Monday, June 27, 2011

How to keep cats off kitchen counters

Eamon the cat climbing up on the kitchen counter
For most of his life, Eamon had impeccable kitchen manners. He would look for food on the floor, of course, but he wouldn't dare get up on the counter tops or go searching for food on the dining room table.

All of these manners have recently gone out the window, and I think I know why.

In all of my previous homes, Eamon was given free range of the kitchen. I had no way to close the kitchen off, in most cases, so he could go in there whenever he pleased. Since I am a tidy person who cleans up almost immediately after a meal, there was rarely anything to find on the counter tops. If he hopped up on the counters, he rarely found anything worth snacking on so he likely stopped looking.

In my current home, the kitchen is closed off most of the time. When the kitchen is open, it's because we're in there making food. When he hops on the counter now, he is likely to find something to eat. So his hopping on the counter is rewarding, and that's why he continues to do it.

Clever boy.

The solution, it seems, is to let him into the kitchen much more frequently and to booby-trap the counters so he encounters unpleasant things. There are tons of ways to do that. I could:
  1. Fill pop cans with pennies or marbles, and line them up a few inches from the edge of the counter. That way, when Eamon jumps up, it causes a loud noise he probably won't like. 
  2. Put something spiky on his favorite counter, like a plastic carpet runner. 
  3. Sprinkle the counters with orange peels or Ivory soap, so the smells force him away. 
  4. Buy a device that squirts water or hisses when it's triggered by motion. 
Cats are quick learners, so it's unlikely I'd need to leave these things up all the time. If he had one or two bad experiences, it would probably be enough to keep him off the counters for good.

But I need to do something. Every time he hits the counter jackpot, it will be a little harder to train the behavior away. I'd better get cracking!