2009 Cat Writers' Association Certificate of Excellence winning article by Sandra Toney. Congrats from Petside!"My cat never gets on our table or countertops," you proudly exclaim to your party guests. As you usher them into the dining room, however, there is your beloved cat, Rascal, defiantly perched on your perfectly set table and she is licking the top of the salt shaker! Needless to say, your dinner party is ruined and your guests -- especially those who don't have Pet Families of their own waiting at home -- are somewhat disgusted (and you are not surprised that no one asked to pass the salt).
If your countertop and table often has exposed food on its surface, your hungry and curious cat will probably become a regular visitor. No one, not even the most avid of feline fanciers, likes to see an animal on their dining room table, kitchen countertops or any other food preparation areas. Plus, cats in the kitchen can be dangerous because of hot stovetops and ovens, as well as bone chilling freezers and refrigerators, which your cat could climb into or onto and become seriously injured. All in all, it is best to keep your furry helper OUT of the kitchen for good.
Setting Food Boundaries
The first rule in avoiding this is not to leave any food out unsupervised . . . ever! Also, do not feed your cat scraps or morsels in the kitchen while you are preparing dinner or eating at your table. This way, your cat will not associate food with the kitchen and dining areas.
It is tempting to slip your cat a chunk of cheese or a sliver of tuna fish (kitty's favorite) when she is pacing your kitchen floor and looking at you with eyes full of longing and desperation. Actually, that's the reason why cat food companies make nutritionally balanced food especially for your cat. Avoid even starting table "snacking" would be best for kitty's overall health.
Do not even keep your cat's food bowls in your kitchen or cans of their food in your cupboards. Any association with food and kitchen will usually spell disaster. If kitty sees you even opening a can of cat food on your countertop, she will remember that the countertop is also a food supply so, in the mind of a feline, it must be investigated several times daily!
Discouraging the Visits
If your persistent feline still likes to visit your table and countertops, you might want to put something on these surfaces that will startle kitty when she jumps onto them, such as a scat mat (it gives kitty a tiny zap that just startles your cat enough to make her jump off the space immediately).
Empty aluminum cans with coins in them clanking to the floor or some spoons placed strategically might just scare her enough not to attempt the table and countertop visits again.
Also, cats hate the feel of plastic or tape (use double-sided tape) on their paws, so covering up the areas with these items might deter your curious cat from food and dining zones once and for all.
Another deterrent for kitchen capers is an always-ready squirt bottle filled with water. Most felines prefer to avoid water at all costs. One strategic squirt while kitty is on the table or counter (this works even better if you can stay out of sight and your cat does not see where the water is coming from) will hopefully make her associate being squirted with being on the counter or table.
Don't Forget the Praises
"Regardless of how you get your cat to remove himself, follow his retreat with praise," say Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson in their book, Good Owners, Great Cats. "As always, make sure all correction stops the moment he complies. The second all four feet leave the table, the water squirting loud noise must end. He needs to connect jumping off the table with safety if he is to get the message you want him to get."
If you stick to the rules you have set for your cat concerning the kitchen/dining area, kitty, at the very least, should respect your consistency and, if possible, stop visiting countertops and tabletops altogether . . . well, at least when anyone is looking!