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Should cats be Allowed on Kitchen Countertops? Opinions of Cat Owners and Veterinarians are Divided — 68 Comments

  1. Serbella,

    Since I have been eagerly following your story about Samirah’s adoption for quite a long time now, I feel moved to openly express the appreciation and empathy I feel for your patience and willingness to do everything possible to overcome the traumas that Samirah experienced before you were blessed by having this amazing kitty in your life.

    Your condo sounds that the purrfect high place for her to survey her environment- and who knows- one of these days she may even attempt a countertop perch. She is trusting you and loving you and that is the most important thing. Blessings to you both. I am deeply moved by your story.

  2. My cat Gemma is charged with making sure I wash dishes correctly, and that requires watching me while sitting on the counter. There is no way that we could possibly keep Gemma, and her sister Bella, off the counter, except when we prepare food. However, we use a cutting board and don’t put food directly on the counter. They have carte blanche in our home. If I did want them off the counter, I would get the motion activated canned air, which does keep them from climbing my TV and doesn’t hurt them.

    • that requires watching me while sitting on the counter

      That makes me smile and is so typical of cats and you know it is a great way to stimulate and entertain your cat while doing housework. It does two things at the same time all because Gemma is allowed on the countertop.

      Thanks for sharing.

  3. Yes, the cats should always be allowed everywhere, especially if there are dogs or children about. Cats do not really come to their own and show their true personality if they are “trained” not go to here or there or not do this or that. A cat crouching meekly on the floor is a sad sight.

  4. Hey, Jo!

    I wish my girl Samirah would leap up on the countertops. I’m not fussy about that. Years ago my Angel was bored so she climbed up on the sink and merrily pushed the pots and pans off onto the floor. She was so loud my neighbor called me at work because she thought someone had broken into the apartment.

    All my other cats regularly explored the counters and the sink. Not this girl. When Samirah came to me a year ago she never showed any interest, even tho I know she realizes that’s where the food comes from. She was more interested in the toilet seat and jumped up there without hesitation to take a drink. That’s closed off to her now. Her Majesty has her very own water bowl in the tub and an electric fountain in the living room.

    • Hi Serbella, thanks for sharing your experiences. Did you adopt Samirah as an adult and if so I wonder if she was trained to avoid countertops? I doubt it but just might be why. It is natural for cats to climb and jump vertical spaces.

      • Michael, I think she was trained, but not in a good way. Samirah is 14 years old. Her first owner had her for 12 years. After the lady went into a nursing home Samirah stayed in the shelter for a year before I adopted her. I’ve had her for a year. The first time I pulled out a broom Samirah ran and hid. Then she came out and looked at me; she was puzzled because I didn’t chase her. She had the same reaction the first time I shook out a trash bag to open it. Now I can’t be sure about abuse, but I have my suspicions. I don’t make a big deal out of this. Most days she’s way more relaxed now and sits and watches me sweep. The trash bags don’t bother her much anymore.

        She has a split level kitty condo I made for her out of 7 large, heavy duty computer boxes. I’ve noticed she has absolutely no problem leaping from the floor to the second level. She’s pretty spry for an old girl. She’ll walk around the kitchen but makes no attempt to investigate the countertops.

        • It does sound as if she has been through some stressful situations in her past before being with you and it seems quite possible she was possibly punished for jumping on a countertop. Well done for making her feel content.

          • She probably was punished. I’m glad I made that condo for her. She climbs and leaps and jumps all over it. Her old owner’s family had the chance to take her and they didn’t. I’m glad they didn’t. They missed out on a real sweetie.

  5. My cats eat on the kitchen counter because otherwise the dogs would help themselves to kitty cuisine. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if the cats are on the counter or not….and like many of you said, cats will do what they want anyway. I just make sure that I clean the countertop before I prepare our human meals. I would prefer the cats not to countersurf when company is here, but hey, it’s their house not the company’s, right? 🙂

  6. Its interesting the differences in what is most common in the USA or UK. Over here (UK) its more common to have cats allowed out to terrorise the neighbourhood;) But I understand that in the US any sensible cat guardian has to consider the local wildlife, as its far more likely there will be things that could be serious predators of a domestic cat.
    For me – with cats that get to roam round the local area and come and go as they please – it seems they have enough to amuse them that they aren’t that fussed about the places I “encourage” them to avoid. I suspect if they were confined to the house they would be far more inclined to want to investigate every nook in the house!

    • Hannah I think you make a valid point about the differences in lifestyle having an influence.

      None of my indoor-outdoor cats were remotely interested in getting on kitchen worktops even when food was around. When I lived in a flat it was a different matter and they were always on the worktops or on top of the kitchen cupboards. I assume purely because those were the highest points in the room and had to act as substitute walls or tree branches 😉

  7. DW, that’s an awesome photo. What a gorgeous cat with such an amazing expression on his face. (assuming this kitty is a boy).

    I love the colors. You done really good!

  8. Our cats are never really told they have to stay off the counters. We taught them from kittenhood to stay away from the counters when I am cooking meals. Their biggest allure is the kitchen window and the dripping faucet. Both are cat magnets. Now in the apartment the cats seem uninterested in the counters. Only Chipper gets up there and that is because she is fed there. She has a nasty attitude about eating with the others so she is fed seperately.
    I have never bothers to worry about the counters and the cats. I clean down the counters all the time and always beofre starting any cooking or baking. I do have to admit that when Dweezle lived with us it was a challange. LOL

  9. We don’t let the cats on the worksurfaces but its not really for hygene its more because our messiness makes it a danger for them & a danger of breakages. We aren’t the tidiest of people and if they jumped up they would risk knives & graters that hadn’t yet reached the dishwasher, and we’d risk the plates ending up smashed on the floor. It doesn’t help that we have a tiny tiny kitchen!
    Two of the three have jumped up now and then over the years but they know full well they aren’t supposed to and jump off if they hear one of us coming. One is now too creaky to jump that high anyway, but it seems they lose interest after a while of being told not to do it. I can tell the little one doesn’t go up there as there are muddy little paw prints on every other surface in the house!

    • Good reasons Hannah. I agree. My only concern is my cat’s safety. I tend to shut him out when I am cooking (not really cooking, more heating up prepared food 🙂 ). There are hot and sharp objects in the kitchen.

  10. Cats are not for control freaks, dogs are, lol. I used to be a control freak but finally it was surrender or go crazy since getting rid of them was never an option. The only thing they are forbidden to do is go outside and that’s as much for my protection as it is their own but they have a large outdoor enclosure so I don’t think they are being deprived.

  11. Our cats are allowed on the kitchen counter except when we’re preparing food or eating. It is one place they can get away from the dog and it is the sunniest spot in the morning. You know how cats love the sun!

  12. I am a member of the counter top club too.I think my cats are just as clean as the other person that lives here and runs water over his hands and wipes the dirt on the towel. and my 17 year old cat needs special diet and I put her up there to keep her food away from the younger ones.my house is just as clean or cleaner than people who don’t have any cats.If it is nasty to have your cats on the counter ,then I would have been dead a long time ago too.

  13. I have 9 indoor cats and yes, they are allowed on the counter. Even if I didn’t want them there, there is really no stopping them. I figure they live here too. this is their home. If you don’t want cats on your counters or tables then don’t get a cat!!!! One of my girls likes to sleep on the warm stove, so I let her be. She’s not a youngster anymore so I let her do what gives her pleasure. Two of my kids eat on the counter and the rest get served on the floor. They all have their own plates too!!

  14. No, I don’t allow it, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do it. I know where those little paws have been and besides, they lick the butter when they get up there.

  15. My cats eat in their dining room, a/k/a the breakfast room, on their own trays; they have never expressed any interest in the countertops and I’ve never seen any of them jump up there except for right after we moved here; I came home in a friend’s car and someone jumped up into the bay window in the kitchen to see what was going on. I know this because they knocked one of the potted plants off 🙁

      • 🙂 Very funny, Michael! I guess the reality is that they have refreshments available in several locations 24/7-365, and they also have lots and lots of multi-level cat furniture (and all-species stuff, too) strewn liberally about the(ir) house.
        I do miss that potted plant. It was a double pink African Violet in a beautiful pot (that was a total loss) ;(

        • There you are..a ship-shape cat haven. Well done. I know you are damn good at cat caretaking. I mean that seriously. It is better that cats don’t go on kitchen countertops. The reason why I accept it is because I accept the slight potential health problems (I don’t care about them at all) and my cat likes to go on the countertops.

          Perhaps if I had a bigger home it would be easier to provide alternatives for my cat and therefore keep him off the counters.

          • Oh, gosh, yeah! I’ve lived in 332 sq. ft. with 3 cats (multi-level was CRUCIAL) to this large place with 6 (down from 9, with tears; age and illness, yunno). I wouldn’t mind if mine cruised; they just don’t seem interested! Having been conceived/born into a home “with cat”, I believe I’m healthier than those born/grown without, and certainly I’ve got to be immune to anything by now! But cats, as we all know, are MUCH cleaner than humans, no offense to any of my fellow beans…;)

  16. My cats go wherever they please and don’t even ask. I feed on the countertops because of ease and confort. With all the cleaners and disinfectants on the market, I don’t know why anyone would be worried about a health issue. Yesterday, one of my foster kitties was having a tiny nibble directly from my ice cream bowl. I guess since I don’t mind eating after a quick kitty lick, my opinion probably does not count.

    • Cindy, you’re a cat countertop feeder 😉 . Great. I think we should form a club 😉 . Seriously though, I do the same thing for the same reasons.

  17. I don’t feed my cats on the counter but I do allow them free access. I have a large bay window with a great view and a couple of pads from which they can watch the world go by, including the birds undisturbed, or snooze in the sun.

  18. Michael-et al

    It seems to me that so far most of the cat lovers here fall in the same “out of step majority” cat-egory.

    This got me wondering if our “majority” somehow reflects on the difference between a kitty “guardian” or a cat “owner”.

    Those of us who permit our cats to kitchen-counter surf without much concern- who even feed their kitties on the countertops which may be easier for both the cat and the guardian, may be the result of understanding feline nature and their need for height.

    Perhaps those who consider themselves “owners” are more “cautious” (without strong reasons- in my humble opinion)about the areas in which they feed their cats, and may also more interested in being control of their behavior.

    Just a thought….

    • I think you are spot-on Jo. The difference between cat guardian and owner. It is the difference between relating to cats as equals or as ‘just a cat’. Although I am generalising because there are good cat caretakers who don’t allow their cats on countertops.

    • Good point.I think those people are also in denial if they believe their cats actually abide by their rules in their absence. Or else they’ve so traumatized the poor cat that he defies his natural curiosity about his surroundings and probably hides under the bed all the time. I think if they’re allowed to explore, they lose interest. Unless of course you leave something enticing to them on the counter, say tuna for example, lol.

  19. I try to restrict which countertops mine are allowed on. Cats live in a 3D environment and like to be above floor level. Counters are vantage points. I clean the counters with detergent and dry them before using them for food preparation. Unless you are immuno-suppressed, you need a little exposure to germs for your immune systems to stay healthy.

    • Good point Sarah. I spray my counters with a disinfectant cleaner. That should be good enough. Basically I don’t even think about health problems coming from my cat (other than being scratched in play as he is still a manic player).

  20. As my cat lives indoors all the time I don’t mind her getting onto counter tops, she enjoys drinking water from a dripping tap. However if she was allowed to go outside I would not be so happy about it. Who knows what she may have been walking in? Or what parasites she may have picked up to drop off onto the counter tops. Same goes for the bed.

  21. I prefer my cat to eat on the kitchen countertop because it is easier to keep the kitchen clean. It is easier to clean to countertop than the floor as far as I am concerned.

    I don’t go for all these germ issues from cat’s claws. There are more health hazards in the form of bacteria in the kitchen from other sources than from a cat’s paws.

    I am out of step with the majority.

    • Michael, I agree with you 210%!!!! My cats are allowed on the counter. I do feed the “gushy” food on the counter — one of my kitties has a special diet, and I feed her there to keep the other “vultures” from disturbing her. But, also, as I have told you before, this is their home too, and I let them go wherever they want. If it was going to kill me, I would have been dead years ago!!! And I agree with your issue on the germs as well. . .Cats happen to be one of the cleanest anipals EVER!!!! Their saliva alone has great bacteria killing agents in it!! (I have let them lick cuts on my hands for this reason alone!) The only place they never really venture upon is the stove — maybe because of the heat as I keep my teapot on low heat at all times for when I want hot tea or need to make fresh iced tea. My home is made for the convenience of my “kids” — human and feline. . .♥♥♥

      • I am pleased you are with me on this one. I also put cat food on the floor. But this is usually for night grazing. When I feed him we do it together on the counter. I also give him a cuddle there more easily and he can give me a cuddle in return more easily.

        I agree the home is for us both equally.

        • i too feed my cats on the kitchen counter top…it is much easier to keep clean than the floor. i have a lot of counter top space so i have area just for feeding them…i also keep their water bowl on the kitchen counter by the sink…it rarely gets spilled there and seems that it’s always spilled if it’s on the floor. it is very convenient to keep fresh there too. however, i do remove the food and water bowl entirely when i am entertaining…if someone is staying overnight, well, they just have to deal with the cat food/water on the counter.

        • So happy to read all these posts from people who allow their cats on the counter..I thought I was the only one…seems I’m not so strange after all..

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