Cats love to jump up onto tables and counters. With strong rear ends and a fairly light frame, they’re naturally configured to be great climbers. Although this can seem like an endearing habit at first, it can quickly become a health and safety hazard. In addition to tracking dirt, litter and fecal residue onto the counter via their paws, cats can also burn themselves on stovetops or break glass objects.
Understanding Why Cats Climb
It may appear that cats like to cause trouble and destruction at times, but as hunters, there are a number of reasons why they desire to climb. Cats desire a high vantage point, which allows them to survey their domain or a specific area in their sight. Shelves, counters, and tables all offer additional height, which give cats different views of the house and the ability to see potential prey. These surfaces also offer protection and escape from other household pets they see as predators or aggressors. Additionally, cats are always in search of food, and with a keen sense of smell, they know when crumbs and other bits have been left out or missed during a cleanup, prompting them to climb and jump to higher ground to find their target.
Finding Appropriate Cat-Safe Alternatives
Cats are natural climbers and jumpers, so it will be more difficult to discourage the behavior entirely than it will be to redirect it elsewhere. To provide your kitty with cat-safe alternatives, invest in some cat furniture.
Cat “trees” are tall, cat-safe towers that allow cats a high place to perch and a non-destructive place to scratch, climb, and jump. Feline furniture is often covered with carpet or natural bark and many come with built-in scratching posts, dangling toys, hammocks or even “kitty caves” designed to give the cat a safe place to hide. Cat trees come in a variety of shapes, heights and sizes. Placing several around the house may give your cat an enticing alternative to your tabletops and counters. For cats that love sunny windows and comfortable spots to lounge, there are plenty of specially designed cat shelves on the market that screw into walls and provide cats with safe, high, comfortable spots to lounge and survey large areas while feeling safe.
Discouraging Climbing and Jumping Behavior
Cats are fairly sensitive, so making the countertop an uncomfortable environment will help keep them on the ground. If your cat likes to jump from the floor directly onto the counter, try balancing cookie sheets on the edge of the counter to create an unstable landing surface. As your kitty tries to land, it will encounter the cookie sheets, which will then fall and startle him. (The likelihood of him being injured is very slim.) Repeated occurrences will result in your cat finding other places to go.
Motion-sensitive misters, like SSSCAT, can dissuade cats from jumping up onto the stovetop by delivering a short, sharp burst of water when the cat appears. Alternatives to misters include commercial deterrents that emit unpleasant smells or make noise, such as the Snappy. While none of these devices will harm your cat, they will serve as a helpful training device to discourage cats and other pets from climbing and jumping. Utilizing a homemade or commercially bought deterrent is one of the best methods of keeping your cat at bay because they work whether you’re present or not.
Generally, a cat can be trained to avoid countertops and tables without making them afraid of you or physically abusing them. Using a squirt bottle or yelling at Fluffy will only make him skittish around you, and pushing your cat aggressively off surfaces could result in an injury. Remember, a cat or any pet should be treated as part of the family, so having patience when training them is important to the long-term health of your relationship with your kitty.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.