Jumping and climbing are in a cat’s nature, so it’s no surprise they enjoy hopping onto kitchen countertops. Though jumping on the counter might seem like a harmless habit, it can have dangerous consequences. Aside from being a nuisance when you’re cooking and cleaning, your cat could get burned, ingest toxic foods or cleaning chemicals, and track bacteria onto the counter that could make your family sick.

While you can make thoughtful choices such as turning off the stove and keeping an eye on your pet, take it a step further and keep your cat from perching on the counter with the strategies we’ve rounded up.

How To Keep Cats Off Counters

Keeping your cat off the counter is all about redirecting its behavior and pointing it toward safer alternatives. Put these tried-and-true strategies from the This Old House Reviews Team to work to reroute your cat’s behavior.

  1. Cover your counters with foil
  2. Make noise and startling sounds
  3. Use various scents
  4. Keep food stored away
  5. Fix your faucet leak
  6. Move chairs away
  7. Block sun rays
  8. Build or purchase an entertaining cat tower
  9. Try positive reinforcement
  10. Avoid negative reinforcement techniques

Cover Your Counters With Aluminum Foil

As you probably already know, cats can be particular about the textures they walk on, avoiding surfaces that cause sensations they don’t like.

Many pet owners and experts recommend putting aluminum foil on countertops to curb your cat’s counter-hopping enthusiasm. The combination of the noise of crinkled foil and the unpleasant feeling may be enough to keep them off the counter.

Some pet parents prefer to put double-sided tape down, as cats aren’t fond of walking on glue-like textures, either. The main downside of this method is that cleanup can also get sticky. Plastic wrap and sandpaper may also be effective—and less messy.

Make Noise

Aluminum foil is another great place to start if you want to try using noise to deter your cat from counter surfing. Cats hate aluminum foil’s sharp, crinkly sound, so it’s likely to startle them away from the kitchen.

In addition to the sound of foil, you may be able to keep your cat off the counter by stacking soda cans or other light items that will make a commotion if they’re knocked over. You could also sound an air horn from a distance the moment your cat hits the counter.

Try Out Different Scents

In addition to hating certain textures, cats are also particular about scents. When used safely, essential oils and cleaners can be a great and humane deterrent. Scents like peppermint, citrus, lavender, eucalyptus, and lime may make your furry friend think twice before hopping on the counter.

If you do use essential oils, avoid applying them directly on your cat or in a location where your cat may inadvertently ingest them when licking its paws. Some pet parents also use calming pheromone diffusers to prevent cats from jumping on counters out of fear or anxiety.

Put Food Away

One of the biggest reasons cats jump on counters is to access food. It can be incredibly challenging for your cat to ignore its instinct to jump when food tempts it from your countertops. Treats, crumbs, leftovers, or even the scent of your cat’s food can be triggering. Dirty dishes in the sink and pots and pans on the stove may lure your cat in, too.

To prevent your cat from chasing the scent of food, seal bagged food tightly, keep dishes washed and make sure you aren’t leaving any traces on the counter. If you usually prepare your cat’s food on the counter, you may want to consider a new spot.

Focus on the Faucet

Cats are notorious for drinking from kitchen faucets. They’re instinctively drawn to fresh running water. To curb your cat’s desire to drink from the kitchen sink, try the following:

  • Fix leaks: If your faucet is leaky, the sound can be hard for your cat to ignore. Fix leaks and avoid leaving your faucet running in general.
  • Check out the water bowl: Inspect the area around your cat’s bowl to see if anything could be stressing your cat out and preventing it from drinking comfortably, like being too close to the litter box.
  • Buy a water fountain: Your cat may be less inclined to drink from the sink if it has an alternative source of fresh flowing water. A cat fountain can also help prevent whisker fatigue, which occurs when your cat’s whiskers are overstimulated and agitated from actions like drinking out of a water bowl.
  • Keep water fresh: Refill your cat’s drinking source with fresh water regularly to make it more comparable to water from the faucet. You can also drop in a piece of ice to keep it refreshing and cool.

Move Chairs and Stools

Does your cat use a chair, bar stool, trash can, or other aid to launch itself onto the counter? If your feline friend relies on a piece of furniture for assistance reaching the counter, moving it can be a simple fix. While you shouldn’t have to redecorate your home or go without barstools to keep your cat down, temporarily moving them away from the counter could help break the habit.

Block Out the Sun

If your cat’s primary reason for jumping on the counter is to soak up the sun, closing your blinds or drawing your curtains can make it a less appealing spot. Likewise, if your cat is perching on the counter for a prime view of your birdfeeder, consider moving it to a new location.

In either case, you can draw your cat to a more suitable spot near a different window or door to sunbathe and sightsee.

Build a Cat Tower

Perhaps the best way to keep your kitty off the counter is to provide a fun alternative. For example, a climbing tree, cat tower, or kitty condo can satisfy your feline friend’s desire to climb to high places if you have space for one.

If you don’t have the space or the budget for a cat tree, you can also repurpose an existing piece, such as a bookshelf or sofa table. A little catnip, a comfy blanket, and access to the sun could make your countertop a distant memory.

Try Clicker Training

If you haven’t tried clicker training, it could be just the tool you need for positive reinforcement. Here’s how it works. The next time your cat hops on the counter, place its favorite toy or a treat on the floor. As soon as your cat jumps off the counter to claim its prize, use a clicker device to make a sound.

Your cat should associate the clicking sound with getting a reward and eventually jump off the counter when you click, whether there’s a treat involved or not.

Avoid Negative Reinforcements

In general, your cat will respond better to positive reinforcements than to negative ones. So though using a spray bottle, making loud noises, or simply pushing your cat off the counter might seem like an easy fix, these routes can stress your cat out and do more harm than good.

Rather than punishing your cat for climbing on the counter, use some of the strategies above to make the counter less appealing to your cat or kitten and reward it for choosing other areas to lounge and explore.

Why Do Cats Like to Jump on the Counter?

Cats primarily like to jump on the counter because of its vantage point, appealing aroma, warmth, and proximity to water.

Here’s a little more insight into the draw of the counter:

  • Height: Cats and kittens like the counter for its vantage point. Cats love jumping to new heights and having an eye-level view of their surroundings and you. Kitchen counters are the perfect height for your four-legged friend to perch.
  • Scent: Kitchen counters are intoxicating to cats. Fruit ripening in a basket, a dirty plate in the sink, or a missed scrap of chicken on the edge of the counter from last night’s dinner will draw your cat to the counter for a bite.
  • Warmth: In many homes, the kitchen counter is situated under a windowsill and gives your pet the perfect opportunity to stretch out or curl up and sunbathe.
  • Water: Your cat may also be drawn to the kitchen counter by your faucet. Fresh running water can be hard to resist, especially if your sink has a leak and tends to drip.

With a better understanding of why your cat may be jumping on the counter, you can take the proper steps to address the issue.

Our Recommendation

It’s in your cat’s nature to jump and climb, so counter-hopping can be a challenging habit to break. However, you can keep your countertops kitten-free with some patience, persistence, and pleasing alternatives for your cat to explore.