How to Keep Your Cats Off the Kitchen Counter, Once & For All

Because the last thing you need is cat hair in your food.

August 29, 2022
Photo by Westend61/Getty Images

After several years of model behavior, one of my cats recently discovered that very tasty food like shredded chicken is often left on the kitchen counter at dinnertime. Now, it seems like I can’t turn my back without Henry sneakily jumping on the counter to grab a bite. 

Henry isn’t the first feline who prefers the kitchen counter over the best cat trees. Over time, I’ve found several tactics to keep my kitties with four paws on the floor. If you’re looking for ways to keep cats off the counter, here are the strategies that have worked for me (and thus, my dearest Henry).

Give Them Somewhere Else to Climb

If your cat is up on the counter because they’re bored and exploring, redirect their attention elsewhere with the help of new toys. There are fun and functional cat trees that will do just that, including floor-to-ceiling towers and oversized cat condos that offer plenty of room for your cat to play, scratch, and climb. If you dislike the look of traditional cat trees, try the Whisker Cat Tower, which has a modern design that looks like a contemporary piece of furniture.

Keep the Counter Clean

If there’s one thing that cats and humans have in common, it’s that they always want to eat. To keep my kitty off the kitchen counter, I’ve had to do my part to keep food out of sight. If your feline is all feast, no famine, do the same—cover everything during dinner and put away leftovers immediately. We’ve doubled down on our efforts to keep the counter clean of all food— if he doesn’t find anything to eat, he’s less likely to jump up there.

Invest in a Water Fountain

Some cats jump up on the kitchen or bathroom counter to drink out of the faucet, as they like the taste of fresh, running water. If this is your cat’s motive, give them their own water fountain. These cat-friendly foundations operate just like decorative fountains, using a small pump to circulate water for thirsty cats. Most fountains have filters to help remove impurities; if your persnickety cat prefers cool water, add a few ice cubes into the reservoir each day.

Line the Edges with Foil Or Tape

If these preventive measures aren’t enough to keep your cat from jumping on the counter, there are a few other things you can try. One commonly used method is lining the edges of your counters with aluminum foil. When your cat jumps up to the counter, they’ll land on the foil, and the noise and texture of the metallic sheet will startle them, causing them to jump back down. Keep the foil on your countertops for a week or two, depending on how persistent your feline friend is, but eventually, they’ll give up and find somewhere else to hang out.

Some people employ this same strategy with double-sided sticky tape, as most cats don’t like the sensation of having the tape stick to their paws. If you go this route, make sure to purchase wide tape so that your cat can’t just jump over it.

Set Up a Motion-Activated Deterrant

Several years ago, my roommate’s cat went through a counter-surfacing phase, and nothing we tried deterred her in the slightest. (She was really, really stubborn.) Eventually, we caved and bought the SSSCAT Spray Deterrent, which finally did the trick. This compressed air canister has a motion-activated sensor so when your cat hops up onto the counter, it spurts air at them, scaring them away. This effective, but pricey product should be a last resort. There’s a good chance that the spray will also scare you every time you walk by it—I speak from experience.

How do you keep your cats off the kitchen counter? Let us know in the comments!
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Theresa H. September 13, 2022
If you don't want cats on your counters, tables, couches, etc. Buy yourself a bird! September 11, 2022
Just a word of caution. We had a cat that suddenly became very ravenous and interested in dinner on the counter top. Had I known better, I would have realized something was wrong sooner. He was diagnosed with hepatic liver disease too late for us to do much for him.
Also, a spray bottle works pretty well, but interested in these other suggestions for our kitty who likes to be sneaky at night.
Jim September 11, 2022
I'm a true believer in cats owned the house you just live with them. Our cats don't eat people food we don't let them we never offer it to them but they are welcome on the counter. Actually they are welcome anywhere in our house that's not dangerous to them it's not dangerous to them. Most good cooks will clean the counter and sanitize it before cooking that would be my suggestion. Works great our cats have had many a great time getting attention on the counters and it's a great place it plays for us to give them attention back good luck to all you
Teeboy November 17, 2023
I thought the same thing until he started peeing on the counter.
Pat M. September 11, 2022
Two things: 1. DON'T FEED YOUR CATS "PEOPLE" FOOD! & 2. Cat hair is a condiment. ;@
Lorraine September 11, 2022
Keep them out of the kitchen?
Gina F. September 11, 2022
You can try the Scat Mat. It comes in different sizes. It gives off a low static shock. We kept the batteries in it for a few times but then once the cat saw it, just the visual was a deterrent alone!
Ellen P. September 11, 2022
Deterrent- NOT deterrant. No excuses...
KLS September 1, 2022
Didn't see this in the article:
1 Kitty Behavior Modification Tool AKA spray bottle of water. Works like a charm. After a while, you only have to make the sound, and they the ground
Gammy September 11, 2022
Absolutely this!!! Small dollar-store spray bottle plus plain water squirted at the offenders caught in the act and making the squirting "psssst, pssst, pssst" sound and all ours have learned REAl fast. Pretty soon all that is needed is a trigger finger pointed at them and that "psssst, pssst, pssst" sound and they skedaddle pronto! Oh, and don't leave food, including butter, on the counter without covering or putting away.
Teeboy November 17, 2023
Yes we do that but my camera’s show me he still get on the counter at night. Didn’t really need the camera’s as he pees on the counter at night also that was a dead giveaway
Michelle O. August 30, 2022
How do you keep dogs off of the counters?
CaptBignuts August 30, 2022
What I've found that works most Everytime is newspaper and. Mouse traps. Setting two or three traps then laying newspaper over the top. Kinda works like the air machine you mentioned in the above artical but at a much cheaper price.
Lynn M. August 30, 2022
I have to feed our two cats at the end of the counter, otherwise the dog will eat all their food before they get a chance at it. I found that creating a border of strips of slightly crumpled aluminum foil taught them where they could go and where they couldn't. These two are pretty smart and caught on quickly.
However, new kitty who showed up in the woods behind our house last year is oblivious to any foil strips, puffs from the air duster, or spurts from the plant mister. He just does whatever he wants.
Thankfully, he's wary enough that if anyone even thinks about moving into the kitchen, he's off like a shot!
M August 29, 2022
It helps for your redirection to be in line with the behaviour you're trying to correct. So a counter alternative should be about counter height or higher. Cats like to be high, and generally be involved. The more they can't see, the more exploratory and underfoot they will be. If they're going for food, make sure they're fed before dinner is ready to serve. Playtime before the meal also helps. Though there are always laser-focused interests that are hard to contend with, a lot of cat behaviour is solved by tending to their play/food/life needs.

Also the tape/foil -- test and make sure their dislike is greater than their curiosity. Otherwise you'll make an elaborate deterrent system and the cat might get annoyed, but not deterred.