Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Hello! I am the mommy of a beautiful 1-year-old kitty named Gorgeous (or Gori as my son calls her) and she is probably one of the smartest cats I’ve met — but also one of the most opinionated. She has boundaries she refuses to follow. The only places she isn’t allowed are the counter and the table and she knows this. As soon as I leave the house she is all over them. I prep food in these areas and have family with cat allergies, so it’s not only unsanitary it’s unsafe. How can I get my baby to respect her boundaries without being mean or unloving to her? I tried the squirt bottle, so now she waits and gets on the counter when I’m not home so it’s pointless. She knows my son and fiancé won’t tell her no about anything! Thanks in advance looking forward to a solution!
~ Gorgeous’ Mommy
Thomas: The good news is that we do have some solutions for you, and we think these might actually help.
Bella: What you’re going to have to do is provide some passive negative conditioning and at the same time provide her with high places she can go.
Tara: What do we mean? We’ll get to that in just a minute. But first, we want you to know that Gorgeous is not being deliberately disobedient, even if it seems like she is. What she’s doing is looking for high places where she can observe the action in her home.
Thomas: So, what you’re going to do in order to keep her off your counters and your table is make those surfaces unappealing and at the same time, get her some cat furniture that will give her that observation post she’s looking for. Like celebrity cat expert Jackson Galaxy says, “for every no, provide a yes.”
Bella: You’re going to have to do these two things at the same time, but if you do, we think it will resolve the behavior issues.
Tara: If Gorgeous doesn’t have cat trees and shelves, you’re going to need to address that first. There are lots of wonderful cat trees out there. We have a seven-foot-tall Armarkat tree, which Mama has placed by a big window so we can look outdoors and enjoy Squirrel TV and Bird TV. That tree wasn’t terribly expensive (it was about $125 and she ordered it from a major online retail site).
Thomas: You may also want to invest in some cat shelves. You can either buy super-stylish pre-made ones or you can go the DIY route and save money while accomplishing the same goal. IKEA Hackers has some great ideas, and here’s another site with instructions on how to make DIY cat shelves.
Bella: The important thing is that the trees and shelves need to be in places that are attractive to Gorgeous — places she likes to hang out anyway, not shoved into a corner somewhere. Also, be sure to reward her when she uses the appropriate surfaces. Clicker training is one way to teach her that cat shelf equals good things, but if you can’t do that, just give her a treat whenever you see her on her shelf or cat tree.
Tara: Next, you’ll want to make the counter and table unattractive to Gorgeous. The most effective tool is a product called Sticky Paws.
Thomas: Yeah, that stuff is gross! Mama and her sister made a cardboard cover for her small dining room table and covered it with extra-large Sticky Paws sheets, and it was awful when we tried to jump on the table.
Bella: I kept trying anyway, but that darn sticky stuff was still there, no matter how many times I jumped up to check it out.
Tara: X-Mats may be a good solution for keeping Gorgeous off the counters. The good thing about these is that they’re easy to remove for when you’re doing your food prep, unlike Sticky Paws. The X-Mats have nubs that stick up and make it uncomfortable for cats to walk on the surfaces. If you can’t easily find X-Mats, get a plastic carpet runner designed for thick carpets (those also have little nubs for traction) and put it on the counter upside-down, with the nubs sticking up.
Thomas: You can also get motion-activated deterrents like SSScat. This product produces a burst of air that should really annoy Gorgeous when she gets somewhere she shouldn’t be.
Bella: We think that by using a combination of deterrents and appropriate high places to hang out, you’ll help Gorgeous learn on her own that counters and tables are not awesome places to be.
Tara: It’s going to take time and patience, and everybody has to be on the same page about keeping Gorgeous off the table and counters. You’ll also need to keep food off the counters and out of the sink. And of course, lots of interactive play will help Gorgeous to feel intellectually stimulated without doing things she shouldn’t.
Thomas: So, in short: Use deterrents and appropriate kitty places at the same time; reward Gorgeous when she’s on a surface that’s OK for her to be on; give her lots of interactive play to keep her intellectually stimulated and get her worn out; and make sure everyone keeps the deterrents in place when the table and counter are not being used.
Bella: What about you other readers? Do you have any tips for keeping cats off counters and tables? Have you done something that works really well for you? Please share your ideas in the comments!
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