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

Are your cats kitchen countertop-surfers? Are they magnetically attracted them? Perhaps they are hunting for particles of treasured rare roast beef, hamburger meat or boiled chicken! After all cats do have a spectacular sense of smell!

Cats on Countertop
Cats on Countertop. Photo by Jo Singer.
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In our household, the only time our cats are not permitted on our kitchen countertops is when we are preparing a meal. It seems that my permissiveness and laissez faire attitude concerning our kitties surfing the kitchen countertops isn’t quite in line with the results of a recent survey presented to both veterinary professionals and cat owners.

In a recent article by veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, Becker reported that over a thousand veterinary professionals and 167 cat owners were asked whether cats should be given free access to kitchen countertops.

Without discussing the reasons cats may be attracted to kitchen countertops, (i.e., whether they were “hunting” for a tasty morsel or checking out their environment), 21% thought it was fine, 13% said they “rarely” allow it and 54.5% were hell-bent against it. Dr. Becker reported an “other” option in which 11.4% of the votes were from veterinary professionals.

The vets had similar opinions; 28% said that countertop surfing was okay with them if their cats countertop-surfed, 11% said, “Rarely” and 48.1% were adamantly against this behavior. The rest of the survey takers put an X in the “other” box.

It seems that understanding feline behavior may play a part in accepting feline countertop-surfing. According to the report, 35% of the veterinarians’ reasons differed somewhat about being okay with feline counter-surfing, reasoning that cats feel safer on higher levels than being on the ground. At least 39% of the owners didn’t mind their cats being on the countertops. Dr. Becker said, “The upshot is that while vet professionals might not allow cats on the counter as a rule, they’re more likely than your run-of-the mill cat owner to turn a blind eye for this reason.”

“Letting the cat out of the bag”, (pardon the expression), Dr. Becker admitted that she along with 22% of veterinarians and 17% of cat owners are okay with cats countertop surfing since it’s a “moot issue.” “Cats are going to do what they want to do anyway, especially when nobody’s around to object.”

A quarter of each group had no problem with their kitty jumping onto the kitchen counter if the cat perceives an impending threat. Coming in second in the survey both the veterinarians and owners try to keep their cats off the kitchen counters while they are preparing a meal, but don’t attempt to dissuade them at other times.

What came as a surprise in the survey was only 5 percent of cat owners and 2 percent of veterinarians claimed to be more assiduous about keeping their cat off the kitchen countertops when they had company. The “other” option revealed that 36 percent of the cat owners and 46 percent of the veterinarians claimed their reactions had to do more with if someone was around to enforce the “no counter” rule, and a few respondents decided that at some point all the options might be successful for them depending on the circumstances.

Hygiene issues may be an important reason for the people who arduously object to their cats counter surfing. Although cat owners know that felines instinctively keep themselves clean they might wonder where their cat’s paws have recently been. After all, if the cat just used their litter box, can their paws really be clean? The fact of the matter according to Dr. Becker is that “cats give themselves a bath on the average of half of their waking hours, and some cats actually bathe too often.”

Cat owners who are highly upset about their cats surfing the kitchen counters can redirect this unwanted behavior by providing their cats with an alternate resource such high perches located in strategic areas. This is a win-win situation for all concerned.

Our cats suspect that our kitchen countertops are goldmines loaded with all kinds of precious delights – and often they are right on the money. The act of feeding cats on the countertops may teach cats “bad” manners. This type of permissiveness is considered by many to be verboten. But when our kitties are being picky, offering them food on top one of their favorite hang-out spots does inspire them to start chowing- down.

As a devoted kitty guardian, when it comes to countertop surfing under which category do you generally find yourself? Share your thoughts in a comment.

68 thoughts on “Should cats be Allowed on Kitchen Countertops? Opinions of Cat Owners and Veterinarians are Divided”

  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.


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