Your inquisitive and nimble cat effortlessly jumps onto the top of the refrigerator, skillfully avoiding your fragile glass serving bowl. Your initial reaction might be to scold him, grab his front legs, and forcefully remove him from the refrigerator.
However, such a response could lead to a confrontation with an angry and frightened cat who may attack or bite you during the struggle. Additionally, while attempting to shoo your cat away, he may lose his balance and suffer injuries from a hard fall to the floor.
According to Pamela Perry, DVM, Ph.D., a behavior resident at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “When a cat is above your head, he has five potential weapons at his disposal: his mouth and four sharp claws. If you reach overhead to retrieve your cat, he may feel threatened and try to defend himself. Your cat may struggle to break free at face level, which is dangerous because you could be seriously bitten or scratched.”
It’s important to note that cats face risks too. They can accidentally knock over pans of hot food on the stove and end up with second- or third-degree burns, requiring immediate veterinary attention.
So, should you just surrender and allow your cat unrestricted access to high shelves and kitchen counters? Definitely not. While you can outsmart your feline friend, it’s crucial to understand four of his motivations before you can effectively discourage counter and shelf surfing:
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The Innate Desire to Explore from a High Perch
Cats view themselves as both predator and prey, and thus, they feel safer in elevated positions away from potential threats within the home. Dr. Perry explains, “Cats are both prey and predator, so they may feel safer on high places.”
The Tempting Aroma of Food on Kitchen Counters
Cats possess a superior sense of smell compared to humans. A sandwich left unattended on a kitchen counter can be an irresistible temptation for a food-motivated cat.
The Opportunity for Uninterrupted Napping in Inaccessible Places
While your bed may be comfortable for your cat, the top of the refrigerator can also be an appealing spot for them to nap in peace. Cats enjoy having various sleeping spots.
Leaping and Climbing for Exercise and Exploration
Jumping and climbing are instinctive for cats and allow them to engage in physical activity and satisfy their curiosity. While some breeds are more athletic than others, all cats have a natural inclination to explore their environment by reaching high places.
To discourage counter-surfing, Dr. Perry suggests the following strategies:
Invest in motion-activated canisters that release bursts of compressed air and place them in areas where your cat tends to trespass. The noise and sudden burst of air are effective deterrents, even when you’re not at home.
Use double-sided tape on counters and the tops of shelves. Most cats dislike the sticky sensation on their paws, which can discourage them from jumping on these surfaces. However, there are exceptions to this method, as some cats may actually enjoy playing with the tape.
Avoid the outdated idea of leaving baking sheets filled with water on kitchen counters. Some cats are attracted to water and may even treat it as a play area, resulting in messy spills. This method is not recommended.
Tap into your cat’s hunting instincts by introducing a treat-dispensing cat toy. This interactive toy will keep your cat engaged as they search for the food inside, providing mental stimulation and a distraction from counter-surfing.
Keep kitchen counters free of any temptations. Leaving food on the counter unintentionally reinforces your cat’s desire to jump up there. Instead, confine your cat to a closed room with treats and food toys during mealtimes.
Provide alternative high perches for your cat, such as sturdy cat trees or designated shelves, where they can safely observe household activities. If your cat enjoys sleeping on top of the refrigerator, offer a more desirable location like a comfortable cat bed on a window perch.
Dr. Perry’s final advice is to call your cat’s name, shake a treat jar, and reward them with a treat once they safely come down from the refrigerator or shelf. The goal is to teach your cat that tasty rewards are only given when they respond to your call. You can even train them to sit on command before receiving a treat. This approach ensures both your safety and your cat’s.
So, remember to create a cat-friendly environment by understanding your feline companion’s motivations and implementing strategies that discourage counter-surfing while keeping them happy and safe.
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