Why I Allow Our Cats on the Countertops: Dr Karyn’s Perspective

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Hi, I’m Dr. Karyn! Read my introduction to learn more about me and meet my five hilarious cats: Clutch, Cyril, Alex, Zelda, and Zazzles.

Sharing your house with cats means that you sometimes need to adjust your expectations when it comes to your clothes, home, and furniture. I have always said that you can either have a really clean house, or you can have pets; it is pretty challenging to have both. And though I’m not speaking from personal experience, I imagine the same to be true for having children!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having pets means that your house is going to become some sort of cesspit, but there is a level of untidiness and mess that will invariably come with having pets indoors.

In my home, with my five cats and five dogs, cleaning is almost a full-time job, which, on top of our actual full-time jobs, can be a bit overwhelming, but we do manage to stay on top of it most of the time. Vacuum cleaning happens at least once a day, and regular brushing is a must. For me, keeping the house tidy is something I try to stay on top of, but keeping it clean is my main priority.

Cats and Dogs

If I were to put ink on the little toe beans of all my cats, I am pretty certain that the surface area covered in ink would be far greater than what isn’t, and I admit that our kitchen countertops would also be covered in little kitty footprints.

Many people maintain a strict ‘no cats on the countertops’ rule, and of course, I think it’s a good policy to have. After all, when a cat digs in their litter box, they don’t exactly clean their paws with antibacterial soap – not that I’m suggesting we start doing that! However, I am not just tolerant of our cats being on our countertops, but will actually make provisions for it, and the reason for this is these guys: the dogs.

Bailey, Kodah, Fred, Ned, and Poppy, who share our home with our cats
Bailey, Kodah, Fred, Ned, and Poppy, who share our home with our cats.

We are very fortunate that our cats and dogs live quite harmoniously, often happy to curl up next to each other and even have a bit of a play together. However, if things get a bit rough and rowdy, it is more important to me that my cats feel free to get away quickly, and that often means jumping onto a surface like the kitchen counter. For us, it comes down to what we can and can’t control, and how to ensure that all our pets feel comfortable in their home.

My husband and I have brought these wonderful animals into our homes, and it is important to us that they all feel safe, secure, and comfortable in their environment. If we cut off their escape route when they are feeling overwhelmed by the dogs, I believe this would create a stressful environment, and cause our cats to retreat to their upstairs retreat and never come out, and that is not what we want. This is their home, and they should feel confident about exploring all of it.

So this is what I mean when I talk about what I can and can’t control:

  • I can’t control how my cats and dogs will interact at all times, and I can’t, in all good conscience, stop my cats from being able to jump onto our counters.
  • I can control how clean those counters are, and keep the kitchen door closed when food preparation is going on.
They love Bailey, but sometimes you just need to get away.
They love Bailey, but sometimes you just need to get away.

Keeping it Clean

Just as we are fastidious about vacuuming our floors, we are just as dedicated to regularly disinfecting our kitchen. As our Dr Lauren points out, cat feet and cat butts on surfaces where we prepare our food is not ideal, and can open up a literal can of worms, and it can also pose a potential risk to the cats. Sharp knives, hot stoves, and inappropriate food items are all dangers that cats can come into contact with in the kitchen, and these dangers are another factor we need to consider in our house.

The fortunate consequence of adapting our habits to allow for feline counter surfing is that we have improved our kitchen hygiene and tidiness to a level that would likely score us 10/10 from any food safety authority! Dirty plates are always swiftly rinsed and placed in the dishwasher, leftovers sealed and secured, and cooking supplies and implements are tidied away as soon as we’re finished with them. If only I felt as motivated when it comes to cleaning the bathroom!

Keeping it Clean
Keeping it clean…

Should They Be Allowed on Countertops?

Am I saying that you should allow your cats to roam around your kitchen unchecked? Absolutely not. Their safety and your safety need to be the top priority. But what we also need to consider is that when we bring cats into our home, they need to feel comfortable. Depending on your household, that can mean that you stay strict and consistent about keeping them off the countertops from day one, so there is no confusion, or restricting their access to the kitchen altogether.

In our house, the most practical and workable solution was for US to adapt to THEM.

If you’re a germaphobe or a bit (or a lot) OCD about cleanliness, you might need to have a think about whether furry housemates are right for you, although, as you can see, keeping multiple pets actually keeps us more motivated to be strict about cleaning than if we had fewer or none (not that I can see that ever happening!).

The main thing to take away is that each household is different, and it’s important to establish boundaries and rules that work best for you, and allow your cats to feel safe and secure. If those rules are causing more stress, or just not working for you, decide what your priorities are and make a plan that addresses everyone’s needs.

Providing your cats with towers, shelves, and platforms are important to allow them to explore their world vertically, as well as horizontally, and give them places they can escape to when they need it. If that vertical world includes your kitchen, make sure that your health and their safety are taken seriously.

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