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I adopted a cat a week ago (my first pet/cat), and he is a sweet 2 year old boy who is already settling in nicely to his new home (a modest 1 bedroom apartment, with just me). Turnip tended to be a bit clingy when he first arrived, which was totally fine, and he is already making strides with being more independent and spends most of his days napping and playing by himself.

However, he tends to get very clingy when I am cooking, he will run with me when I go to the kitchen and will be constantly in between my legs. I tried to just completely ignore him per recommendations from cat owning friends, but he will continuously meow and sometimes even hop up onto the counter as I am cooking - close to a knife, or something hot, etc. I am worried that he might one day jump onto a hot stove or oven. The last two times I have cooked I have had to resort to getting him to follow me into the bedroom and closing the door. I have tossed him a ball which distracted him briefly but then he will wait by the door and meow until I open the door, when he runs out and continues to meow around me as I eat, or tries to jump up directly onto my food.

I could use some advice on how to get him to stay out of harm's way when I am cooking, I would not like to use a spray bottle as that seems a bit mean. I would also like to be able to eat/cook as needed -- I often will try to wait and cook when he seems particularly relaxed / sleepy, but he often will still run right behind me. I am concerned that he will get burnt or hurt in the kitchen. I would appreciate any advice for a new cat dad who would like to keep Turnip happy and safe.

Some more context, which might help: I try to play with him at least three times a day for 10-15 min sessions, and since I am working from home due to the pandemic, I am usually home all day, except for 2-4 hour periods for running errands, etc. I try to give him as much attention as possible but would like him to be independent so when I return to normal work life and am away for longer periods of time he is comfortable by himself.

Thank you for reading my long post and for your help in advance.
 

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I'm not sure if your kitchen is set up to do this, but I've used baby gates in the past (2 of them, one on top of the other). Turnip could still see you, but couldn't get in. The water bottle isn't mean, mostly because after one or two times, just picking up the bottle will make him stop what he's doing wrong.
 

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I also have found that slapping my hand on the counter and saying no in a loud voice makes Blackie jump down. He very seldom gets up there any longer. But the kitchen is where food is, so of course he's most interested whenever I go in there. Hope springs eternal.... ;)
 

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If Turnip is cat food-motivated, there are so many food puzzles to choose from that will keep him busy while you're cooking.

For example:
Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree – Interactive Cat Toy

Google "cat food puzzles" and you'll get tons to choose from.
 

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My "Fitty Pisky" Devon Rex likes to be an observer with whatever I'm doing in the kitchen. He refuses to stay down on the floor, tho sometimes he will climb up onto the top cupboards so he can look down and see everything going on. I praise him when he does this. But, when he's in the mood to be a sous-chef, he gets one warning to "stay down" and if he doesn't he is put in a carrier until I've finished cooking. Food puzzles don't always distract Fitty.
 

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Lucky ALWAYS follows me in the kitchen but stays off the counter as I've similarly discouraged him by shouting NO in his face when he used to get up there when I was prepping food. He sits watching me now on the floor, giving silent meows (a former feral who knows to be silent in general) during my process. I talk to him now and then as I work.This way you are solving the problem instead of doing a dance around it. Then everyone enjoys "cook" time.
 

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Get a spray bottle filled with water. Spray him if he gets near something he should not, he will immediately run away. That happens to me all the time. I don't give them any scraps. I've tried shouting NO but that doesn't work - they just look at me like I'm talking some foreign language. LOL
 
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