BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Keep Cat Off Table: Put Him in His Place the Non-Harmful Way

orange cat on table
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Cats are natural climbers and jumpers. Cats enjoy perching on high places so they can better survey their surroundings. Although this behavior might be acceptable and even necessary in the wild, when it comes to indoor-cats, there are instances when they must be restricted especially when they’re climbing onto places they’re not supposed to, such as the tabletops. You may need to learn how to keep a cat off the table not just to keep them from knocking things over, but also so that he will not hurt himself up there.

cat sitting at the table

Today, there are plenty of commercial goods that are designed to deter cats from climbing on top of the table. However, these devices often use scare tactics to shoo the cats off. This method isn’t appropriate for older cats or cats that are easily startled because they could end up hurting themselves while panicking. You need a non-harmful way to keep your cat off of the table. It’s possible to teach your cat that the tabletop is no place for him by using positive encouragement instead of negative punishment.

To keep your cat off of the counter and the tables, this how-to article will give you a step-by-step instruction on what you’re supposed to do. This guide will involve five detailed steps. These steps are easy to follow, but you’ll have to be persistent and keep following them over a certain period of time because it’s not easy to change someone’s habits and it won’t happen in an instant.

5 Steps to Keep Cats Off Of the Table

Although most cats are graceful acrobats and rarely break things around them, most cat parents dislike this habit and prefer to keep their felines off of tables and counters. Some pet parents might even go so far as to choose Ragdoll cats specifically for their rare feature of disliking heights. This article aims to provide you with a step-by-step procedure on how to keep cats off the table, regardless of the breed.

Step #1: Provide Alternatives

shelves for cats

First of all, you need to realize that it is instinctual for your cats to want to climb. Instead of outright dismissing this fact, you should try to better understand it in your quest to curb this habit.

Commonly regarded as tree-climbing mammals, cats descended from the Proailurus—an ancient predator that existed some 34 million years ago. These early cats dwelled in the rainforests. Their claws and hindquarters were strong enough to allow them to climb on top of trees and jump long distances both horizontally and vertically without facing any difficulty.

Cats have a long history with heights. While in the wild, these felines take advantage of high places for several reasons. Some of these basic reasons include:

  • For hunting purposes: You see, when wild cats are on top of trees, they gain an aerial view of their surroundings—making it easier for them to spot their prey and hunt.

  • For safety reasons: Much like leopards that tend to drag their prey up a tree in order to protect it from the thieving paws of other carnivores, often, wild nursing cats had no option but to take their kittens up on treetops to secure them from other wild animals.

Now, back to our cats, there are many reasons why your feline friend prefers climbing onto table tops over resting on the couch or their pet bed. Apart from the obvious reason of surveying their territories, cats enjoy climbing onto elevated places to escape from stubborn household pets and kids. In addition to that, cats climb on tabletops in search of food debris which might have been left behind.

Now that you understand the reason behind why cats climb, you can work your way around it by providing alternatives. To ensure that your feline friend keeps off the table or the kitchen counter, you should purchase climbing toys such as kitty condos, cat window perches, and cat shelves for your feline friend to rest on.

cat lying on window perch

For those who enjoy being creative, you can even build your own. Before you build anything, make sure you first decide on the perfect location to install your cat tree or wall shelves. You don’t want to cheerfully build your cat’s new playground in one place only to realize later that you should’ve done so in another spot in the house. Cat trees and cat shelves—especially those that are well-built, tend to be permanent and immovable.

You see, your cat might gravitate towards the dining room or the kitchen table because they associate the place with safety and comfort. On the other hand, other cats prefer the living room because they like to bask in the morning sun or to gaze out the window to watch the birds.

It’s always wise to identify a location you believe the feline will naturally gravitate towards. Also, when building cat shelves, ensure that they intersect to make it easier for your feline to jump from one part of the shelf to another.

Step #2: Introduce Your Feline to His New Playground

Now that you’ve already purchased or set up a comfortable cat tree or a wall shelf for your feline friend, it’s time to spruce up the area and make it as attractive as possible to lure your cat in. This is also where you can amend for your mistake in case you’ve built the cat furniture in the wrong place.

Here, you should give him treats and lots of praise words whenever he jumps onto the new furniture instead of the table. In addition to that, you can also rub catnip on the new furniture to attract your feline. Playing with him in the new area so he will gradually start to feel comfortable in it may also work.

Step #3: Use Treats

giving treat to a cat

If you’ve already set up attractive cat furniture but your feline friend is still climbing on top of the dining or kitchen table, one possible reason for this behavior is that your feline friend might be looking for food debris or leftovers.

To tackle such a situation, you should feed him near the cat tree to encourage him to spend more time on the perches and less time on the tables. You may have to do this quite often before your cat starts to get the idea. Therefore, before applying this method, you’ll first need to visit the local vet to monitor your cat’s weight before deciding on the ideal feeding schedule that will not push him into an overweight/obese state.

There are two techniques you can use to feed your cat. One is breaking up the food into several meal times. This technique is perfect for pet parents that stay at home for the better part of the day. The second method is to fill up your cat’s bowl with one meal that he will slowly eat throughout the day.

Step #4: Avoid Leaving Leftovers on Table Tops

cat at the empty table

It’s always said that prevention is better than cure. An easy way to prevent your cat from jumping onto the table top is by removing whatever it is that makes him go up there. If your cat is climbing onto the table top because he’s hungry, then you need to remove any food leftovers from the table or the countertop and always make sure that it is spotless.

Secondly, many pet parents, especially those with canine pets around, might have no choice but to feed cats on the table tops to avoid food-related conflicts. This idea is quite inappropriate and will force your feline into developing the habit of climbing onto table tops even when it’s not mealtime.

To avoid this, find a separate elevated place where your cat can feed on and feel comfortable—such as his new cat shelf. Another option would be to invest in a dog-proof cat feeder. Always discourage your cat from jumping onto the table tops by placing him on the floor immediately until he learns to keep off.

Step #5: Make the Table Top as Uninteresting as Possible

plastic mat on a table

If your cat is not ready to change his habits no matter how hard you try to stop him, you can opt to make the table or countertop as uninteresting as possible, so he will learn to keep off on his own. There are multiple ways to make the tabletop less appealing to discourage your feline from climbing on:

  • Try some double-sided sticky tapes: Cats don’t like sticky sensations on their paws. Therefore, one way to keep those curious felines off the tabletops is by placing double-sided tape stripes on the tabletops in a criss-cross pattern. Always use a specialized pet product (that’s not too sticky) to avoid hurting your cat.

  • Place plastic mats on the tabletop: Floor mats can be used to discourage cats from climbing onto tabletops. Floor or rather plastic mats have small knocks or bumps at the bottom for traction. When placed upside down on top of the table, the bumps will not harm your feline but will give him an unpleasant sensation that will force him to stay off the table.

  • Use a spray: Another technique you can consider is to use repellent sprays. Commercial sprays do not cause any harm to your feline but will play a major role in keeping them off of the tabletop thanks to their cat repellent oils and scents. However, before spraying it all over your furniture, it’s advisable that you first test whether the spray will damage your tabletop or not by testing it with a small sprinkle. If you don’t see any noticeable changes, then the spray is fine to use. You can also concoct the sprays at home.

  • Use deterrent devices: Any changes? In case you discover that the environmental disciplinary measures are not enough, consider using deterrent devices as a last resort. For example, there are devices designed to resemble an upside-down mousetrap. This device is attached to a motion-sensitive plastic paddle that triggers the mouse trap once your cat steps on it. The mousetrap is always set in an upside down position to avoid injuring your cat’s paws once triggered. Another deterrent device you can use is fitted with motion sensors that trigger a blast of compressed air when tripped. The sound produced by the device is so irritating that it will scare your cat away from the table top. Finally, you can also invest in a piece of plastic sheet that produces a static charge. It won’t hurt your cat, but since cats are sensitive, the slight sensation on his paws should be enough to keep him off the table.

Now, before you invest in any of the above devices, first consider your cat’s age and personality. Older cats or those that are easily startled shouldn’t be subjected to such devices. Your feline friend might injure himself badly. Or, he might knock over valuable kitchen accessories while trying to rush towards the floor.

Wrap Up

There are many benefits to keeping cats off of the table. You’re not being mean; you’re just trying to keep them safe. Most cat injuries are incurred when they’re climbing on stovetops, countertops, and dining table tops. Since it’s not advisable to shout or spray them with water, you should provide them with alternatives instead.

white cat lying on table

Cats are active and playful creatures. One smart way to keep them off of table tops is by enriching your home with multiple specially-designed perching spots to keep them occupied. In case the cat doesn’t seem to be interested in his new playground, you can opt to lure them in with treats and snacks.

Before applying this method, it’s always wise to consult the vet first to avoid overfeeding the cat. You can also consult the vet to determine which technique will work best without exposing your feline to any danger.

If you’ve tried any of these methods or if there’s something important you think we left behind, please don’t hesitate to send your thoughts to us using the comment box below.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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