Cat on the Counter
As the self-appointed rulers of households everywhere, cats lay claim to all parts of their home (or kingdom). But do they belong on the kitchen counter? We wanted to know how our readers felt and whether veterinarians felt the same. We polled cat owners and veterinary professionals[i], and the results may surprise you.

When asked if their cats were allowed access to the counter, 21 percent of veterinary professionals who responded answered "yes," 13 percent answered "rarely" and 54.5 percent answered "no." ("Other" was also an option, claiming 11.4 percent of veterinary professional votes.)

Our readers were more likely than veterinary professionals to allow their cats on the counter: 28 percent answered affirmatively, 11 percent said rarely and 48.1 percent said no, with the remaining readers opting for "other." So, while veterinary professionals are less likely to allow their cats on the kitchen counter as a habit, they’re actually more likely to allow their cats up there on occasion.

Why Allow It?

For those who answered that they generally let their kitties up on the counter, we dug into the reasons why. The main reason veterinary professionals gave their cats a pass to get on the counter was to give them a high place where they feel safe (35 percent), while the most common answer among readers was that they simply weren’t bothered by it (39 percent).

Of course, cats will be cats, and 22 percent of veterinary professionals and 17 percent of readers stated that they couldn’t keep their cats off the counter even if they tried. However, when we factor in the large number of write-in answers echoing that statement, it appears this is the most common reason for both groups. It’s not that it’s allowed, per se, but there’s only so much you can do to keep a cat from getting up there, especially when you’re not home!

(For the record, we've got some sound advice from Dr. Marty Becker on how to keep cats off kitchen counters, if you're so inclined.)

Why Rarely?

When it came to cat owners who rarely allow cats on the counter, the answers were a little more involved. Providing an escape route was still a top answer, this time for both groups (27 percent for veterinary professionals, 29 percent for readers).

But here’s where it gets a little more interesting: 18 percent of veterinary professionals admitted it was just a matter of being less than diligent about keeping the cats off the counter (vs. 14 percent of readers), while the second most popular answer for readers was that they didn’t allow cats on the counter while they were cooking, but otherwise it was fine (16 percent vs. only 7 percent of veterinary professionals).

Just 2 percent of veterinary professionals and 5 percent of readers worried about keeping cats off the counter when guests were present. (Of course, we'd certainly hope that any guests present would have the good sense to not say something rude about it!)

However, that “other” option came into play in a big way — 46 percent of veterinary professionals and 36 percent of readers selected it. Veterinary professionals mostly noted that it was a matter of whether they were in the room to discourage the behavior, while many readers stated that some or all options were applicable.

And Why Not?

Among those who said they did not allow counter-hopping behavior, the majority of both groups said it was because of concerns about it being unsanitary (66 percent of veterinary professionals, 51 percent of readers).

However, interestingly enough, more readers than veterinary professionals stated safety as a main concern (13 percent of veterinary professionals vs. 21 percent of readers).

A number of those who kept cats off the counter in both groups mentioned that their cats had plenty of other high places, like cat towers and perches, where they were allowed and encouraged to retreat, so they didn't feel the need to give Fluffy free range near the food prep station as well.

How do your own responses stack up? Do you always, rarely or never allow your cats on the counter? Tell us why in the comments!

[i]Results based on a survey completed in March 2014. Number of pet owner respondents: 1,016; number of veterinary professional respondents: 167.

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest pet news and have the opportunity to participate in our next survey? Sign up here.

More on