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How to Train a Cat to Stay Off Counters: 5 Easy Steps

Cats are naturally attracted to high places, but that’s not a good thing when it’s your kitchen counter. Aside from being a nuisance, cats on countertops can be dangerous for them and not hygienic for you. They can walk on the hot stove, eat leftovers that are toxic to them, ingest cleaning products, or track bacteria from the litter box onto your food surfaces.

Fortunately, training your cat to stay off the counters is a simple task with a little patience and consistency.

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Before You Start: Here Are the Supplies You’ll Need

Here’s what you need to start training:
  • Double-sided tape or aluminum foil
  • A clicker tool
  • A cat climbing tree or tower
cat sitting on kitchen counter_LightField Studios, Shutterstock
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

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Step-By-Step Guide to Train Your Cat to Stay Off the Counters

1. Add a Deterrent

You shouldn’t punish your cat for jumping onto the counters, but you can help to deter the behavior to support your training. Putting sticky double-sided tape to the edge of the counter is often enough to keep cats from jumping up. Cats don’t like the feeling of sticky tape on their paws, so hitting that tape is a strong deterrent.

Another option is crinkled aluminum foil. Similarly, cats don’t like the feeling on their feet or the noise that aluminum foil makes, but this may not be practical for every home.

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2. Make the Counter Less Appealing

Bad habits are hard to break, especially if you’ve been accidentally encouraging your cat to get on the counter. Things like leaving its food bowl on the counter, allowing it to drink from the faucet, or leaving food around led your cat to believe the countertop is an appropriate place for it to be.

Make sure your counter is clean and free of treats, crumbs, or cat food. If you’ve been feeding your cat on the counter, start building new habits in a different feeding spot. If the faucet is an issue, consider getting a water foundation that gives your cat moving water for drinking.

Black and white domestic cat lying on modern kitchen_Sarah McGraw_shutterstock
Image Credit: Sarah McGraw Shutterstock
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3. Start Clicker Training

Cats respond best to positive reinforcement instead of punishment. Clicker training can be effective for redirecting bad behaviors into good ones.

Before you can use clicker training, you have to introduce your cat to the clicker. These are widely available at pet stores and have a simple concept; your cat gets a treat after the sound of the clicker, building a positive association with the sound and a reward.

Once your cat has this association, it will begin to regard the sound of the clicker with good behavior and a reward.

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4. Use the Clicker to Get Your Cat Off the Counter

If your cat is on the counter, toss a treat onto the floor near the counter to entice it to jump down. Once it does, pair the behavior with a click. If you have a strong association with the clicker elsewhere, simply clicking may be enough to lure your cat off the counter.

Credit: Benevolente82, Shutterstock
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5. Train Your Cat to Use Alternatives

You should have a climbing tree or cat tower to give your cat an opportunity to climb and jump. Use this furniture to train your cat to jump up on its own. Be sure to reward the behavior, whether you encourage it or happen to see your cat using its tree on its own.

Together, these training experiences teach your cat that the counter is not a good climbing area and that the cat tree is.

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Cats will generally hang out anywhere they can reach, including your kitchen counters. Whether you encouraged this behavior by accident or simply can’t get your cat to stop, using clicker training and consistent redirection and awards can teach your cat to stay off the counters and use more appropriate climbing areas.

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Featured Image Credit: EkaterinaSid, Shutterstock