Counters and high shelves beckon with the promise of outlets for exercise, exploration and tasty snacks.

If you are a cat owner, then you may have noticed that your curious, agile cat effortlessly leaps and lands on the top of the refrigerator, while deftly missing your glass serving bowl. Your first instinct may be to scold him, and oust him off the refrigerator. In your attempt to shoo your cat, he could also lose his balance, falling hard on the floor and injuring himself; he might also be just a bit angry with you.

Should you give in, and allow your cat free reign on high shelves and kitchen counters? Not a safe option; he might burn himself when in contact with a hot stove, or fall and be injured. You can outfox your feline, but before you can stop counter and shelf surfing, first understand his motivations:

The innate need to explore surroundings from a high perch, out of the reach of dogs or other perceived threats inside the home. Cats are both prey and predator, and so they may feel safer on high places. And consider these factors:

The beckoning aroma of food left on a kitchen counter. Cats have a superior sense of smell compared to ours. “Hmmm, do I smell ham?”

The opportunity to nap without being interrupted in an inaccessible place. “Ahh, finally, no bothersome dogs, or toddler, or teenagers.”

Leaping and climbing provide physical exercise and outlets for exploring for indoor cats. Cats are so adept at jumping that the pursuit of vertical high spaces seems intuitive to them,” she says. Although some cats are more athletic than others, exploring is likely a big factor in counter surfing and leaping on shelves. Young cats might spend more time on counters and high shelves because they want to investigate their environments. It is how they learn. Older cats, ones who are overweight, and ones with arthritis or mobility problems, are far less likely to do this. Also, older cats tend to be more sedentary and figure it is not worth the effort, especially if food rewards are not left on counters.

Here are some tactics to reduce counter-surfing:

1. Put double-sided tape on counters and the tops of kitchen shelves; but note some cats just love tape – this trick won’t work for them.
2. Thought of filling baking sheets with water and placing them on kitchen counters? Might work, but many cats seem to enjoy splashing in the water.
3. A treat-dispensing cat toy that your cat can sniff and swat and figure out how to retrieve the pieces of food might be as enjoyable as counter-surfing.
4. Keep kitchen counters free of temptation. “Do I smell burgers?”.
5. Your cat might enjoy climbing structures such as cat trees or designated wide shelves where he can safely explore and just hang out.

Final advice: If you catch your cat on top of the refrigerator or an off-limit high shelf, call his name, rattle a treat jar and give him a treat once he safely scales down from his perch. The goal is for your cat to learn that tasty rewards occur only when he comes when called. You can even teach him to sit on command before he gets a treat.

For more information on cat behaviour, contact Oromocto Veterinary Hospital. We’re happy to help.