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Pet CareHealth

September 28, 2015

PetSafe® Expert

Amy Shojai, CABC

Dealing with Door-Dashing Cats

How to Keep Kitty From Using Doggy Doors

stop escaping catsMore than 2/3rds of United States households share their homes with both dogs and cats, and that can prove challenging when the dog needs out, but kitty must stay inside. Providing a dog door works great to offer your canine companion access to his outdoor toilet when you can't let him out. But how do keep the cat from using the same door?

We don't have a pet door at my house or Magic, the German Shepherd, would spend all his time outside rounding up coyotes. But that doesn't stop the new kitty, Karma, from making a dash each time the door opens.

What can you do? Recognize you will NOT stop a cat's urge to see on the other side of the door. You cannot change instinct, but you can modify some of these irksome behaviors. You can use the same techniques I recommend for door dashing cats to keep kitty from accessing your doggy doors.

One of the best ways to keep your cat from organizing the Great Cat Escape is to choose the appropriate pet door. A wide variety are available. Some can be locked in place at certain times of the day, so you can segregate the cat in another room during doggy doorway high traffic periods. Others only open via a microchip or collar tag trigger, that "reads" the dog's code and opens, but stays closed when the cat comes near.

Teach Your Cat to Avoid the Door

Use training to teach the cat to keep her distance. This can be done by making the area around the doggy door uncomfortable, while making another "legal" spot highly attractive.

teach cats not to use dog doorPosition a cat tree or kitty bed on a table top right in front of a window some distance away from the forbidden door. Hide catnip toys or tasty treats in this spot, and whenever your dog heads for the door, tell the cat, "Treat time!" Use a lure such as a long feather or laser light to direct your cat into the bed to find the treat. With consistency, your cat will learn that each time the dog makes a beeline for his door that signals a yummy good time for kitty, far from the doggy door. Take time to practice, using the same words each time, even if the dog isn't around.

Use interruptions to stop the cat in her tracks anytime she approaches the door. You want her to consider the entire area around the spot to be off limits. Clap your hands, hiss, or toss an irresistible toy in the opposite direction any time you see the cat lounging near the doorway. That makes the doorway area unappealing, so that kitty keeps away--and offer her a more rewarding pastime. Some cats are dissuaded with the help of a long-distance squirt gun aimed at their backside. However, some cats like my Seren enjoy being sprayed, so that's not high on my list of recommendations.

Keep Cats Away with DIY & Store-Bought Pet Proofing Options

You won't be there all the time, so it's important to find ways to make the doorway unattractive so the cat keeps her distance all the time. Even when Kitty understands that a particular location (the doorway) is forbidden, she may avoid the place when you're looking but making a zooming escape as soon as you're out of sight. Here are several ideas for making the area unfriendly to cats. Be careful that these deterrents don't also keep the dog away.

  • cat deterrent sprayMany cats dislike the feeling of walking on aluminum foil, so place a couple of sheets over the walkway.
  • Another option is to apply Sticky Paws (double-sided tape) to make the surface uncomfortable. Put the Sticky Paws on placemats positioned on the forbidden area, so it's easily removed, but that your dog can leap over.
  • A tacky mat used to keep throw rugs from skidding may also work well. Dogs seem to tolerate these better than cats, so your canine should still be able to access the door. You can find tacky mats in home products stores.
  • A ScatMat may also work.
  • You may also use smell deterrents to keep the cat away from forbidden doorway zones. Cats dislike citrus smells, so orange or lemon scents sprayed at the bottom of the door may help.
  • I'm a fan of the Ssscat Spray, a cat-repellent device that sprays a hiss of air to startle the pet that triggers the built-in motion detector. You don't have to be present for it to work.

Cats tend to learn very quickly after only a couple of repeats. That means that once she experiences the unfriendliness of the dog door area, she'll be more likely to give it a wide berth and you may be able to remove the deterrents. You still may need a "refresher" every month or so, to remind the cat if she lapses.

Just be sure to offer your cats legal outlets that are more attractive than the forbidden zones. Make the cat tree or bed the best seat in the house, and she'll naturally choose to lounge there and abandon the doorway dash.

Written by

Amy Shojai, CABC

Amy Shojai, CABC

Pet Expert

PetSafe® Expert

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