Cats love to investigate their territories, and this can mean that they climb all over couches, chairs, countertops, and bookcases, much to the chagrin of some pet "parents." Because cats are such exceptional jumpers and climbers, almost any surface is fair game for a determined feline, but it is possible to train them to stay away from certain parts of the house.
Climbing, jumping, exploring and resting on elevated perches are all perfectly normal cat activities. Cat owners should not try to stop these behaviors but redirect them toward more suitable parts of the house.
If your cat likes to climb and survey the world from on high, purchasing or constructing a kitty "condo" that includes lots of vertical space and elevated perches and cubbies can provide an appropriate outlet for these activities. Many cats also enjoy having access to a padded platform that can be placed in front of a window or attached to the window frame. If a cat is cruising kitchen countertops or dining room tables in search of food, make sure that anything edible is securely packed away in airtight containers.
To make favorite surfaces unappealing, place crinkled up aluminum foil, double-sided tape, precariously balanced cookie sheets, or a plastic carpet protector spiky-side-up on top. Mats and other devices are available that will deliver a puff of air or the sting of static electricity when a cat jumps up on them. To be effective, the cat must associate an unpleasant experience with the environment, not with the owner, which is why yelling at or physically punishing a cat that jumps up on furniture is usually counterproductive.
Written by: Jennifer Coates, DVM
Last reviewed: October 2, 2008