Friday, June 17, 2005

Cat Proofing the Kitchen Counter: In Plain, Boring English

I'm glad everyone enjoyed my whacky retelling of the kitchen counter saga, but I know some of you were also curious about what I actually did and didn't do to cat proof my kitchen counter.

First of all, I should say that my fiancee Liz and I are, by no means, satisfied with the current situation. The boys are still jumping on the counter from time to time, though usually when we're not around to see it. We would really like to keep them off of the counter, but for the time being, we have tried our best to make the kitchen counter as safe as possible for them while, at the same time, using some deterrants.

Last weekend marked the first time that the boys had managed to reach the kitchen counter at all. We had always dreaded the day that they would grow old enough to get up there, because it was one area of the apartment we really needed to ourselves. We kept paper towels there, jars of food, dish soaps, sponges, tupperwear, etc. We keep what we can in the cabinets, but cabinet space is really at a premium.

When I found the paper towels on the floor, I immediately went to the http://cats.about.com and read Franny Syufy's article on counter-surfing. She suggests a few different things to keep cats off of kitchen counters, including:

  • Sticky Tape: Liz and I bought a product called Sticky Paws which is basically double-sided tape that's made to stop cats from walking on surfaces. Sticky Paws is basically an annoyance to cats b/c they don't like walking on stickum. Who would? Unfortunately, we don't like the idea of stickum all over our mable countertop. We did line the lid of our trash can with Sticky Paws so the boys can't use it as a launching pad to the counter. They still occasionally step on the lid, but they don't like it. Another problem with Sticky Paws is that it becomes less sticky over time and needs to be replaced.
  • Aluminum Foil: Apparently, some cats dislike the idea of walking on aluminum foil. It really doesn't bother our boys. We tried the aluminum foil trick months ago on our diningroom table. No luck. They tried to play with the foil.
  • Pennies in a Can: Franny suggests putting a jar of pennies on the counter edge so the cats will knock it over and get scared away. She doesn't know our cats. Loud noises don't scare them more than one or two times before they become desensitizied to them.
  • Spray Bottle: We have been using this method and it is effective to a point. If we see the boys and spray them, they will usually jump off the counter. They also now have the message that we disapprove of them jumping on the counter so they don't tend to do it when we are in the room with them.
  • The Tattle Tale: The Tattle Tale is a product that makes a loud noise when it detects vibrations nearby. We bought this product a few months ago and tested it on the diningroom table. The only creatures who were scared by sudden loud noises were Liz and I. We found Arthur batting the Tattle Tale around and playing with it, completely oblivious to the really loud noises it made.

So what are we using?

  • The Spray Bottle method
  • The Skat-Cat: The Skat-Cat is a water-spraying motion detector. We bought this product a few months ago and were saving it for the day when the boys got up on the kitchen counter. Unlike some other cat-deterring sprays, this one uses regular tap water to spray your cat so you don't have to buy expensive refills or worry about what the spray is made out of.

    The only real problem with the Skat-Cat is that it can only shoot what's in front of it so one of them will only protect a certain area. Also, I get the feeling that, after a while, being shot with water, might not stop a determined cat like Beowulf. That said, I think this is a good product to try and I'm glad to have it as one of the best weapons in my arsenal.
  • The Sink method: If we see a cat in the sink, we go and turn the faucett on, drenching him with water.

Even with those three deterrants in our "arsenal," we can't guarantee that the boys won't jump on the counter. So we've taken steps to make sure the counter is less dangerous for them and less interesting to them:

  • We bought a large, square breadbox (this Brabantia bin) and placed the paper towel roll and holder in it.
  • We got a clear plastic shoe drawer, put it on its side, and placed our soaps and sponges in it. The boys didn't show an interest in these cleaning fluids, but I was very concerned that they might lick soap and get sick. We bought both the drawer and the breadbox at a local branch of The Container Store.
  • We placed all food jars flat against the back wall so they are harder to move or knock over.
  • We made a decision to not leave any dishes soaking in the sink at all. This is particularly annoying because we need to be able to let things soak sometimes. Fortunately, we have a dish washer so we can put most things in the dishwasher right away.

So that's where we're at.

20 comments:

Liz G said...

The no skid hall runners upside down. The kind with the soft plastic "spikes" works might help.

Alysha said...

It's really good to know that you're going to extra lengths to make sure your kitties and your home are both safe and undamaged. =)

I imagine it's still a lot of fun for the boys, though.

Serena said...

Just out of curiousity -- what might happen if you left a dirty dish soaking in soapy water? I'm sure drinking dishwater isn't good for a critter, but just how bad is it? And wouldn't they be put off by the soapy taste?

Avram said...

No idea what would happen if they drank soapy water. Has anyone had that experience? Did it cause health problems or not?

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I am concerned, because the bottle of Dawn says on it something like "if ingested, call a poison control center immediately."

socidoc said...

Avram,
I am a person who REGULARLY leaves dirty dishes in the sink overnight (soaking in soapy water) and both my cats have free access to the sink, countertops, etc. I guarantee you that it won't hurt them, it COULD I suppose cause some minor diarrhea if they drank too much, but they WON'T like the taste! Again, while I deeply appreciate your obvious loving concern for your boys, I do think you are perhaps erring on the side of ~paranoia~ a bit. They will be just fine if they get up there and there's a soapy dish in the sink! In fact, one of my kitties likes to drink water (clean water) out of a bowl I put in the kitchen sink just for her... she has failing kidneys and drinks TONS of water at every opportunity... and she is VERY picky... she won't drink anything but the clean water! So, try to relax a little. The boys are getting to the age where they have some good common sense and they surely won't drink anything that smells or tastes like soap!!

Grammie said...

I agree. Cats are very smart and very fussy. They absolutely will not eat or drink anything that they don't like. They'll sniff it and maybe even play with it once or twice, but they won't eat or drink it if it isn't to their liking. My cat is a beggar at meal time, but when we offer him a taste, he'll sniff it and turn away in distaste. The only thing he will eat is his wet food, crunchies and cat treats. He will shred paper and chew cardboard but he never actually swallows it. I've noticed that as he gets older, he doesn't get into as much mischief as he used to and he seems to remember the no no's and abide by them. I think that in time your boys will do the same. Your patience is needed, and I hope that it will shortly be rewarded!

Anonymous said...

I heard soapy water can cause the runs for cats and dogs.

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Anonymous said...

I don't know if you have tried it or not, but my cats just loved shredding entire paper towel rolls, then we put up a hanging paper towel holder... for some reason, they don't seem to notice it when it is hanging up. Good Luck with the counter thing... I can't keep mine off of it! Oh! And yes my little boy kitten who I have nicknamed 'Destructo', loves to spash in his water, much to the dismay of his sister and adopted 'mommy'!

Anonymous said...

People who write in here seem so concerned about the cats. What about the humans? I think it's very unsanitary to have a cat go from the litter box to an eating or food preparation surface.

I do appreciate the tips, however, and will try a few. This is the first cat we've had that went up on the counter or in the sink. I think it's very gross to see her dirty paw prints on the sink and not hygienic.

S. said...

I am pretty sure I caught my cat lapping at dishsoap-tainted h2o. Usually I would squirt a little in a pan and fill it with water to soak - thus the taste of the food might hide some of the taste of the soap (which is antibacterial and has a drug warning for "triclosan" on the lable). Roo (my cat) has been mysteriously sick 3x - the only manifestation seems to be lack of appitite and puking. Two vets, some iv liquids, some pepcid ac, some baby food and $500 later and I think we solved it, but still, never underestimate what your pets will do! You might think you have outsmarked them, but they can surprise you.

Anonymous said...

We have 3 cats. The 2 older males Tiger & Kismit (mispelled on purpose)seem to have finally learned not to get on the kitchen counters after 6 and 11 years respectively. At least while we're at home. The only thing that really worked is putting a door on the 2-entrance kitchen. The DO NOT like being caught red-handed on the counters with no way to get out except past us. Now we have 6 month old Sadie, female and precocious... she will go in as soon as the opportunity presents itself and no one's looking. We got one of those child/pet fences to deter her but it soon became a high jump practice forher. Then I went Bob Villa and attached 2 2"x1" sticks and some leftover screen and viola! now she can't get in. At least until she figures out that she can crumble my creation by climbing instead of jumping over the contraption. We'll try SSScat next. BTW, we have already tried counter obstructions like sticky tape, newspaper, tin can barricades...you name it. We also have a small arsenal of squirt guns in case of emergency but, alas our cats don't really mind water...

Julie Pizzitola said...

Thanks for posting. I'll be sure to try some of these methods. We got a new kitten in October and now she is a real pain. She waits for me to leave and will jump on the counter, even if I'm just going to the bedroom for a minute. I have literally caught her trying to eat the food I'm cooking on the stove...scolding hot and still trying. It's so frustrating since I have another cat who has never even tried to get on the counter. Ugh! Thanks for letting me vent!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could take some of that sticky stuff and make a mat that you can throw on the counter. What I would do is get some heavy vinyl from the fabric store. Stick the sheet to one side of the vinyl and glue to the liner to the other side. That way you can roll up the mat when your not using it,and when you are using it it will unroll easily because the top sticky side is against the liner. When you use the counter,roll it up and put it aside,when you leave the room,unroll the mat and throw it down.
I havent actually tried it,but it seems like a reasonable idea. I gave up on keeping my cats off the counter years ago. They go where they please now. (I had to put child proof locks on the cupboard and cabinets to keep them out.)

Anonymous said...

I have three cats, and only one of them jumps on the counters. He used to shred paper towels, but I switched to cloth hand towels a few years ago because of the environmental waste of paper towels. The added bonus is that a cloth towel hanging next to the sink has zero appeal to my cat. Also, the more I take care of their needs for adventure, vertical space, and curiosity, the less problems I have. Many years ago I buckled down and spent the big bucks on a floor to ceiling scratching post with different levels to play and lounge on. In addition, I exercise them (with cat toys) right before I go to bed every night to tire them out. They can't get into trouble if they are asleep when I'm asleep. So maybe try tiring them out before you leave the house?

Anonymous said...

On thing that I have found that works wonders and is fairly inexpensive is glad press and seal wrap sticky side up. It annoys the cat because of the stickyness and won't damage your counters or furniture. My guy jumped on the counter, felt it, ran away, tried it once more a days later (i still had it up to see if he would do it again) and has not jumped up since. (the second time he came running to me all covered in the wrap, I think it really ticked him off)

Kitchen Benchtops said...

There are different ways you can go about training your cat that the kitchen is an off limits area for jumping and exploring. The first method is to simply pick them up whenever they jump onto a kitchen counter top or table and tell them No!

Anonymous said...

Tabby just turned a year old; she is actually a brown-based tabby/torty mix. She used to love to shred tissue paper, until about a month ago when she got her head caught in one of those square cardboard tussue boxes (the plastic wouldn't let her get her head back out). She was literally sufficating by the time I saw her and got the box torn off; I hate to think what would have happened if I'd been gone. There are no more opne tussue boxes in this house; we put them in a container with a lid. She won't tough a tissue at all, not even one in the open. Be careful of the tissue boxes.

Tish said...

I am a new cat owner and love him to death, but I will not tolerate jumping on counter tops. I've provided alternate places for him to climb or jump and have a huge picture window with perch that is set up as his sitting area. I think the suggestions to "deal with it" or "just wipe the counters" are disgusting. If I pooped in the dirt, covered it with my hands, then licked my hands clean, would you want me touching your food? That's exactly what some of you have suggested. I tried a concoction of water and lime juice on the counter. My cat doesn't like for his feet to be wet and doesn't like the flavor of lime juice. I've only done this for a day, so he still needs time to learn. If that doesn't work, I'll mix something else up that cats don't like tasting. The one thing that won't be happening is me just giving in and allowing him to rule our eating space.

Lord Tisbury said...

I wish someone sold something like cuttable counter mats that won't move (so a rubber-ish type of bottom), but the top is very sticky so that the cat would just jump off immediately. I've been looking. It seems like an obvious invention. I've tried sticky tape on the counter (takes forEVER to get it off), aluminum foil (he got used to it), etc. I now spray the foil with "Boundaries," a citronella-smelling cat spray that he hates. That helps, but the smell doesn't last long, and it is expensive.