Cats on counters: cool or concerning?

By Christina Cannady | Photographer

The beloved felis catus comes from a long line of great and ferocious hunters, who were once worshipped before they were domesticated. Whether one is a cat person or a dog person, there’s no denying the responsibilities that come with owning a pet — and sometimes that means pet-proofing a home.

Their history in the wild contributes to the active urges common house cats often have, like jumping or “the zoomies.” Since humans have domesticated cats to the point one can live indoors its entire life, the least a cat parent can do is provide a space for their cats to relieve those wild urges.

Similar to baby-proofing a house for a child, a cat parent should cat-proof their space. This means clearing counters and tables of objects cats would want to knock over, like cups or trinkets. If a cat parent has plants, they may need to relocate or consider caging some plants. It’s important to be aware of which house plants are poisonous to cats — there are many of them.

House cats who have a good relationship with their humans develop their own ways of communicating and often adjust to the normal routines around the house. Since cats have those natural wild inclinations, they will look for places to hide, jump and climb. Oftentimes, cat parents find themselves with cats who can’t stay off the counter. Cats are smarter than credited for and will learn which behaviors cause excitement.

If a cat jumping on the counter is met with negative reinforcement, like using a spritz bottle or shouting, they may treat it like a game. One may find success in simply ignoring such behavior. Let the cat just sniff around. If they aren’t met with any feedback, they may either jump off or lay down — assuming the space has already been cat-proofed and there’s nothing to nose in.

This is where decisions may split about whether the cat can lay on the counter because of germ concerns. A cat is only as clean as its space. If the cat’s litter space is regularly cleaned, and the fur is brushed as needed, I argue it should be okay for the cat to lay on the counter. One can simply wipe down and clean their counter, as they would any other time.

Cats jumping on counters may also be their way of communicating that it needs more places to climb. Getting a cat is not free; there are expenses that go along with cats, just like children, and both like entertainment. Cats need engaging toys and towers, posts or shelves to climb on. It’s also a good idea to make sure the cat has access to a window view.

The argument of whether cats should be allowed on the counter comes down to how well your cat is stimulated and how clean your home is. It may be tedious to cat-proof a space, but it is a necessary precaution so that your cat can have and use their space.