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Healthy Cats

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Keeping Your Cat off Countertops and Tables

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Discouraging your Cat from Jumping on Countertops and Tables

If you provide your cat with alternatives for climbing and, at the same time, arrange the environment so that places like countertops and tables are scary for your cat, you may be able to teach her to avoid those specific areas.

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!

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