Is It Safe for Cats to Be on the Counter?
Cats are incredible animals that can be good companion pets, but sometimes their behavior is not aligned with our expectations. We tend to call that bad cat behavior. The reality is that cat behavior happens because cats are programmed to do so. Good or bad behavior is all about perspective.
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Before stopping my cat from doing something I like asking myself:
- Is the behavior that I'm trying to avoid really bad behavior?
- What are the consequences of that behavior?
- Can I adapt my expectations instead of reprogramming the cat to stop doing things that they are genetically designed to do?
Cats are easy to train and if the behavior that we want to stop has a good fundamental, there's always a way to stop a cat from doing something.
There's one behavior that cats usually do and it can be not only frustrating but hygienically compromising. Cats playing around in the kitchen, particularly on the kitchen counter.
Before getting into stopping cats from counter surfing which is the behavior name of a cat entering the kitchen and jumping on the counter receives, let's review why it is important.
Are Cats a Clean Animal?
Cats are the most hygienic than most other animals. They have a good reputation when it comes to tidiness and cleaning themselves. However, while cats are the epitome of hygiene, they can make your house dirty.
Cats Spraying Indoors
Both male cats and female cats can spray urine in different places in the house and eventually cause foul smells, not to mention that urine is not very hygienic...
Spraying their urine is a way for felines to mark their territory and help themselves feel safer, but this is a behavior that we should try to stop.
The #1 way to stop this behavior is to neuter or spay your cat, but if that does not work, you should speak with a specialist.
Cats Marking Territory with Pheromones
Cats will also rub themselves on people, animals, and surfaces to spread their pheromones, which is another way they have to mark their territory.
Cats clean their fur with the same tongue they use to clean themselves after using the litterbox. While cats’ saliva has some antiseptic properties thanks to "Lysozyme" which in combination with other enzymes present in cats' saliva is capable of killing and dissolving bacteria, and healing properties their tongues are covered in harmful bacteria.
When cats rub against surfaces and objects they leave some of these enzymes and bacteria around, making surfaces unhygienic.
Additionally, their fur is also covered in Fel d-1, the major cat allergen, that will spread and stick on soft surfaces around the house.
Cats Walking Around After Using the Litter Box
Cats enter the litterbox (which has traces of feces and urine) and then will walk around the house. Despite cats cleaning their paws after using the litterbox, we can't be sure when do they do it and how thoroughly.
Finally, cats also vomit, which results in bacteria spread and unwanted odor.
Are Cats Clean to Touch
Cats are known for their sterility and general neatness. Because cats are both predators and prey, they make a big deal about being invisible to the sense of smell. This allows them to stay away from predators and be invisible to the prey they are trying to hunt down.
This is because cats are passionate about self-care, as they loathe feeling dirty or emitting scents.
Although cats are clean, sometimes they won't be able to keep up with the surrounding's ability to make them dirty. Stray cats in particular get dirtier and will have more germs and bacteria present in their body as they don't go to regular veterinary checks. As a result, they will have more germs present in their saliva and fur.
Always wash your hands properly after petting or playing with a cat, particularly if it's a stray one.
Are Cats Paws Dirty?
Cats have scent glands on their paws that release pheromones. They mark the space as theirs by depositing the scent on the area. Cat paws tend to be clean because of self-grooming, but that doesn't mean you should rely on them.
Since cats use the litterbox and roam around the house all day (some even outdoors), their paws will likely get dirty and unhygienic.
Cat Paws Dirty After Using the Litter Box
Cat urine and feces can be potentially dangerous to humans. Toxoplasmosis is a worldwide infection caused by the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii. At least a third of the world's human population is infected with the parasite, making it one of the most successful parasitic infections.
Cats (domestic and wild felids) are the most important host in the epidemiology of toxoplasmosis because they are the only species that can excrete environmentally resistant oocysts in feces.
Do Cats Make Your House Dirty
Let's be honest... your home will be cleaner without a cat.
Cats will likely turn a spotless house into a cat playground with hair everywhere, but there are things you can do to minimize it. These are my TOP 3 ninja cleaning tips to have a clean house despite sharing it with a cat:
- I have an automatic vacuum robot that scans the house
- I have a litter box that's high enough for my cat to not trace litter everywhere
- I keep all of my cats' toys in a drawer and just take 3-4 out at a time
For me, the real question is not about cleaning, it's about hygiene.
Is it Unhygienic to Have a Cat in the House?
Cats are considered to be the best companions. They provide emotional support and improve moods. Cats are also attributed to encouraging interaction among individuals.
Cats can also carry germs that can cause serious health issues, especially when you have children at home. One of the easiest ways is to make sure you wash your hands after touching the cat and sanitize the surfaces your cat has been on before cooking on them.
There's no way to know when a cat is using surfaces that they shouldn't, but there are some behaviors that should be avoided as much as possible:.
- Cat on the Kitchen Counter
- Cat on the Table While you Eat
- and particularly, cat Eating from Your Plate
How to Keep Stubborn Cat Off Counter
Cats like to roam around, whether it's indoor or outdoor; the problem with this is you do not know where their paws have been. Many bacteria and germs in general can transfer because of this practice.
There are 2 ways to go about it:
- Cleaning the kitchen counter every time prior to use
- Preventing the cat from jumping on the kitchen counter
How to Keep Cats Off Counters Naturally
Cats love to jump on countertops. Cats can be stubborn so being consistent and never allowing them to do the behavior is key.
There are a few easy steps to follow every time we try to stop a cat from doing something. You can use any of the 3 forms of operant conditioning:
Stop a cat from jumping on the counter using positive reinforcement:
If your cat is seeking high ground, offer an alternative (cat trees are worth it) to your cat and reward them when they use the alternative.
If your cat is seeking food, remove food from the counter and reward them when staying on the floor while you are cooking.
Stop a cat from jumping on counters using negative punishment:
A properly placed air spray can scare your cat every time they jump on the counter discouraging the behavior. Once the behavior has stopped, you won't need the spray bottle anymore (as they won't notice).
Does Aluminum Foil Keep Cats Off Counters?
Putting aluminum foils on countertops has been a common practice for quite a while. Mostly cats dislike the sound and texture of the foil when they jump onto it but this method is not quite as powerful as actively training your cat not to do it.
Feeding Cat on the Kitchen Counter
Make sure there is no food present on top of the counter; provide a separate space that should be far from your kitchen. A calming quiet location like a spare bathroom or a hallway would be perfect.
This helps the cat separate the food (reinforcer) from the kitchen (the behavior we are trying to avoid).
How to Keep Cats Off Counters at Night
To keep your feline off the top at night time, you need to make it very clear for the cat that they are not going to find anything they want there.
Leaving food out and not offering alternatives to a high place to oversee the living room or the kitchen will encourage your cat to seek the counter.
Another alternative is to use repellents. More on this in this article about cat discipline.
Disinfect Counters After Cat Steps on Them
Always disinfect your countertop when you're starting your kitchen activity. To keep your counter clean, ensure that you use sprays like isopropyl rubbing alcohol with a clean microfiber cloth. Many cleaning products used in our houses are toxic to cats.
Even if your cat is not directly exposed, it may run over the top, lick its paws, and ingest these toxins. Always check the labels. Note that any product that has bleach or ammonia is hazardous to animals.
I hope you found this article helpful!
As always, stay wild, stay safe, and... I'll see you outdoors!
Albert & Mia
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