Cats are supreme tree-climbing hunters, with strongly muscled backs and hindquarters that give them tremendous power to jump-either horizontally or vertically. It’s normal for cats to jump and climb to high places as they explore their environment. They have sharp, protractile (extendable) claws that serve as useful crampons for climbing.
Cats climb for several reasons. They seek out high vantage points, like countertops and shelves, to survey their territory. They can leap onto bookshelves or scale drapes to escape from another household pet or from something that scares them. Tables and the top of the refrigerator often provide warm, sunny places to snooze. Cats can learn to patrol or “surf” countertops, stovetops and tables in search of tasty tidbits left behind. Although cats are graceful acrobats and rarely break things or pose a danger to themselves, some pet parents prefer that their cats stay off certain countertops and tables.
It’s reported that the Ragdoll breed actually dislikes heights and is less inclined to climb, so if you don’t yet have a cat and would prefer one that stays on the ground, a Ragdoll could be an excellent choice.
Alternatives to Climbing on Countertops and Tables
It’s best not to stifle your cat’s normal jumping and climbing behavior. Your cat will be much happier if you can provide her with acceptable outlets for climbing, jumping, escaping, resting and inspecting the environment. If you don’t, your cat will likely persist in leaping up onto forbidden surfaces. Indoor cat “tree” furniture with natural bark or carpeting and comfortable platforms is an ideal substitute. Kitty condos (another type of indoor vertical furniture designed for cats), with abundant comfortable perching and sleeping areas, are very appealing to most cats. Offer plenty of comfortable nesting beds in warm areas or with burrowing material for extra warmth. Cats who like to gaze out windows or sleep in the sun appreciate commercially available kitty shelves that attach to window sills, such as the Kitty Sill™ and the LazyPet® Deluxe Window Perch. Some, like the Thermo Kitty Sill™, even come with heaters built into the cushions.
Perpetually hungry cats who explore kitchen countertops for food can be easier to discourage if they get more to eat. Feed several small meals a day or, if your cat isn’t overweight, provide free access to food. (If you decide to try free feeding, monitor your cat’s weight closely and go back to giving her regular meals if she starts to put on weight.) Be sure to put all desirable human food away so that your cat isn’t rewarded with tasty surprises when she hops up on counters.