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Keeping Your Cat off Countertops and Tables


Discouraging your Cat from Jumping on Countertops and Tables continued...

You can dissuade your cat from entering banned areas by using “environmental punishers,” which punish her remotely, without you being present. Cats are sensitive animals, so it’s never a good idea to shoo a cat away with your hands or threaten her with a spray bottle. Too often, your cat just learns to be afraid of you. Instead, arrange for the environment to punish your cat directly. For instance, if your cat likes to jump from the floor onto the kitchen counter, balance some lightweight cookie sheets on the edge of the counter. When your cat jumps up, she’ll land on the sheets. They’ll move and possibly topple over, making some unpleasant noise while she leaps back onto the floor. Your cat shouldn’t be harmed by this experience, but she’ll be unlikely to risk jumping on the counter again.

Commercially available deterrent devices perform a similar function. The Snappy™ Trainer is a large plastic paddle attached to an upside-down mousetrap. Any touch causes the mousetrap to trigger. When triggered, the device flies up in the air and startles the cat who set it off. The device is safe because (a) the trap is upside-down, so your cat can’t be caught in it, and (b) the large paddle causes the trap to propel up into the air. The Snappy Trainer is most effective if you set up two or three and place a sheet of newspaper on top of them. When your cat touches the newspaper, she’ll trigger the traps simultaneously. The SSSCAT® cat repellent device is a motion-activated system that triggers a blast of compressed air when a cat comes within a certain distance. These devices can be positioned in areas where you don’t want your cat to go. Another option is to cover the area with a ScatMat®, a sheet of plastic that delivers a mild static charge when a cat steps on it.

The main advantage to using an environmental punisher is that it happens whether you’re present or not. Your cat won’t learn to simply wait until it’s safe-until you’re not around-to do things like jump up on countertops and tables. Instead, she’ll discover that it’s never safe to do those things. Since you won’t always be there when your cat gets punished, she won’t associate an environmental punisher with you. You don’t want her to decide that you’re the scary thing!

What NOT to Do

  • Do not scold your cat verbally, spank her or hit her for getting on countertops and tables. It’s highly unlikely that this kind of punishment will teach her to stay off. More likely, she’ll just become frightened of you.
  • Do not shoo or push your cat off countertops and tables. She could fall and injure herself.
  • Do not use any device to scare your cat away from forbidden areas if there’s a chance she could be physically harmed by the device. For instance, do not substitute real mousetraps for the Snappy Trainer. The point of an environmental punisher is to make your cat reluctant to return to a particular place. The intent is to startle her or make the place uncomfortable for her. There is no reason to physically harm your cat.
  • Do not use environmental punishers to keep your cat away from a certain area if she’s especially skittish and nervous. She may become so frightened that she‘ll be reluctant to enter the room at all or even move around your home.



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The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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