Why is My Cat Climbing on the Table, and How Can I Stop It?

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Very often cat owners wonder why their cat climbs on the table or on the furniture. Above all, we are looking for ways to prevent him or rather how to make him understand definitively that he should not go up there anymore!

A cat that climbs on the table can interfere with meals, especially if you are having guests. This is what drives many cat owners to seek solutions to change this behavior. So, is it possible, and if so, how to succeed while respecting the well-being and the needs of the cat as much as possible?

Why does my cat climb on the table when he has a cat tree?

The question “why is my cat getting on the table?” », it’s a rather easy question to answer. The cat is an “arboreal” animal, it likes the height which allows it to embrace its territory more widely to either hunt and watch its prey, or on the contrary, see its predators coming.

In the latter case, the height allows him to take refuge or flee sufficiently in advance. So you understand why height is a need and an instinct in the cat, it allows him to predict and control any event occurring in what he considers to be his “territory”.

So, when the cat does not have access to the outside and only has a small cat tree near a window, one can easily understand his frustration, and inevitably, the table or the furniture become substitutes for the height that is lacking in its interior environment.

cat climbing on the table

In the end, we could even consider that the table or the furniture is free “cat trees” because the cat does not differentiate between a “commercial” cat tree and a table. In his eyes, both mean height, which is essentially the same thing.

It is therefore the second part of the question that it is more difficult to answer: “How can I prevent my cat from getting on the table?” 

Now that you know the importance of height for the cat, and if you think in terms of well-being and the fulfillment of its needs, the question becomes “Why prevent it?” since he needs it?

Indeed, if your interior does not have enough heights, there is a chance that it will express its need on your furniture which will serve as perches.

How do you keep your cat from getting on the table?

You now know why your cat climbs on the table. But how can you teach him that this place is forbidden?

Here are some actions you can take:

Clean the table

The first thing to do to prevent your cat from getting on the table is to never leave any food or attractive things there, it is necessary that this table is neither interesting nor “paying” for the cat.

We, therefore, avoid leaving crumbs or a glass of water, or any other element that can become a reward or a motivation for the cat.

Otherwise, these delicious residues of the meal will inevitably reinforce his interest in the table and therefore his climbing behavior.

cat reaching for food on the table

Systematically get your cat off the table

No magic, and as with children, repetition is the secret to learning. You will have to put your cat on the ground, as soon as and each time he climbs to the unwanted place.

Be careful not to make a game of it and avoid making an “animation” of it, because the cat can get on the table to attract your attention, therefore any unnecessary action (making big gestures, talking to him etc.) of your hand can reinforce this behavior because it is “entertaining” for your cat.

It is, therefore, necessary to take it delicately by saying “no” without raising the tone and placing it on the ground, nothing more. I do not recommend giving him the treat to reward him once he gets off, because you risk on the contrary leading to the behavior and ending up with a cat who has understood that each time he climbs on the table, he is given a treat then (even if it is on the ground).

Make the environment unpleasant

We can indeed make the place that we want to prohibit unpleasantly. But beware: it is the environment that must make it unpleasant and not you so that this “prohibition” is not associated with you or your presence.

  • The tactile repellant is both the most effective and the least traumatic in my opinion. Indeed, placing aluminum foil or double-sided tape on the “forbidden” surface will inevitably deter your feline, because it will be very unpleasant.
  • There are also olfactory repellents (repellant spray) whose unpleasant odor dissuades your cat, however, I do not recommend this solution because an odor never stops at the defined place and therefore spreads in the cat’s environment. This will have the effect of causing discomfort to your cat beyond the prohibited area, which is absolutely not the desired goal.
  • Some people use sound repellents, that is to say, a sudden scary noise (falling piggy bank, metal plates, etc.) but I find this solution stressful for the cat because even if he associates noise with the place, this sudden noise can sensitize him to other noises in the house. This method, therefore, seems counterproductive and sensitizing in the long term, because the goal is not to make one’s environment an anxiety-provoking place where “anything can happen”.
  • Finally, in the family of “repellents”, you can try the Ssscat which sprays a small jet of air when the cat walks past. In this case, it is the environment that punishes and the breath of air is just unpleasant and not traumatic.
cat eating from a bowl

Serve the cat a meal before using the table

If your cat gets on the table at mealtimes, you can combine the first solution (have him come down each time) with the distribution of his meal just before or during yours, so that your cat is occupied and his attention diverted to its food.

Make the table boring for your cat

If the table is in front of a window, then it is very tempting for your cat to make it a place for observation. Therefore, you can “block the view” of the cat to make the place obsolete and therefore naturally deter the cat from continuing to produce this behavior. But be careful, think about getting him another high place from where he can see the outside …

Encourage your cat to climb to another high place

We can combine this solution with all the others.

You can prevent your cat from getting on the table by offering him another more interesting place. A high stool near the table may suit him very well. Place treats there to motivate your cat to go to this place rather than the table from which they are systematically brought down.

cat sitting on a cat tree

Confining the cat in another room

If your cat really does not understand or does not want to understand and it bothers you a lot, especially at mealtimes, there is no point in getting angry with him.

Confine the cat during table time to a room in the house. This solution should not be seen as a punishment! It is, therefore, necessary to put the cat in a room that he likes and not in a room that he hates.

We ensure that this room contains games, food, water, litter so that the cat has a good time. You can open the door once the meal is finished, making sure you have followed instruction number 1: clean the table after meals  !

How to modify unwanted behavior in cats?

Finally, in general, if you want to prohibit behavior like this from your cat, you must take care of two things:

  • The first is to give alternatives to this normal feline behavior. Therefore, you will not be able to prevent it from “gaining height”. It is, therefore, necessary to dedicate specific places to it where it can satisfy this need. A cat tree near a window, shelves with a cushion to sit on, in short, any solution that suits you and gives the cat the opportunity to perch.
  • The second thing to know is that punishment by humans (other than environmental punishment ) only degrades your relationship together. Your cat will not only listen to you less but may also express other behaviors to allay the anxiety that the punishment generates. I, therefore, recommend that you completely forget about taking by the neck, slapping on the nose or hindquarters, or even the famous water spray. All of these punishments are connected with you, and the cat knows it. Consequently, he will start to be wary and in your absence, he will go up everywhere, because he knows very well that this punishment only arrives when you are there… one thus generates ill-being for almost zero results.
cat licking its mouth

Cat trees, a good alternative

Your cat climbs on the table, climbs the furniture, uses the shelves for crazy adventures in height? If this behavior is directly related to his arboreal animal instincts, it can sometimes be dangerous for him and your furniture. Don’t hesitate to purchase one or more cat trees, the height of which will be determined by the space available, but don’t forget: for most felines, the higher, the better.

If you have understood everything correctly, the real questions to ask yourself are the following:

  • Do you offer an alternative in height to your cat?
  • And if you don’t have a cat tree, can’t the table serve as one? The important thing is to clean it before and after each meal.
  • Is it that disturbing if the cat climbs on the table outside of meals?

I leave you to think about these questions and the solutions that you will put in place to manage the instinctive behavior of the cat who climbs on the table.

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