Saturday, November 21, 2009
By Julia Williams
Cats are notorious counter surfers. Dogs do this too, but cats have an advantage over some dog breeds who would counter surf, if only they could jump that high. Nearly all cats, except very old or obese ones, are agile enough to get up onto the kitchen counters. I don’t believe they counter surf just because they can, though. My cats get onto the counters because that’s where the food is. It doesn’t matter that I never leave any food out; they see me preparing food there, and one can surmise that they keep checking every day on the premise that it could happen.
I don’t really know why they counter surf, but I do know a thing or two about how to keep cats off kitchen counters. I’ve had plenty of practice at that, especially since Rocky joined my household six years ago. For reasons I can’t fathom, this cat has major food issues. Rocky is on a “seafood” diet – i.e., he sees food and he eats it. He has perfected his food-snatching technique as well, and can snag food off the counter in a nanosecond.
All of the different methods I’ve tried to keep Rocky off the kitchen counters don’t work for long, but they do work for my other cats and I think they’d also work for most cats. Rocky is just “special,” and I’ve learned to either watch my food like a hawk while preparing it, or lock Rocky in the bedroom until every morsel is put away. It’s simpler that way and it works for me, unless I have a memory lapse.
Such as, the time I baked some cookies that came with caramel topping. I watched him carefully as they cooled enough so I could drizzle on the gooey caramel. Because the caramel needed to harden before I could put them away, I took Rocky with me into my home office. A short while later I realized I’d forgotten all about the cookies, and Rocky. He sauntered in, licking his chops. Uh-oh! I ran into the kitchen to see how many cookies he’d eaten. To my surprise the cookies were still there – but they were licked clean of all the caramel!
Here are some things you can do to keep cats off the kitchen counters. Try one, and if it doesn’t work, try another, because dirty cat paws that have been digging in a litter box have no business being on the kitchen counters.
• Clean up after food preparation, and never leave anything edible on the counter. You might be surprised by what foods a cat will sample, especially if you have a feline like Rocky. Plus, if they find a tasty tidbit on the counter one day, they’re more likely to keep checking it.
• The spray bottle is a classic cat training tool that I’ve used successfully (on every cat except Rocky, of course). Spray a fine mist of water into their face when they are on the kitchen counters, and tell them firmly to “get down.” Most cats hate water, but a fine mist won’t hurt them and they quickly learn that the counters are a no-cat zone.
• Coins in a can is another method I’ve used to keep my cats off the counters. You just give it a good shake; the noise startles them and they jump down. This worked for Rocky until he got used to the noise. I’ve used a whistle too, but it scared my other two cats too much (and seemed unfair since they’d done nothing wrong).
• Sticky tape on the edge of the counter is touted as a good cat deterrent, but I found it very inconvenient.
• Booby traps: there’s a hilarious video online of an invention called the Blender Defender. This homemade booby trap features a motion-detecting blender and strobe lights that activate when a cat jumps up on the kitchen counter. In the video, the unsuspecting cat jumped four feet in the air and promptly fell off the counter. Price to make the Blender Defender: $214. Video of ambushed cat: priceless.
• The long-handler grabber gizmo was actually designed for getting things down from high shelves; however, I recently discovered it works wonders to deter Rocky from jumping on my counter while I’m preparing food. The pinching motion freaks him out, so now I keep it handy whenever I have food on the counter. If he even glances up at the counter, I “pretend” grab at him and he runs out of the kitchen.
• The Tattle Tale is a motion sensor machine that sounds a loud alarm whenever it detects the vibration of a cat jumping onto the counter. I haven’t actually tried this but it sounds promising, and might be worth getting. It sells for $24.99.
Remember, you may have to try several methods to find one that works for you. But with patience and training, you should be able to keep your cat off the kitchen counter.
Read more articles by Julia Williams