Keep Cats Off The Counter With A ‘Yes’ For Every ‘No’

Keep Cats Off The Counter With A ‘Yes’ For Every ‘No’

Cats love to jump up on to things. If you’re having trouble keeping your cats off certain places, you have to train them by positively reinforcing a “yes” area for every “no” area.

Emma Christensen at The Kitchn spoke with the cat whisperer Jackson Galaxy — host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell — about a common problem many cat owners encounter. Cats always seem to want to be up on the kitchen counter. Galaxy explains why they want to be up there and what you can do:

…cats see our countertops as socially significant places. You’re there, you’re doing interesting things, and cats want to know what’s going on. Plus, of course, that’s where their food comes from!

For every “no,” you also need a “yes.” If you say “no” to your cat being on the counter while you’re making dinner (or any time!), you need to make sure to also give them a safe “yes” place… designate a specific spot in your kitchen, like a nearby chair or a cat tree, where it’s ok for your cat to be. Give them treats when they are there so there’s positive reinforcement for the new behaviour.

For some negative reinforcement, you can try double-sided sticky tape on the counter spots they jump up to most, or — my personal favourite for handling my own cats — a spray bottle filled with a cat’s arch nemesis: water. Remember, it’s incredibly important that everyone in the household is on board with what areas are “yes” and what areas are “no”. Otherwise your cats will find a way to just do it when you’re not around. Over time, if you’re consistent, your furry friends will understand the rules.

Cat Whisperer Jackson Galaxy’s Advice for Keeping Your Cats Off The Counter [The Kitchn]


  • With my island kitchen counter I find that my cat is simply curious about the goings on when dinner is being made. The safe or “yes” area needs to be central and have a view of your countertop. Having the cats on the floor with only cause frustration when all your attention is given to the hidden surface. My cats sit on the bar stools opposite the prep area. It is out of reach for the food but they can see and smell everything that goes on. I do feed them as a treat when they are good, but the food is only given when they are on ground level. Feeding them at the bar will only encourage them to jump onto the countertop.

    When I do catch them on the counter (curiosity does get the better of them sometimes) I slap and bang the countertop, which has had more of an effect than pushing them off or smacking. At this point in time I can simply pronounce their name (as you would when telling off a child) and they know to jump off (this also works when I’m not in the same room).

    Like Dogs, Cats are much easier to live with when they are included in the families household duties.

  • Spraying a cat with a water bottle is positive reinforcement. The terms positive and negative re-inforcement do not refer to whether the influence being brought to bear is pleasant or not. It refers to whether a certain action does or does not result in something happening. If someone or something does something, and you do something in response, that is positive reinforcement.

    • As you want to get technical, there is Reinforcement and Punishment, which is divided into positive and negative based on the application or removal of stimuli. You Reinforce desired behaviour to get it to occure more frequently, and Punish undesired behaviour to get it to occur less frequently. You Reinforce positively with a reward, you Reinforce negatively by removing a unpleasant stimuls or allowing escape from it. You Punish positively by applying an unpleasant stimulus and negatively by removing a positive one. All clear? So it is positive punishment to spray it with water when it jumps on the counter (Undesired behaviour) and positive reinforcement to give it a treat when it sits on the chair (Desired behaviour). Electrifying the top of the counter would result in negative reinforcement, as it would be able to escape the shock by jumping back down, resulting in its removal. Happy now Dr Skinner?

  • Pieces of sellotape sticky side up on the no zone.
    It won’t harm them, but it strikes at the very essence kitty angst.
    They will remember forever, and you weren’t there, so it wasn’t you doing it.

  • My understanding of negative reinforcement is:

    The presence of something that prevents an undesirable behaviour. This is like a police car on the motorway/freeway prevents most speeding. Of course once the police car leaves the motorway it’s influence is diminished or extinguished.

    Negative reinforcement is not about punishment, or a bad thing reinforcing behavior, or if you are negative to someone. It is in the domain of preventing undesireable behaviour.

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