Our cats are allowed on the desk in our offices (we have a three bedroom house so we each have an "office" for our computers and stuff) but they aren't allowed on any other tables or counters. I don't think it's sanitary to have cats anywhere where food is prepared or eaten because they have residue from the litter box on their feet (but I'll still give the kitties kisses on the top of their head or on their cheek).
Since I am a bachelor, I let the boys do it all. Max will actually "sit pretty" at the table when food is being served. He keeps his feet on the chair and then sits the upper half of his body on the table and patiently waits for his share. Ben stays on the floor. He doesn't like to be on the table when food is being served. He will sit on the table if people are just hanging around it talking or playing cards. He loves to watch euchre games.
My cats will also sit by the table on one of our chairs. They put their two front paws on the table and watch whatever we’re doing. Whenever my family is reading the paper, Chester will leap up on the table and plop his rear right in the middle of whatever we're reading and demand to be pet :?
My husband and I have successfully trained several cats from kittenhood to never jump onto countertops or tables. It takes persistance, consitancy and patience, though. Most recentlly we have trained a 16yr old cat to not jump onto our bed. She has her own bed and bedroom where she is free to do as she pleases.
My cats have their food on a counter (there are often dogs here that´ll eat their food if it´s on the floor). They are allowed to be on the table but not if there´s food on it and they seems to understand that. Actuarally, they´re allowed to be everywhere in the apartment.
If there's food on the table they're not allowed on it, but otherwise they are. They don't step on my plate, and silverware is either on the plate or on a napkin, so "litter box feet" don't contaminate anything.
Miss Kitty gets on any chair or sofa (she favors certain ones) and her cat tree and the bed and the window sills. Nothing else she onlyneeded to be told once? at least by me she also does not enter the weight room (after I nearly set the weights down on her. She also likes to sit on the edge of the tub(whirlpool) but only when I am in it. She does NOT get on any table or counter. When I am reading or working at a table or desk she will sit on my lap and watch the action. ......she has never allowed any one to pet her except me and the vet. Why she was so easy to train is unknown just part of her personalilty I guess. When she was a young cat she would jump on top of the dryer to watch me through the window
as I worked in the garage (but she as not done that for a long time)