Cats on Kitchen Counters

Are you a person who doesn’t like to see your cat on kitchen counters? You always shoo her off? You might squirt water at her or shout at her. Discipline her. Punish her. You just hate to see it.

Cat on kichen counter

Let’s think about it. Here is a question: do you do all the things in the list below before having a go at your cat for doing something natural like jumping onto a kitchen counter?

Cats on kitchen counters

Obviously, I am making a point. People bring a lot of bacteria into the kitchen. There are many more bacteria on each, individual person than the number of people in the United States (310m at 2013). There are in fact one thousand billion bacteria on and in the human.

Some bacteria is not bad bacteria but it is on the skin, clothes, hair, chopping boards, knives, food, kitchen counters etc..Hands are a health hazard in the kitchen. I wonder how many people wash their hands for 40 seconds using warm water and soap before starting to prepare food? Not many if any. If you don’t, you bring bacteria on your hands, from many different sources, to the kitchen counter. Is the amount of bacteria brought to the kitchen in this way greater than the bacteria brought in by the cat? Are the health hazards created by people using the kitchen counter greater than the health hazards introduced to the counter by the cat when she jumps up?

How do people store food in the fridge? Does it comply with best practice to avoid cross-contamination? Do the cooks in the house handle raw food correctly to avoid cross-contamination?

These are worthwhile questions to ask because it is rather hypocritical and foolhardy to punish a cat for her brief visit to a kitchen counter when the person doing the punishing is more of a health hazard than her cat. People should prioritise themselves before dealing with their cat.

Another reason for preventing a cat jumping onto a counter is to prevent the cat eating food. This can be prevented in a much more sensible and gentle way by covering food that is being prepared if it has been left on the counter.

The other point I am making is that there are far better ways of dealing with a cat’s natural instincts to investigate counter tops than through harsh, negative reinforcement, which, incidentally, only serves to confuse and alienate a cat.

Another preventative and kinder way to stop a cat jumping up is to remove incentives. There may be a plant he likes to chew (this should be checked out anyway for the sake of the cat’s health) or he might like to look out of the window. The latter “problem” can be dealt with by providing a nice viewing platform in another room.

Shedding cat hair might be another reason why a person hates to see a cat on a counter. I agree this is not good. But does this person, who so hates to see a cat on a counter, wear a hair net when preparing dinner for the family?

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Cats on Kitchen Counters — 45 Comments

  1. Brilliant Michael! You are so right, people are far more of a health hazard than a cat jumping up onto a worktop. It makes me so annoyed when people punish a cat for doing that, when as you say they could surely just cover up any unattended food. It makes me think the cat is hungry anyway, we never sit down to a meal without feeding our cats first. I hate to see pictures of them begging for food from a human.
    Also you are right, most of the time a cat jumps up because they love being up a height, or to look out of the window, it’s very easy to provide alternative high perches by windows in other rooms.
    So what if the cat does jump on the worktop anyway, you can buy cruelty free anti bacterial spray such as Astonish make and spray and wipe the surface over after the cat jumps down, no big deal at all.

    • I feed Monty first and he still begs for my food, claiming not to have been fed in fourteen years. Not once. Not a morsel. In fourteen years.
      “But Monty, you are only four years old and I fed you ten minutes ago!”
      I’m still hungry, Mom.
      “Cats don’t like this anyway!”
      Try me, I might.

  2. I hate it when people make a fuss about cats jumping up on the worktop, what could be easier than lifting them down and playing with them for a few minutes or giving them a distraction such as a toy or something to eat before washing your hands/worktop (if you wish to) and getting back to the job in hand, people treat their kitchens like gods but surely a cat, dog or child wanting to spend time with you takes precedence over chopping onions or making sarnies! I think there’s too much focus on cleaning everything and eradicating every germ, sensible hygiene is surely enough without us becoming paranoid about it. Our generations were raised with a lot less emphasis on hygiene and we haven’t done so bad!


    • Hi Nancy. I like your cat-friendly attitude to kitchen counters. That is the way it should be. There is too much fuss made over cats jumping onto kitchen counters You obviously know a hell of a lot about caring for a cat colony.

  4. I couldn’t care less if our cats jump on the work top I just sanitise if after they’ve jumped down anyway but besides its only my one cat that does it and then he doesn’t do it a lot, anyway a few germs help to boost our immune system! The only people who need to watch out are the very old and very young because their immune systems aren’t developed/compromised so of course they are more susceptible.

    My hubby doesn’t like Alfie on the work top but as you say he probably carries round more germs than the cat anyway!

  5. Mandy says she’s making a counter statement here. She was so cute! We have a folding kitchen table set up as the cat table, but it doesn’t have “sunshine”

  6. One thing my mama taught me was to always point knives facing down in the dish drainer. We have a couple of cats who’d have been kabobed if not for them being down. Plus it’s very easy to stab yourself while placing dishes in the drain to dry.

    • Nice point. Thanks Elisa. Way back, 20+ years ago we had three cats and I used to feed them all on the kitchen work top. I did nothing before or after they fed in respect of hygiene. That shows you my attitude about cats and kitchen counters.

      • Laura’s a clean freak. She wipes everything down with a Clorox mix twice a day. And I’d better not bring home bargain brand bleach. Has to be Clorax.

  7. Marco Polo likes to supervise my culinary skills in the kitchen, so I created a safe place for him on top of the frig. He can explore above the cupboards from that vantage pt. as well, and is happy to observe my knife-wielding from a distance. I am meticulous about food prep, something I learned from my dad at a very young age. (We both love to cook!) And yet, cats on the countertops after prep has never bothered me. They get to explore wherever. common sense dictates. wipe down surfaces, handles of pot lids, ingredient packaging, before cooking. Humans are not allowed to lift the lid off of a pot unless they first wash thoroughly (a pet peeve of mine). I have zero tolerance for humans, and all the tolerance in the world for my beloved felines. Ha!
    Funny, I just got in to watching utube vids of Mr. Galaxy, cat bahavioralist, and he feels just like we do, naturally. Never a need to use negative conditioning, it’s insensitive and ridiculous. I like this article very much, Michael. Positive reinforcement all the way! 🙂

    • We have a box bed on top of the fridge. Always have someone in it. That’s where the knife danger came in. Cats jump up to the bar and over the dish drainer and fly over the sink to the counter and lauch up into the fridge box.

    • Thanks Caroline. You have a nice system. You give Marco Polo a place to watch and share in the kitchen while maintaining hygiene. I guess one reason I am very laissez-faire about cats on worktops is because I don’t cook 😉 LOL I do prepare some food sometimes but generally buy in prepared food.

      • Well, Michael dear,[and you are a dear btw] it seems we all are laissez-faire ’bout cats on worktops. Good thing, too! Otherwise I truly doubt that we would let them stick their paws in our mouths on their whim. 😉 True?

  8. Dare I mention, cat hairs are inevitable in the food? A few CAT hairs are not only to be tolerated, but really add a lovely nuance to the presentation. 😉

      • Oh dear, we’d better avoid that one. But! allow me 😉 [she attempts to avoid the subject] There is nothing more entertaining than watching my less than ailurophile guests (friends4ever) at the table attempt to gracefully remove cat hairs from their tongue. I love it, so do my catloving friends, and we all laugh in the end (no pun intended).

            • well. Are you fully awake, my dear friend? I have sent comments to FB, Twitter, Google+, and I’ve never even used Twitter B4. PawProject is awesome! I also sent a lengthy yet terse letter to Dr. Becky, my veterinarian here in Lincoln, NE, letting her know that I fully expect her to set a precedent in Nebraska. (Have not yet heard back. counting.)

              Here is an haiku freshly caught [tell me what you think. be straightforward, it’s what I expect-no mincing!]:


              Cat stretches her claw.
              That shadow on the ceiling
              It cannot approach.

          • Hi, Caroline! Thanks for remembering me! I’ve just been very busy with the holidays and all and then very lazy.

            • We love you too, Michael. Well, Monty would probably growl at you if he met you in person, but that’s just how he is sometimes. If you came still smelling of Charlie, he probably would be ok with you. We had a repairman here and Monty kept walking right up to him and sniffing him, hanging around him. The repairman said he has two cats, so that explained it. If you come smelling of dog that is unforgivable.

              • That’s interesting. I fund, by the way, that cats like the way I smell – they like my scent. There may be something in that or it may be a crazy idea that cats prefer the scent of some people to others. I has occurred to me as a possibility.

      • Umm, how much do we have to consume, before coughing up a hairball, or, is that reserved For Cats Only? …wait a second. You said, “bowl movement.” Omg, I am slow! LOL! 😉

  9. No place is off limits here, especiallt counters.
    Like Elisa, I have a box house on top of the frig and several more on top of the cabinets and the entertainment center.

  10. my house is never off limit. my cats are my children . l feed my cats on one side of the worktop . and some times they eat of my plate if they jump on the table .l love my cats. they have a bed on the kitchen table as well . if you are reading a paper she or he will set on it to be will you. my cats jump up to the top cabinets to. and look down at you .I have maine coons they love to be with you in the house or out side in the garden as well. when you sit down they are on your lap

    • You are exactly like me. We treat our cats like one of our own. There is no difference when it comes to hygiene and food. Humans are probably more of a hazard than cats.

  11. when my cats have had their food I do wipe the worktop down . like we clean our table after are food. cats are clean because they are all ways cleaning there fur . it is only food and hygiene when you serve food in cafes eta . its for the people that don’t like cats as well.

  12. Good Article 🙂
    The only reason ours do not go on the kitchen counter anymore is because they are blocked from having kitchen access.
    I have a few strays /semi-Ferals we are socializing and had to put up screened doors as our kitchen is also our main entrance into our house. So it is for the safety of my strays and any fosters to help prevent them from escaping.

    They do have counter space that is free for them to use in the dining room.
    (Photo of 2 of mine sitting by the sink prior to having strays/semi ferals and prior to putting up the screened doors)

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