My cat has the tendency to jump up on things. I had my food on my table and he knocked it over. How do I get him to stop jumping up on things?
While there are strategies for training cats to refrain from jumping on tables and counters, they tend to be inconvenient for humans as well or have costs attached to them, e.g.
- placing aluminum foil on the surfaces
- placing double-sided tape on the surfaces
- motion-sensor triggered scary-noise generators
Other approaches, like the spray bottle punishment, are ill-advised as they tend to train the cat to not jump on counters only in your presence at best, and may very well permanently damage the relationship with your cat.
I'd like to go for a frame challenge here. Is jumping on the table really the problem, or is it that your food got knocked over?
Let us look at the problem from the eyes of your cat.
Why would anyone be against jumping on tables?
That does not make any sense, the table is an elevated position, so its purpose is to be jumped onto.
There are often things being put on the table and others taken off instead, and as it is your duty to investigate such changes in your territory, you need to jump onto it to discharge your duties properly.
The cat does not understand the concept, it is completely unreasonable and nonsensical from its perspective.
Why would your food be off limits?
You hunted it, it is your kill, solitary predators do not share their kills, you are well within your rights to defend it and keep it for yourself.
The cat does understand this concept, it is the natural order of things and completely reasonable from its perspective.
Taking the above into account, training your cats to leave your food alone is surprisingly easy in my experience.
We always went with a "smelling is ok, touching is not" rule as far as our food is concerned, and communicate this very clearly in a language our cats can understand.
Place your food on the table, and when your cat approaches, signal the minimal distance to be kept with the palm of your hand, placing it between food and cat as a barrier.
Your cat will challenge, and try to get closer. Reinforce the distance, by gently ushering the cat away with the palm of your hand.
Your cat will challenge again, and you now gradually escalate your response:
- stare down your cat, do not blink, and do not avert your gaze
- start making a low, growling noise
- open your mouth and bare your teeth
- push your tongue to the roof of your mouth and press out air from your lungs for a sharp hissing noise
Do not get physical, the most you will ever need is maybe a sudden movement with your head towards your cat while hissing if it is particularly stubborn.
The benefit here is you are, as far as your cat is concerned, not unreasonable in any way, there is nothing to be held against you.
Yes, you will feel silly doing this, but it has worked without fail for us every time with every cat, and translates well to all of your food after is has been done a few times.
We always combine the distance signalling with saying "smelling only" during the training, and the cats make that association pretty fast, so you only need the silly exercise a couple of times.
Hope this helps, even if it wasn't what you asked for.