Help! My Cat Keeps Jumping On The Kitchen Counter!


It is frustrating when you’re trying to cook dinner or clean the kitchen and your cat is constantly jumping up on the kitchen counter leaving footprints and fur all over the place. So why does your cat love to sit on your kitchen counter and what can you do to deter him from jumping up onto it?We should start by saying that your cat jumping on the counter is a completely normal and natural behaviour. Although it is undesirable for you, it is normal for your cat to want to jump up onto high surfaces. So what is it about the kitchen counter that makes it so attractive to cats?Height: our cats love jumping up onto high places because they offer the height advantage that allows them to survey the surrounding area. Your kitchen counter might have a nice window with a view to  the garden, or it may offer a good perch for checking out the action inside the home.Food: when your cat jumps up on the counter he might find a delicious reward waiting for him. If your cat finds a tasty morsel each time he jumps up, he’s continuously getting rewarded for his efforts and so will keep repeating the behaviour.Water: Some cats prefer running water so they may jump up on the counter to see if they can drink from the tap.Escaping: you may have a pet dog or young child who likes to chase your cat around the house, so your cat may see your kitchen bench as a safety zone for him to get away.To help change this behaviour we are going to follow 3 steps:
  1. Stop all punishment
  2. Avoid the situation
  3. Teach
Step 1. Stop All Punishment: Punishment is ineffective at teaching your pet to stop the behaviour. How can that be? The reason is that you’re not there 100% of the time, so he’ll keep getting rewarded intermittently i.e. sometimes he’ll jump up and will find the tasty morsel. Intermittent rewards are the best way to keep a behaviour happening – it’s a bit like winning at the pokies, you keep trying because you once won some cash. So in fact, he’ll keep performing the behaviour. Also, punishment doesn’t teach you cat what you DO want him to do, so he has to guess what to do next and may end up performing an equally undesirable behaviour instead. Stopping using any types of punishment includes:
  • DON’T use a water spray bottles to deter your cat.
  • DON’T yell at your cat.
  • DON’T Throw things at your cat.
Most importantly, punishing your pet is detrimental to your relationship with your cat, it can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress because in his eyes, you’ve become unpredictable and scary sometimes.Step 2. Identify & Avoid the situation: 
  • Is your cat being rewarded for jumping up? I.e. is he finding tasty treats?
  • Is your cat using the area as a resting spot?
  • Is your cat using the bench as an escape?
Provide alternative options: 
  • Ensure you remove any food sources from the kitchen bench. Make sure that there are no food bowls in the sink or crumbs on the bench after meals.
  • If you find your cat is jumping up on the counter around dinner time or when you’re cooking, you can confine your cat to an area of the home with some a tasty treat, warm bedding, toys, water and a litter box. When you have finished with meal time you can let him back out to wander around.
  • If your cat is using the bench as a ‘safe haven’ from being chased around, you can provide a cat tree or a cat shelf in the same area of the home that he can use instead of the kitchen bench. Think about what makes the bench attractive (i.e. nice view, sunny spot, can’t be reached by the dog), and try and replicate those aspects when you choose the spot for the new cat tree or shelf.
  • If your cat is looking for a spot in the house to be up high and see all around, providing him with a tall cat tree is a good start. If your cat likes to sit up on your counter to look out the window place a cat tree near a window where they can sit and look at the outside world.  You can also get cat hammocks to put on windows or you can install shelves just for your cat so he can jump up high.
  • If you have a dog who likes to chase your cat around you should provide your cat with a safe area in the house that your dog cant get to. Placing a baby gate up in a certain area in the house that is just for your cat is a good idea to provide your cat with a safe place to relax. Make sure that area has a comfortable bed, water, food and a litter tray.
  • Water fountains: If your cat loves to drink from your tap or sink, ensure you stop your kitchen tap from dripping and don’t leave anything filled with water in the sink. Provide your cat with a pet water fountain so that your cat can still have running water but from another source. E.g. Drink well pet fountains, Catit pet fountains. Cats should also have multiple drinking bowls around the house.
  • Our cats can get bored just like we can, your cat might be wandering around and jumping up onto your counter because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go or anything else to do. It is important that they have things to play with when you are not home and to also have a playful interaction with you when you are home. Providing your cat with tunnels, cat tree’s, toys, cat hammocks and perches will give your cat some cat-friendly things to do when you’re not home and will attract your cat away from the kitchen counter towards their cat toys and high perches. Playing with your cat, even if it is for 5 minutes, is not only important for your cat but it also improves your relationship with your cat whilst burning some of his energy.
Making the counter less attractive: 
  • Double sided sticky tape on some cheap plastic placemats placed around the edges of your kitchen counter helps to deter cats from specific areas.
  • Foil around the edges of the kitchen bench may also help deter cats from jumping up — they don’t like the sound or feeling of tin foil.
Step 3. Teach, watch & reward for desirable behaviours: Stopping punishment and avoiding situations where they’re more likely to jump up are important, but providing your cat with options to perform normal behaviours in ways that are more acceptable to you AND rewarding them for those ‘good’ behaviours is the most important step. This means teaching your cat what you would like him to do.
  • When your cat is up on his perch or cat tree reward him for being there. You can use scratches or pats (if he likes that) or use a tasty treat. We want him to know that he is in the right place. Remember, the higher the value of the reward, the more likely he is to repeat that behaviour!
  • When your cat is on the counter, use a lure (a treat or toy) to direct your cat to the floor. As soon as your cat has 4 paws on the ground, reward using a treat. This means he’ll start associating being on the ground with good things, rather than the counter. Use this method each time you notice your cat is on the counter.
  • If he’s trying to get away from a chasing dog or child, provide the option of a suitable escape route where the chaser can’t follow.
Using positive reinforcement for the behaviours that you do want to encourage, teaches your cat that good things come from you and he’s rewarded for doing the behaviours that you want him to perform. This strengthens your bond with your little buddy, instead of feeling like you’re having to ‘fight’ him to stay off the counters.If you have any questions about your cat jumping on the counter, have tried the options above and are just not having any luck, please give us a call on 0481 527 678 or email us at info@healthypetbehaviourvet.com.au