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How to Keep Your Cat Off Tables and Counters

Why do cats find counters so appealing? Take this quiz to find out:

A. Because they’re there.
B. Because cats naturally prefer a three-dimensional environment.
C. Because cats occasionally find food morsels while patrolling countertops.
D. All of the above.

Answer D is correct.

The Downside

There are many good reasons why your cat should stay off the counter. Cats spend a fair amount of time each day in their litter box, scratching around and covering up their waste. Although they frequently “wash” their paws with their tongues, it is likely that some traces of urine and feces will remain on their paws to be deposited on your countertops in molecular concentrations. Not a great thought if you are about to prepare food.

Also, while they are up on counters, cats may pause to lick the butter or steal nibbles or whole chunks of food that you have left lying around. It can be pretty annoying to find that your cooling bacon strips have been dragged to the floor as cat fodder. In addition, not everything the cat steals will be good for him – and some things, like chicken bones, can be downright harmful.


Some may argue that healthy cat urine and feces has never poisoned anyone. Urine, as you may know, is normally sterile. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi used to drink a pint of his own urine each morning to start the day. When a cat has urinary tract disease or intestinal parasites (especially Toxoplasma gondii), however, this safety factor is lost. UTDs are easy to spot and the presence of intestinal parasites can be determined by laboratory tests. Both are usually easy to treat. Just ask your vet.

As far as disappearing food is concerned, cats don’t eat much and, with the correct dental care, their mouths should be fairly healthy places anyway.

How To Get ‘Em Off

Here are several things you can do to keep kitty where he belongs:

The only alternative is to teach yourself not to worry so much about your cat being up on the counters. This is the cognitive approach to therapy – for you.

My cats free range across my countertops while I’m watching them because they know I don’t care. I could yell at them and chase them off, as many people do, but why bother? All you teach your cat by this approach is that you are unpredictable, mentally unstable, and should be watched carefully for signs of sudden behavioral meltdowns. Then, when you’re not around, your cat will cruise and patrol the counters as if nothing had changed. The only thing punishment teaches an animal is how to avoid the punisher … you. With the remote punishers, the situation’s a little more acceptable in the sense that it’s the counter that they avoid.