOU aren’t using the counter! LOL!

  5. These are great tips! I don’t have a cat now, but I get creeped out when I see them roaming other people’s kitchen counters. Admittedly, I’m a germophobe (I found a 2nd grade “book” I made in school and it was all about germs). But I think about where cats go (litter boxes) and then a counter where food goes. Ew! I hope your presentation goes well!

  6. I’m am one cat who can go anywhere I choose. It’s in my adoption papers. That said, TW has so much junk on the countertop that I couldn’t go there if I wanted to. I’m also a cat that doesn’t gravitate toward heat. I won’t lay near the vents when the heat is on. As an only cat, I also have 4 cat trees and 2 of them are in front of windows. The one I spend the most time on is in the middle of the condo where I can view everything the peeps are doing and it’s also the lowest. This was an enjoyable post.

  7. Great tips! I always learn something new when I read your posts. I havent had a cat in decades so I know very little about their behavior. I love reading about them via your posts.

  8. Rosie has a particular fondness for the dining room table especially during meal times. You have given me an idea – maybe putting her food on the bookcase next to the table, which is slightly higher than the table might steer her away from our food/dining room table to her food/bookshelf. She could even look down at us while she eats!

  9. Great post! Our kitty is an adopted feral and he doesn’t like to come in. We do have to be sure we have everything off our counters or our Huskies will “surf” when we are not looking! “Off Counter!” typically does the trick…unless it’s pizza, then all bets are off! 😉

  10. I’ve been lucky with my Persians. They aren’t jumpers, although Brulee will surprise you how high she can jump. They do get on my desk, bed, and kitchen table, but they’ve never gotten on my kitchen counters. I think the deterrent is that my kitchen is small and there’s too much stuff on it.

  11. We still struggle with this issue, despite knowing all the tips and tricks. I have one very determined and strong-willed kitty. I’ve made progress though and have settled with allowing him to sit in the corner in a particular spot.

  12. First of all, Congratulations on being asked to speak at BlogPurr! What a great opportunity. I just LOVE the first photo of your beautiful kitty on the counter – she has the best expression on her little face! Stunning eyes too. How you captured that shot is beyond me, so perfect. My cat Maggie used to jump on everything and I spoiled her rotten so I didn’t care! These tips are terrific though, definitely sharing.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  13. I am fortunate the cats don’t bother with the counter tops. However, I have one cat that occasionally enjoys the dining room table! Once he found his way to a coffee cake and when we noticed he was already head deep into the middle of it! We’ve since learned not to leave anything in his path 😉

  14. Pingback: Cat Clawing: How to Stop Cats from Scratching Furniture

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