Every morning, Martha, a royal Maine coon mix, sashayed over the breakfast table and made a beeline for her favorite windowsill, shedding cat hair into the butter and hurling litter granules from her long hairy tail. When he discovered clay particles floating in his coffee mug for the third morning in a row, Mitch responded. “No more cats on the kitchen table!” he cried, and Martha nodded. But Martha’s march had resumed by 7:30 a.m. the next morning. Mitch questioned how he could stop Martha’s “surface hijinks” short of prohibiting her from your kitchen.
Before you can train your cat to avoid a banned surface, you must first determine why she is drawn to it. Cats love high platforms for surveying their surroundings, whether they be tabletops, worktops, or infant changing tables. All the better if these surfaces provide extra delights. Is there still food on the stove? Is the kitchen table near the window and overlooking the birdbath? Allow her to consume food right from the pan. Surfaces that offer such alluring rewards are difficult to keep a cat away from.
First, remove the incentives that make a surface so appealing. If your cat likes to gnaw on crusty frying pan leftovers, soak them in the sink before serving. Draw the blinds or raise the shutters to “eliminate” the enticing sunshine if she prefers reclining on the sunlit windowsill at the end of the kitchen table.
Next, offer options. If your indoor cat enjoys birdwatching, set a feeder or birdbath near a windowsill where she won’t mind sitting, such as in the family room or home office. Don’t complain about her perching on forbidden surfaces until you’ve provided her with some. Scratching posts with multiple levels, resting areas, and hideouts are great for territory surveillance. If the counter surfer is seeking for food incentives, feel free to share the occasional leftover—just make sure to place the contents in her plate. Is the changing table cozy, pleasant, and well-padded? Cats are simple creatures.
Break the habit since they will continue to repeat actions until new ones arise. Martha had been observing birds from the kitchen ledge for years, and breaking her practice would require more than yelling and pushing. If Martha found herself locked out of the kitchen every morning, she would most likely develop a new habit. She’d almost certainly scrape and scream at the door for the first week, but if that didn’t work—even if she got increasingly disagreeable as her efforts intensified—she’d finally seek out something more fulfilling. Perhaps it would be more fun to watch birds from the newly padded windowsill in the bedroom.
Mats That Aren’t Needed
Make the restricted area undesirable. Cats have tactile preferences, and the majority of them loathe sticky, slick, cold, or scratchy surfaces. If your cat likes to nap in an empty crib, cover the mattress with a crib-sized sheet of cardboard covered with double-sided adhesive. If the cardboard is left in situ for at least two weeks, the cat will most likely seek out a more comfortable location. Sticky Paws is another temporary solution you can use on the table; it’s similar to double-sided tape but is safe for furniture and does not appeal to cats.
Thick plastic sheeting, upside-down plastic rug protectors, and tinfoil are all disliked by cats. It’s a little strange at first, but purchase one of those plastic carpet runners from office supply stores and place it upside down on the table with the nubs sticking out. Cats avoid getting up on the table because they loathe walking on this surface.
Motion sensors, flashing lights, and water or citronella sprays may all serve the same purpose. If your cat is apprehensive, tense, or easily agitated, avoid using a method with stunning elements; it may cause her to attack the first living being she encounters.
Sometimes it is preferable to simply “handle” the problem. Close the nursery doors. Refrigerate any leftover food; if your worktops are clean, the cat will have no reason to come in. Move the kitchen table closer to the window, pushing Martha to leap right onto the sill to watch the birds at play. Mitch might also get a covered butter dish and a portable coffee mug.
There are several approaches to dealing with feline surface conflicts; the approach you take is dictated by the situation, the cat’s persistence, and the strength of your resolve.
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