People have differing levels of comfort about the placement of kitty feet. Some people believe that a cat’s feet should never touch any surface where a human eats. Those surfaces include such places as the kitchen counter, dining room table, and breakfast nook.
Other people cook with Fluffy staring them in the face and don’t mind when the feline residents prance through the dining room and leap up on the table during dinner. It’s all in your perspective.
I fall somewhere in between the two extremes. I know where kitty feet have been (i.e. the litter box) and I really don’t want those stinky paws wandering around me when I’m cooking or eating. So our cats are never allowed on the counters or tables when we are around. What they do on their own time is anyone’s guess. (Although based on deductive reasoning and trace evidence, I’m thinking nocturnal counter wanderings are mighty common.)
Cats are drawn to places that have food on them because of the food. If the cats in your house have ever found food on the counters, they will never forget and they will check for more at every opportunity. If you clean up after yourself, you are less likely to have felines wandering around looking for a snack. Finding some kind of cleaner that doesn’t smell good to a cat (such as citrus for example) is even better. You may be able to keep cats away just by wiping down the counter.
If you don’t want felines foraging while you are around, you need to discourage that behavior and encourage other better behavior. For one thing, cats like to be up high. To a cat, counters and the table are high. If you give them a place off the floor that’s all their own, the cats will enjoy perching there. For example, we have a three-level kitty tree. It’s out of dog range and next to a freestanding cabinet. A cat who is really ambitious can leap from the top of the tree to the top of the cabinet. There she can happily be queen of all she surveys way up high.
To discourage the counter-surfing behavior, we also have small squirt bottles around the house that we use to squirt any cat that violates the "no counter" rule in our presence. Cats hate being squirted, so they don’t get caught at it very often.
Ideally, behaviorists say it’s better to use deterrents that work without your involvement, so the cat doesn’t associate the punishment with you. For example, some people buy electronic "Scat Mats" that give the cat a tiny static shock when they land on it. The cat leaps off the mat and doesn’t associate the punishment with you. A lot of other homemade booby traps are possible too. For example, we have cans filled with pennies on top of our stereo speakers. When the cat tries to claw a speaker, the can falls and scares her off.
Realistically, I can deal with having cats that know I’m not pleased when they jump on the counter. They might think less of me as a human, but they seem happy. And I don’t have kitty feet near my food.