Deter “Counter Surfing” Habits

by Keri K. on October 20, 2011

Don't believe it; we're angels

Don't believe it; we're angels

Our two cats are expert kitchen counter surfers. Nothing that isn’t shut out of sight is safe from prying paws. It’s annoying, it’s not particularly appetizing, and it’s even unsafe. Dozo has a plastic obsession, and will chew and swallow things like a sandwich baggie even when its contents are inedible! He’s eaten through bags of litter and birdseed, English muffin packages and bread bags, Liver Snax containers, paper lunch sacks, even a cereal box for the bag inside. And his brother Pan is always right there to help him polish off whatever he’s managed to open, if the dogs don’t get there first.

Keeping the cats out of the kitchen entirely is impossible, as our downstairs has an “open” design. So, we had to search for more counter-specific solutions.

Here are some of the “homemade” remedies I came across:

  • Line off-limits area with sticky double-sided tape, which feels unpleasant to paws
  • Lay down a layer of tinfoil, which rattles when touched
  • Set up soda cans filled with pennies to fall and make a startling racket when bumped
  • Place a shallow pan of water where the cat jumps up

I’m willing to bet these would work for small off-limits spaces, like windowsills or coffee tables. However, we have a continuous counter running on three sides of the kitchen and it isn’t feasible to cover every accessible area. The cats were too persistent and agile, and it was not fun wrestling with a couple yards of tape or setting up a dozen cans before bed (or taking it all down again in the morning).

scat mat

So, we graduated to a more serious deterrent: a Scat Mat Jr. It’s a long, flat, flexible piece of plastic that provides a light static charge when touched. Before bed at night we unroll the Mat over the counter in front of the most-pirated area, and in the morning, everything behind the Mat is untouched. We also have a few X-Mats that I move around just to keep them on their toes!

That covered one stretch of our countertop, but the rest of the kitchen continued to show signs of late-night rummaging. Unfortunately, the cats have already learned that the counter has a chance of offering them yummy things, and no amount of scolding is going to keep them from unsupervised investigations.

Because of that, we’ve found that our best bet was to get organized and consistently straighten up after ourselves. Turns out the best way to keep a cat from licking butter off a plate in the sink is to load the dishwasher right after every meal! I started saving glass jars to store treats, and transferred dry foods into sturdier containers to be kept up high. Nothing in a plastic bag is allowed to sit out. And I also make a habit of wiping down all surfaces with a safe sanitizing spray before preparing food.

Remember that climbing furniture and hunting for food is normal cat behavior, so supply your kitty with safe, approved outlets like cat trees and treat-dispensing toys.


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Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

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