Does your adult cat decide that the dining room table is most interesting when you’re setting it for dinner guests? Does she follow you into the study to jump on the desk, parking herself on your keyboard when you want to browse the net? Does she want to be on the bathroom counters when you’re trying to put on makeup or brush your teeth? Sounds like you have a curious and social cat!
It starts simply enough. It’s kind of cute, and you’re flattered that Bitsy wants to spend time with you. She might be bored, or she’s curious about what’s getting laid out on the table, or the computer keyboard is warm and smells like you. You might inadvertently give her enough attention that she decides her actions got her something good. Since it worked out for her, she’s likely to try it again. Eventually, it’s not so cute, and becomes annoying or interrupts what you have to get done. What do you do now? Let’s take each scenario individually.
Your Dining Room Table
If you don’t generally keep your cat off the dining room table, but suddenly expect her to understand why you don’t want cat hair on the fine china, the problem may not be your feline. It’s important to be consistent in setting boundaries for your cat. Expecting her to understand the difference between a casual evening and a dinner party isn’t really fair. Make a plan to reward her for staying on a chair, cat bed, cat tree perch or other special spot nearby instead. Anytime she jumps up to the table, simply relocate her to the new spot. Consistency and repetition will help her understand the new rules.
In addition, it might be wise to make the table inaccessible and/or unattractive while you are away and/or unable to monitor her activity. You might do this by placing a strip of carpet runner — that plastic stuff that is smooth on one side and has plastic spikes on the other side — upside down on the table. For some cats, strips of aluminum foil work, as many cats don’t like the sound or feel of foil.
When you need to work at your laptop, be prepared to take multiple breaks. If Bitsy jumps up to stretch out on your keyboard, stand up and take the laptop with you. If crawling on the keyboard got her something she wanted before, it may take a bunch of repetitions of your getting up to break her habit. But, when what worked before turns out now to be consistently “broken,” she will eventually give up. Just remember — you have to be more determined than she is. Knowing what it will take, use caution not to add anger or anxiety to the mix. Just accept the process as necessary and work it like a flowchart.
Your Bathroom Counter
Regarding your counter in the bathroom, you might want to sync up your morning routine with Bitsy’s breakfast time. If you can spend five minutes playing her favorite game with her — wand toy, fur mouse tossing or whatever — and then serve her morning meal, you can slip away, close the door and get your stuff done. Sometimes our cats just want some attention, and a snack afterward. And using basic management, like closing doors, can be an easy remedy for short periods of time.
The Gravity Game
There’s one additional feline vice which involves being up on furniture that some cat owners will recognize — the Gravity Game. In this little recognized cat sport, Bitsy traverses a desk, dresser or countertop, and proceeds to conduct scientific experiments in which she tests the power of gravity on objects she finds there. She appears to be noting the amount of effort it takes her paw to engage the forces of gravity to act upon the item, and the entertaining noises made by the objects and by the owner of the objects as they crash to the floor. Of course, I am being facetious about her goals, but clearly some cats find this activity rewarding.
If you have a Gravity Game player, the best tact is to put away anything breakable and/or valuable for a while. If you remove the moving parts for this game, it loses its appeal. In the meantime, take the hint your cat has given you and make time for a few more play sessions for her during the day and evening hours. Perhaps some food foraging or food-dispensing toys are warranted to give her less destructive games to play. Also, take time to discourage her visiting those surfaces by making other surfaces more fun and rewarding. After you’ve allowed a month or more to pass without the potential projectiles on display, put just one or two inexpensive, replaceable items back out and observe what happens. Always remember to reward alternate play behaviors you do like with treats, toys and attention.
Remember, too, how much cats enjoy an opportunity to hang with you in a safe, comfy place. Some really enjoy the height of counters, desks and tables. Creating a “legal” spot where you can allow Bitsy to sit and observe as you work or eat may be the best compromise. Whether you choose a stool or chair, or install a shelf where she can hang out, your social beast may be happy to give up the restricted space for her own roost — especially if you add a few yummy rewards to the mix.