Is it possible to train your cat from jumping up onto the kitchen counters?… The answer is YES & did you know that it’s better & safer for them and you? Here’s why…
First of course is the hygiene factor. Cats have hair that travels into and on everything. Think about it if they’re up on the kitchen counter where you prepare food it eventually is going to end up in your food… YUCK & nobody wants to eat & ingest cat hair right? Second they could get hurt from a myriad of hazardous things such as Hot stoves with frying oil, dish detergent & food they’re not supposed to have. So to keep everybody safe let’s teach our feline family members to stay off o the counters.
Understand why cats are getting up on your counters to begin with. It is a cats nature to climb and be high up to survey the land & their next prey. They naturally feel more comfortable and safe higher up. So now that you understand why they insists on being up on things, the best way to start to train your cat not to do something is to show them what is acceptable to do by giving them options so that the kitchen counter isn’t that appealing anymore.
Before we start… Let me clear of what NOT to do & what doesn’t work
1. Water Squirting
This is probably one of the best-known techniques of negative reinforcement. The idea here is for the cat owner to always be on guard, ready with a squirt bottle.
If you take a look at the principles outlined above, you’ll see that water squirting is not a good method for negative reinforcement.
First, it could possibly associate you with the punishment. Ideally, anyone using this method should try to attract as little attention to her or himself as possible. In reality, this is extremely difficult to achieve, as ‘hiding’ and squirting is really problematic and also most owners project their own nervousness and agitation into the process.
Secondly, in terms of consistency, this method is far from perfect. It’s difficult to be on the alert at all times, or even around at all times, and you end up with having a non-consistent pattern.
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, the water spray is too stressful for most cats. Fourthly, it could very well make them frightened of water.
2. Can Shaking/Compressed Air Can
Another well-known technique, it involves an empty soda can with some coins in it, or even a compressed air can. It relies on making a loud and disturbing noise to disrupt the cat’s activity.
It has most of the problems associated with water squirting: You, the ‘can shaker’, can be seen as the source of the negative reinforcement, there is a big problem with continuity, and of course, it can create a strong stress response in many cats.In both of these instances you could end up with a stressed cat and a multitude of behavioral problems.
- Keep the human out of the loop – We want to make sure that the cat associates the negative result directly with the action we want to prevent – never with you, the cat owner.
- Keep the reinforcement consistent – This is true of any behavioral learning process and is crucial when it comes to negative reinforcement. It means the cat has to receive a negative reaction every single time it attempts the behavior we wish to discourage.
- Keep stress levels down – Remember that cats are individuals and may have different reactions to sudden sounds, or any other type of sensory stimulation you may opt to use. Aim at making the unwanted behavior result in something unpleasant, but make sure it’s not too frightening and doesn’t cause your cat unnecessary stress.
Now Let’s START TRAINING
How to make your environment KITTY FRIENDLY
Cats require a sufficient amount of living space, including enough vertical space. So before restricting your cat from accessing some areas, make sure that your kitty has plenty of roaming and climbing space within your home. This stage is crucial! Giving your cat very little climbing space will result in a stressed and frustrated kitty and even more behavioral issues down the road.
1. High enough off the ground Kitty condo’s
2. Cat gyms with lots of fun kitty friendly attachments
3. Designated cat shelves on the wall for them to hang out in.
Now this part is important when you’re kitty checks out these new apparatuses you’ve provided PRAISE them and reward them with their favorite treat for positive reinforcement associated with these objects. Even leave a crunchy treat for your kitty to discover when they go onto them.
Now you’re ready to give negative re-inforcement to your kitchen counters the RIGHT WAY
The idea is to make the surface that you wish to keep your cat away from uncomfortable to walk on. This can be done by using plastic carpet runners with points up, or using some double-sided adhesive tape. You don’t have to stick any of the tape directly on your counters. What worked best for many of my clients was taking a thick plastic sheet and covering it with double-sided tape, creating their own homemade sticky mat. Then, whenever they were not using the counters, they would cover them with that sheet of plastic.
When taping directly on surfaces, we would usually use regular adhesive tape, creating small loops of tape, with the adhesive on the outside of the ring, and then placing/sticking them across the surface. This would create a similar effect of a sticky surface, but easier to lift off the surface than double-sided tape.
The end result is the same: The surface becomes uncomfortable for cats to walk on. They may jump once or twice, decide they don’t like it, then jump off. Usually within a few days to a couple of weeks, the cats would stop jumping on the treated surfaces altogether, at which point you can take off the adhesive tape/sticky mat.
With this method you get very consistent negative reinforcement, as your cat will get a negative reaction generated every time she jumps on that surface, whether you’re around or not. In fact, you, the cat owner, are completely disassociated from any discomfort caused. As an added benefit, there is no startling factor here, no loud noise or sudden movement.
This is the right way of teaching cats to stay off counter tops. It does take some effort, but you will end up with a trained cat without creating new behavioral problems.
Negative reinforcement can be very effective as way to teach your cat what not to do. Hopefully this article has provided a better understanding of how negative reinforcement works and why some methods, such as water squirting and booby trapping, should not be used.
Remember you must always provide your cat with plenty of space, including appropriate vertical space for climbing and jumping. Only then implement the sticky surfaces method. Be consistent and give it time. Some cats can take up to three weeks to stop trying.
REMEMBER PETS RULE!