My Cat Thinks the Kitchen Belongs to Him
November 1, 2011 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I have an older cat who has become a total bastard when it comes to the kitchen. He is constantly on the counter. I run him off and when I leave the kitchen he is back up on the counter almost immediately. He'll eat meat cooking in a frickin' frying pan. Any solutions other than constantly squirting him with water or putting him in a crate while cooking? Closing off the kitchen is not an option.
posted by zzazazz to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cover the counters in tin foil for a few days? Just long enough for him to re-learn that it sucks up there for a cat.
posted by brainmouse at 4:16 PM on November 1, 2011

maybe this is too mean for your tastes but here it goes:

put a cookie sheet on the counter so that part of it hangs off. enough so that when he jumps on it, it will fall off. then he won't be able to trust the counter top, or maybe just cookie sheets, YMMV.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:20 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't mind being mean to the little prick.
posted by zzazazz at 4:22 PM on November 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

My older male cat developed hyperthyroidism, which made him ravenous. I started catching him up on the counter, couldn't leave food out anywhere for and turn my back for thirty seconds. Medication helped a bit, although he had other complications.

When and what do you feed him? Maybe giving him some appetizing canned food while you cook would satisfy him. That's another thing about elderly cats--they tend to prefer wet food to dry, and maybe that's what he's looking for. Or perhaps he's gone off his current diet.

If you need to cook at some other time, keep some treats he really likes on hand to distract him.

I usually feed my cats their evening meal just before they start dinner--they don't jump up on the counter (the hungry guy went to the big kitchen counter in the sky last summer) but they do tend to get underfoot when they get peckish.
posted by tully_monster at 4:24 PM on November 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

Ssscat works pretty well for me. Basically a motion-triggered compressed air can that scares them away.

Of course, if you forget its there and trigger it yourself it can make you jump too :)
posted by wildcrdj at 4:25 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a new behavior? Vet visit, senior wellness check including test for hyperthyroidism (common in older cats). Consider switching him to a low carb, high protein canned cat food if you're not feeding that already.
posted by vers at 4:25 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

How old is he? I recommend a vet visit to get this new behavior checked out. I had an older cat that started to get crazy about stealing and begging for food, and it turned out she wasn't digesting food properly or something and so was always hungry.
posted by swingbraid at 4:26 PM on November 1, 2011

Or, you know, everything tully_monster said.
posted by vers at 4:28 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our cat didn't learn any lessons from being squirted with water. What did work was putting him in a time out in the bathroom for an hour whenever he did something we didn't want him to do. Turns out the water he could handle but the loss of his freedom, he could not.

Basically, as soon as he does anything you don't want him to do, immediately say "No!" and grab him (chase him until you catch him if you have to) and then put him in the bathroom and lock the door. Keep him in there for at least an hour.

It took about two weeks for him to learn that unacceptable behaviour would result in a time-out. Now he's pretty well behaved. To the point where we can literally see him considering being bad, and then quickly reconsidering it.

YMMV. These are cats we're talking about and they're prone to doing what they want to do, not what we want them to do, but this worked best for me and may give you the time you need to finish cooking without kitty eating your half-cooked meal.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:30 PM on November 1, 2011

I was thinking thyroid, too. Happened to one of my cats at that age.

Sadly, I think it's time to go to the vet.

The treatment are some little pills. My cat's pleasant demeanor returned almost immediately. The pills were not very expensive, as I remember.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 4:31 PM on November 1, 2011

The Blender Defender.
posted by bonehead at 4:32 PM on November 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have one of these, it works quickly and is effective in keeping cats off of surfaces, out of areas....
posted by HuronBob at 4:37 PM on November 1, 2011

I had a cat that did this. This was the cat the opened the fridge and removed a pizza box and ate all the meat off the pizza. This was the cat that removed a chicken on a platter and ate all the skin. This was the cat (and i swear, I'm not making this up) that removed a previously unopened 10 pound bag of flour from a cabinet over the counter, tore open the top and flung several cups of flour around. Just picture that: a 14 pound cat moving a 10 pound bag of flour. The little bastard.

I tried squirting him. Here's what he learned: that he can crouch down and just take it in the face and walk indignantly away at his own pace. Compressed air the same. Foil? Tried it. Kept him off for a while until he learned he could shred it.

The only solution I had that worked for any significant amount of time was to set mouse traps on the counter and gently place many layers of newspaper on them. When he jumped up, the traps snapped and he scattered. This solution lasted two weeks until he learned that mouse traps don't reset themselves.

With today's technology, maybe an automated solution is optimal.

At the time, I read a thing on usenet form someone who had a cat that had jumped on the electric stove when the coils were still hot. They discovered that putting spirals of orange construction paper on any surface kept the cat away. Don't try to train your cat to do this. Just keep it in mind as you observe your cat's behaviors.
posted by plinth at 4:40 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: He has hyperthyroidism and he is on medication. So far, these have been good suggestions.
posted by zzazazz at 4:46 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: From what I have read here I wonder if I should take him back to the vet and maybe ask about a higher dose of his thyroid medication.
posted by zzazazz at 4:52 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, that is an excellent idea. It sounds like your cat feels ravenous, and that can't be comfortable for him. Or you.
posted by vers at 4:54 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

If after the vet you still have issue and you decide to try ssscat just make sure to clear your counters of any breakables.
posted by oneear at 5:07 PM on November 1, 2011

One of my cats used to do this.

A 'solution' that the vet came up with, and worked for me: Cover the problem area with tin foil. Then, put pennies on the tin foil. When the cat jumps on the problem area, the rattling pennies and tin foil drove them right back off again, and I got the Stare of WTF from the cat.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:09 PM on November 1, 2011

I cured my young kittens of this by having a metal can full of about ten pennies around to shake like mad the second they jumped on table or counter. Just a really loud noise they found irritating and they stopped after a week of consistent repetitions of this. They would jump down instantly. Worked way better than water spray.

Of course it only really taught them "don't go on counter when humans are home" which is not ideal, but good enough and super low budget.

Of course this is not substitute for the medical stuff and extra food, etc. already mentioned.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:14 PM on November 1, 2011

I've found that leaving tape laying sticky side up on any surface will quickly train a cat to see it as a hostile environment. The bonus is that they learn that it's a bad place whether you're there or not, unlike the squirt bottle training method. Finally, watching a guilty cat scrambling around the house trying to run away from the tape stuck to his/her paw is hilarious.
posted by mullingitover at 5:16 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Ssscat works pretty well for me."

"This item is not for sale in Catalina Island." So say the cats of Catalina Island.
posted by mikeand1 at 5:18 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

My evil ones will give up a behavior for a rewarding alternative. Think "NO NO GET DOWN (and if you do then here's some nice tuna that you may eat from a saucer on the floor)".

And you really should get him to the vet.
posted by puddinghead at 5:44 PM on November 1, 2011

My cat gets a chicken neck or other bone while I'm cooking dinner. It keeps her busy for long enough that she doesn't get underfoot.

She doesn't try climbing on the counters, though, so no help there. Except that when she did start climbing onto the dining table at one stage, we mistakenly made it worse before it got better, because we'd pick her up to lift her off, and she LOVES being picked up. So she learned that when she wanted to be held, she should climb onto the table.

Don't do that.
posted by lollusc at 5:57 PM on November 1, 2011

I did the pennies in the soda can thing with my beasts when they were little. Of course, you don't always have a penny filled can at your finger tips, so I somehow got into the habit of shrieking "OH MY GOODNESS!" as I reached for the can. After not too long, all I had to do was "OH MY GOODNESS!" to get them to behave. Now it just takes "OH" and sometimes "OH M" to get them to straighten out and fly right. As an added bonus, when Mr. M catches them in the act, he OMGs them in falsetto. Good times.

But yeah, vet, then OMG then penny can.
posted by Maisie at 5:58 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Another vote for a check-up with the vet.

A friend of mine used small motion detectors that flashed light and an alarm when triggered. She had two or three of them strategically placed on her counters. They were small, about the size of a small can of cat food (ha!) and ran on batteries. I do not know where she purchased them.
posted by deborah at 6:26 PM on November 1, 2011

If it were me, that cat would get his meds checked and live in the crate when meals were cooking. I'm ridiculously (over)indulgent with my pets, but there are limits - and sneaking food from the stove while it's cooking is one of them.

This is the proverbial disaster waiting to happen. If cats could reliably be trained, you wouldn't be having this problem. So why trust a cat training method to be effective enough to keep you or the cat from getting burned? Put the little bastard in his crate until mealtime is over. Done.

Per AskMe tradition, I can't guarantee the success of this method without seeing pictures of the evil, spoiled, pestering, adorable little monster. HTH!
posted by Space Kitty at 9:13 PM on November 1, 2011

2 coins, 1 aluminum can. Shake the hell out of it when you cat goes up there. Scare it. It will stop.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:15 AM on November 2, 2011

Seconding HuronBob: the cat zapper works great.

(Amazon calls it The Scat Mat or something like that, but it will forever be the cat zapper to me. It will take 1 or perhaps 2 times of getting a high voltage [but very very low amperage, so harmless] zap across two paws before your cat will learn to fear and respect the counter as a proscribed place. You will have to move it around at random, or the cat will start avoiding just one spot on the counter. Additionally, when the cat steps on the mat, you will be treated to the sight of a cat leaping 4 feet vertically into the air, before running to sulk under the bed. As an added bonus, sometimes you will forget that you left it on the counter, and an unsuspecting guest will lean on it, and you will be treated to the sight of a person jumping higher than you knew s/he could.)
posted by Mayor West at 4:18 AM on November 2, 2011

I have used Ssscat to good effect with a cat that was getting into trouble in our pantry. Took about a week to break her of that habit (she still gets on the counter and anywhere else there's a stray calorie).
posted by adamrice at 7:19 AM on November 2, 2011

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