Cats on counters is one of the biggest complaints that I hear from cat owners…but it also seems to be one of the favorite things for cats to do!
Which makes sense.
Cats love a good perch and the counters give some of the best vantage points there are. Countertops also have the rare combination of often being cool but with plenty of sunlight still.
What could be better for your cat?
But most cat owners aren’t excited about having feline feet on their counters. After all, those furry toes that are walking around on your counters are the same ones that dig around the litterbox when it’s time for a bathroom break. Ugh…
While there’s a lot of ways to try and keep your cat off the counter, today we’re going to talk about methods using essential oils.
Now we’re going to talk more about this, but before you read further you should know that concentrated essential oils are dangerous to cats and you should always be careful to never allow your cat direct contact with any essential oil.
Let’s get into it!
Why Do Cats Jump On Counters?
Before we figure out if essential oils will work for your cat we need to figure out why your cat wants to jump on counters in the first place. From what I’ve seen there are usually two types of counter-surfing cats.
The Scavenger Kitties
Some cats are scouring the counter trying to track down any crumb they can find. While I think this a lot less common since most cats aren’t exactly excited about eating people food, my dad’s cat Ozzy was a committed counter-surfer who loves a good human snack! My dad is convinced that Ozzy also sees the whole thing as a fun game.
There’s a good chance he’s right!
Unfortunately, it’s going to be a bit harder to keep these kinds of cats off the counter with essential oils alone.
The Casual Cat Explorer
On the other side, you have cats that are casually exploring the counter and see the place where you prepare your food as just another lounging location. These cats like to jump on counters for the same reasons that cats like a high place- a lot of it has to do with instinct. I talked a lot about the different places cats like to go when I wrote about why cats like to go under the covers but Jackson Galaxy (the renowned cat expert) also wrote about feline preferences for certain locations.
These types of cats are more likely to be deterred by essential oils since they’re just looking for a good place to lay down.
Why Do Essential Oils Deter Cats?
While dogs usually get all the attention when it comes to having a great sense of smell, cats also have a very powerful sense of smell.
In fact, cats have a sense of smell that’s 9 to 16 times stronger than humans!
That means that while you will certainly smell these essential oils it’s nothing compared to how well your cat can smell them! And by focusing on smells that cats don’t like, we can designate a place as a “no-go” zone just by sprinkling a bit around.
How To Keep Your Cat Safe When Using Essential Oils
Your cat should NEVER ingest essential oils so if you plan on using essential oils to deter your cat from jumping on the counter, make sure you do so in a way that keeps your cat safe. It’s also a good idea to consult your veterinarian. You should know that I’m not a veterinarian and that none of this is medical advice! Always play it safe with your cat!
That being said, if you do want to use essential oils to try and stop your cat from counter-surfing, I’d recommend creating a solution of about 20 to 30 drops of essential oil to 3/4 cup of water. Different cats may need different concentrations before they think twice about jumping on the counter. But generally, you don’t want to exceed 45 drops per 3/4 cup of water.
Cats should not (ever) ingest essential oils and so it’s important to never spray your cat with any essential oil or essential oil solution. It’s also important to never leave essential oils out where cats may ingest them or step on them and then lick their paws. Cats lack the proper enzymes to metabolize essential oils which makes them toxic to felines.
Instead, make sure to thoroughly rub in any essential oil solution into your countertops, like you would a cleaning product. You can also use the essential oils to scent your towels and rags that you keep in the kitchen.
In short, you can get creative with the placement of your essential oils but never leave them in a place where your cat has access to the concentrated liquid form!
The List Of Essential Oils To Use As Cat Deterrents!
Just a quick disclaimer. I’ve done the research but that doesn’t make a veterinarian. You should always consult your veterinarian before introducing anything new to your cat! With that out of the way, let’s go through our list!
Citronella oil is well known as a deterrent to mosquitos but it’s also one of the many citrus smells that cats prefer to avoid. Extracted from the lemongrass plant, citronella oil has a ton of uses and you can find it in various insect repellents, soap, candles, and perfumes.
When it comes to keeping cats off counters, you can actually pick up a bottle of plain citronella oil on Amazon and combine around 25 drops of it with roughly 3/4 cup of water to create your own feline deterrent spray. And just to be clear, you should never spray your cat with this solution (or any for that matter). This is only to be used on the countertops in order to create a citronella smell around the area.
You can also try citronella candles, which I think smell nice on their own. Some of these candles are designed to repel mosquitos and are a bit too heavy duty for your kitchen. I recommend these smaller (and cute) 4.4 oz citronella candles on Amazon.
Overall, citronella is one of your most versatile and readily available options for keeping your cats off the counter.
Koalas love it. Cats hate it.
Eucalyptus oil has a bit of a minty smell and while some say they also get a hint of honey, I’ve never thought it smelled very sweet! It has a smell similar to tea tree oil, Vicks vapor rub, or something like IcyHot. Overall, it’s a smell that I like but it might not be for everyone.
Eucalyptus oil is has a long list of uses including use as flavoring, fragrance, and antiseptic. It’s also great for keeping cats off counters!
Similar to citronella, you can create a solution of 20 drops eucalyptus oil to around 3/4 cup water to create a sprayable solution. My favorite essential oil brand is Radha and you can get the latest price on their eucalyptus oil on Amazon by clicking here. Their oils also come with a dropper which makes it much easier to add just the right amount.
Lavender is one of the most popular scents in the world and one of the most common essential oils. There’s a good chance you’ve seen (and used) lavender hand soap or air freshener and are already familiar with the flowery scent. Lavender doesn’t have nearly as many uses as some of the other oils on this list and is primarily used for its scent in perfumes and other products.
Just like other oils, you can create a solution of around 20 drops of essential oil to 3/4 cup of water in order to create a spray. Just make sure there’s no residue left behind that your cat could come in contact with if they do decide to jump on the counter still.
You can pick up a large bottle of 100% pure lavender oil (from Sun Essential Oils) on Amazon by clicking here.
We all know what lemons are and where they come from! But it’s one of the many citrus smells that cats prefer to avoid.
Lemon is one of the easiest essential oils to incorporate into your kitchen and it’s a popular scent for a long list of cleaners. You can create a solution as a deterrent but even more convenient, you can actually create a lemon-based cleaning product that will not only deter your cat from jumping on the counters but also keep your kitchen clean all while staying eco-friendly!
If you try the lemon-based cleaner route, you can always use fresh lemons from the grocery store. But if you want to kick things up a notch, this 4 oz bottle of lemon essential oil on Amazon is a great value buy.
Orange oil is another citrus-based essential oil and we’ve already established that cats are just not fans of citrus. Orange is another one that’s very easy to incorporate into your kitchen either as part of your cleaning routine or a dedicated cat deterrent spray. In most cases, the essential oil route will be more effective simply because it’s more concentrated. If you want to go with the essential oil I recommend this 4 oz bottle from UpNature that you can find on Amazon.
You’re probably more familiar with rosemary as an herb instead of an essential oil but it’s a popular plant used by gardeners to keep cats away. Rosemary has a very unique smell and some folks may prefer to not have it in their home at all. I’ve always found rosemary to smell pretty much like wood and while it’s not a bad smell I agree with cats on this one and it’s something I’d prefer to avoid.
Rue is certainly not the first essential oil I would try but it’s got a very long history of human use dating back to ancient Rome. It has a smell almost like burnt toast but a bit more pleasant. It’s another one that’s often planted to keep cats away from gardens and it’s got a strong smell. You can check the latest price on a small bottle of rue essential oil on Amazon by clicking here.
An Alternate Approach: Cat Attraction
Whenever possible, it’s better to encourage a preferred behavior rather than discouraging negative behavior. In the case of cats on the counter, we can think of a few alternative options that might be better than using essential oils.
Give Your Cat Somewhere Else to Perch
If your cat likes to lounge on the counters, there’s a chance that they’re just looking for a good perch. A well-placed cat tree can oftentimes be more attractive than a countertop and encourage your cat to climb something more appropriate. You can read about my favorite cat trees here.
If your cat is a committed counter climber then you’ll want to make sure the tree you select is at least as tall as the counter but ideally taller!
Attract Your Cat To Another Location
Instead of using oils and herbs to keep your cat away, use them to attract your cat! The most well-known example of this is with catnip! You probably already know that cats go crazy for catnip and so sprinkling some around more difficult to reach places will keep your cat busy and interested elsewhere. While you can get catnip toys, it’s usually easier to just get the catnip in bulk. Here’s one I recommend on Amazon.
Can I Use An Essential Oil Diffuser?
I don’t recommend that you use a diffuser for your essential oils. We already discussed how many essential oils are toxic to cats but it’s important to remember that essential oils can be ingested OR absorbed through the skin.
Why is that important?
Because the mist from most diffusers will eventually turn into a small deposit of water and essential oils. Your cat could easily step in this puddle and either lick the oil off themselves as part of their grooming process or outright ingest it (we know cats like unique water sources)!
If you’re going to use essential oils to keep your cat off the counter, it’s best to keep complete control of how it’s distributed in order to keep your cat safe!
While you can use essential oils to keep cats off the countertop but it’s important to always do it safely. Cats should never ingest or come in direct contact with essential oils. So make sure you play it safe when you keep your counters clear of kitties!