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Teaching cats to stay off couches and counters

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo one knows territory like cats. They like their own space, and they can get disturbed if their space is invaded, but how do you teach your pet about respecting your space, or, more specifically, your stuff?

Here are some tips for teaching cats to stay off of and away from specific places like furniture and counters. Some of these methods are also useful for dogs.

Consistent repetition: The best way to teach your cat to stay off of the couch is repetition. Every time your cat settles into his or her favorite spot on the furniture, gently but firmly remove your pet and say “no.” You must be consistent with this training otherwise your cat will be confused as to what behavior is being corrected. Since you can’t follow your cat around and correct its behavior all the time, be sure to use one of the methods below to enforce the rules while you are away from your pet.

Note: When we trained our cat to stay off the couch, every time she climbed on the couch we would put her in her own room. This taught her that being on the couch meant losing the privilege to roam the whole house.

Mild deterrents: If your cat has an unpleasant experience on the couch or counter, he or she will be less likely to return to that spot. If you can get your pet to associate discomfort with the couch or counter, you battle will be mostly won.

  • Double-sided tape: To prevent your cat from sharpening its claws on the furniture, try placing strips of double-sided tape along the arms and back of your couch or chairs. Provide a scratching post for your cat to use instead.
  • Foil or plastic: While you are out of the house or simply not using the couch or other furniture, place sheets of plastic or foil over the couch and furniture cushions. The sound and feel of the plastic or foil can serve as a deterrent to your cat.
  • Aluminum pans: If you are going to be out of the kitchen for a while, you can set out light-weight aluminum pans on the counter. Try to set them up in such a way that they will fall easily if disturbed. The sound of the falling pans will shock your pet and make it feel less inclined to explore the counter again.

Commit for long-term training: Be willing to keep these methods up for the long term. If one method is not working, switch it out for another option (for example, you could try double sided tape on the counters if the pans aren’t working). Don’t give up on being consistent. Sooner or later, your efforts will be rewarded.

A Personal Perspective:

We always had cats in all the years I was growing up. We also seemed to be constantly thinking of ways to keep the kitties off of and away from the couches and furniture. We designated the whole basement as the cats’ domain, and that usually worked out well for everyone, until someone left the basement door open and Kitty would wander upstairs. Whenever this happened I’m sure it felt just like a playground with no rules. Nothing was off-limits. And since we didn’t take the time to train Kitty, we ended up with a special puddle right in the middle of the loveseat. Kitty looked at the huge fluffy chair and simply couldn’t resist. So a new education began. Whenever kitty jumped up on the couch, or decided to sharpen her nails on it, she was quickly and firmly taken away from the couch and told “no.” We would sometimes follow this by putting her back downstairs.

Over the weeks and months of repeating this lesson, we wondered if the idea would ever really stick. Then, one day, we were rewarded for all our patience. Kitty had a litter of kittens and we brought them upstairs to play. They scampered all over the living room, turning the couch into a climbing jungle gym. And that’s when those months of training kicked in for Kitty. She raced from kitten to kitten, removing them from the couch and putting them in the middle of the room. We didn’t have to do a thing. She was the new enforcer, teaching her young ones to keep off the couch. It felt like a definite pet owner win for us and a parenting win for Kitty.

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