It’s no secret cats that are kept exclusively indoors live longer and healthier lives than cats that live outside. In fact, indoor cats live an average of 3 times longer than outdoor cats! There are endless dangers outdoors – cars, predators, other cats carrying disease, poisonous chemicals…the list goes on and on. The only foolproof way to protect your cat from the dangers of the outdoors is, well, to keep him indoors. And, if you’ve got a kitty that likes to make a run for the door every chance he gets, that can be quite a challenge. Here are some tips and tricks to stop your escape artist cat from door dashing once and for all.
1. Spay or Neuter Your Cat
If your cat is insistent on exploring the outdoors, your very first step in stopping this behavior (if it’s not done already) is to have your cat spayed or neutered. Unaltered cats have one thing on their mind – breeding. Cats who aren’t fixed will have the urge to wander far from home in search of a potential mate. Simply having your pet altered could eliminate the desire to leave the house completely! Additionally, having your cat fixed has other health benefits and, on the chance that your kitty does run out the door, you don’t have to worry that he is contributing to the problem of pet overpopulation or that she is going to come home carrying a litter of kittens.
2. Don’t Reward Your Cat If You’re Near the Door
In order to retrain a die-hard door dasher, your first step should be to stop paying any attention to your cat when you’re near the door. As cat parents, it’s typical for us to greet our kitty companions as soon as we walk inside with a pat on the head and a greeting, right? Resist the urge to acknowledge your cat when you open the door. Instead, find a spot on the opposite end of the room and encourage your cat to go there. Then reward him with lots of praise, petting, and yummy treats. Do the same thing when you’re leaving, so that your cat becomes trained to go to the spot opposite the door instead of near the door.
3. Use Distractions
Treat puzzles are a fantastic option to distract your cat when you need to open the door. They work especially well for cats that are treat and food motivated. Some are as simple as filling a ball with kibble or treats that will fall out when the ball is batted around by your kitty, like the SlimCat Treat Dispenser by PetSafe. Or, for a more challenging puzzle, try the award-winning Cat Puzzles by Nina Ottosson. Just put one of the puzzles down for your cat and, while she’s busy figuring out how to get a treat out, you can easily slip out the door!
If your cat is not swayed by other methods, it’s time to try some deterrents. While some deterrents, like squirt bottles and penny cans, may not always be the best method for training a cat, this is a situation where you are potentially saving your cat from danger and a deterrent might be useful. The problem with squirt bottles is that you have to use them every single time your cat is near the door (and that’s not always possible!) and your cat will associate you with the squirt bottle and not the door. A better solution is an automatic spray deterrent, like Ssscat by PetSafe. It’s a motion-activated spray that will emit a quick burst of air every time your cat goes within 3 feet of the door.
5. Give Your Cat What He Wants!
If your cat insists on going outside…why not give him what he wants? No, we don’t suggest letting your cat go outside unattended. But, he might be satisfied with a bit of outside time with you – either going for a walk in a pet stroller or on a cat harness and leash. Or, if you have space, why not build him a safe, enclosed catio! They can be as simple as enclosing part of a porch or as grand as you can imagine!
At the same time, enriching your cat’s indoor space will go a long way in squelching her desire to go outside. Provide lots of toys, places to climb and hide, and consider a bird or squirrel feeder outside where she can watch from safely indoors.