If cats ruled the world more than they already do, every door would have a cat flap. Cats disapprove of the concept of closed doors. “Why would you intentionally block access to a place?” is what they seem to be thinking.
What do cats have against doors—other than, often, themselves?
Simply put, cats want to open doors—at least in the literal sense—for these reasons:
- They smell or hear something on the other side that compels them to investigate.
- They know that one or more members of their human “staff” are on the other side of the door, and they don’t want to be prevented from cuddling with or controlling these people.
- They consider the area beyond the door to be part of their territory, which they feel the need to patrol.
- They are persistently curious—“What’s on the other side?”
How cats say “open the door”
- Yowling right outside the door
- Pawing at the door
- Attempting to herd you toward the door: coming over to you, brushing up against you, meowing, and going to the door, so you’ll get the idea
- Other means, as thought up by the resourceful feline mind
Solutions for times when kitty, but not you, wants an open door policy
Of course, there are some reasons for doors that humans consider to be valid: privacy, safety, energy efficiency, aesthetics, and perhaps protection from cat fur. Sometimes our viewpoints and our cats’ viewpoints are not quite in sync, and in those cases, we try to work out reasonable compromises. Let’s consider some possible resolutions for various types of door-related issues.
Tip: If a door must be shut for kitty’s safety, make sure everyone in the household follows this rule. When in doubt, install a child-proof lock on the door.
Do a check in advance to make sure there is nothing blatantly dangerous in the closet. Get rid of plastic dry-cleaner bags; put any medications or chemicals in kitty-proof containers. Once you do this, it’s usually ok to let kitty poke around and explore the various smells, textures, and contours of the closet while you supervise. Do not close the door until kitty exits the closet.
Using a door as a scratching post
Sometimes kitty claws the door because it has an appealing surface. A good solution to this problem is to buy a sturdy scratching post and place it as near to the door as practical. You can never have too many scratching posts! Also see “Deterrents,” below.
The not-always-great outdoors
An entire article could be written about the outdoors’ appeal to cats, the dangers that lie beyond the walls of kitty’s and your home, and solutions for keeping your cat safe, happy, satisfied, and fit without letting him roam freely outside.
- To reduce kitty’s wanderlust, create an accommodating indoor environment that satisfies your cat’s desire to play, explore, discover, and manage territory as well as sleep and relax in peace.
- To divert attention away from the front door, don’t play or engage in fun activities with your cat near the front door, and when coming home greet kitty in the kitchen or some other location that’s away from the front door.
- During times of upheaval, such as remodeling, moving, or parties with lots of people coming and going, sequester kitty in a well-appointed, quiet room that has ample hiding spots, and put a sign on the door to that room indicating that it must be kept shut. If hosting a get-together, consider putting “keep closed when not in use” signs on all doors used by guests that lead to the outside.
Compromise solutions for cats who show a persistent interest in going out include outdoor enclosures with sturdy screens and cat doors to the house, and harness and leash walks.
The fact that so many cats want to join their humans when they’re in the bathroom should put to rest any rumors that cats are aloof.
So, if your cat is conveying that he wants to accompany you in the bathroom, do you oblige him? It’s your call.
For some, the bathroom is the last refuge of peace and quiet and is thus a no-cat zone. For others, having a relatively non-judgmental furry friend who wants to be with you at all times, in all places, is bemusing and endearing—and perhaps having a graceful cat in the midst enhances the sense of calm.
A compromise solution. Keep some wand toys in the bathroom. When in the bathroom—with the door closed—and you sense a kitty just outside, grab a wand toy and make the toy move coyly under the door, perhaps peeking out and retreating. You may very soon see a playful paw batting the toy, and you may find that this bit of frivolity makes bathroom chores more enjoyable. Kitty will get the benefit of interactive play, but you’ll still have a modicum of privacy.
The bedroom—when you’re sleeping
While some of us welcome kitty onto the bed for snuggling, not everyone can get a good night’s sleep with a cat in the bedroom. When not snoozing, kitty may try to coax his humans into playing or refilling the food bowl. This article explains a number of possible ways to achieve both sleep and kitty contentment during the night, including installing a comfortable window perch in the bedroom, and indulging kitty in a pre-bedtime play session and snack. But if these measures are insufficient, you may need to need to keep kitty out of the bedroom at night. Your determined feline, however, may park himself outside the door and complain, vocally or otherwise. In this case, you may have to block his access to the door area. This leads to the next topic . . .
Sometimes you just have to keep kitty away from a particular door. Here are several options for accomplishing that:
- Place one or more training mats, which cats find uncomfortable to walk on, just outside the door. Note: You don’t want to step on these mats in your bare feet; take that into account when considering this option.
- You can also affix the mats to the side of a door, to discourage pawing and scratching at the door.
- Paws Off, attached to a door, will often dissuade kitty from scratching it—but you may need several strips to cover enough of the door to get the full deterrent effect.
- In some instances, you can move an object in front of the door that blocks kitty’s access to the door but is easy for a human to move out of the way.
Are polydactyl cats (cats with more than five toes on each front paw) better at opening doors?
Some of their caretakers make this claim. They say the polydactyls use their extra toes like so many opposable thumbs .
Enticements to keep kitty happily away from off-limit doors
Always try to combine “No, you may not do this, kitty” with “but here are some great alternatives I think you’ll like.” You want to be able to satisfy your cat’s needs, such as playing, perching, exploring, affirming territory, and socializing, without significantly sacrificing your own needs, including sleeping and having occasional privacy. Strive for win-win-solutions. If, like most people who care for cats, you must restrict your cat from certain areas, make sure the areas in which he’s allowed are interesting and accommodating from his point of view.
- Fill the house with scratching posts and hideaways, which most cats love.
- Place sleeping platforms near windows so kitty can view the outdoor goings-on before drifting off to sleep.
- Occasionally, give kitty a surprise bed of some recently worn clothes—preferably clothes you don’t mind not wearing for a while, in case kitty really likes his new sleeping arrangement. Since smells are so important in the cat world, when your cat sleeps on clothes that have your scent, it feels to him somewhat like he’s sleeping with you.
- Leave out paper bags (with handles snipped or removed) and cardboard boxes that kitty can explore. When he’s bored with those items, change their locations, modify them (for example, add a new entry/exit or porthole in a box), or replace them.
- Hide toys and treats here and there. Just remember where you put the treats.
- Give kitty ample attention each day when you can, and he won’t feel so deprived that he can’t go anywhere, at any time. Although occasionally he may dramatize his disappointment, to see if you give in.
“It’s the principle of the thing”
If you have a cat, you probably know this scenario: Kitty plants himself by the door and meows plaintively, or claws at the door, insisting that you open it. Finally, you give in; you open the door. But kitty doesn’t dash into the room behind the door; he doesn’t even cross the threshold. He takes a step or two and peeks around the corner for a minute, then walks away.
That’s just part of being a cat.