Cats like scratching on doors, probably to sharpen their claws or make humans open them. As a cat parent, I have noticed my cats lurk around open doors a lot. Every time I open any door, they are always the first ones to leap through. This is evident in many cats; they dislike closed doors. If they find a closed door, they will definitely try looking for a solution. They will finally use the window, pet door, or crawl under the door if it is spaced. What if the door is the only solution? Can they open it? I have gathered everything you need to know about this topic in the article below.
Can cats open doors? Yes, they can. Cats can open doors through training, learning by themselves through experimentation, and through watching humans do it.
The following are some of the reasons why cats open doors:
- Cats are intelligent
- They are territorial creatures
- Cats are always curious
- They are social creatures
Sometimes your cat will meow and yowl desperately for you to open the door, and when you do it just stands there or walks back. It can also open the door just for the sake of opening it. This is normal; it’s what cats do. As much as we want to entertain the cat, keeping the front and back doors locked is crucial for both their safety and ours. At times, we may want some privacy, to keep mosquitoes away, keep the house warm, and protect our feline friends from wandering off into danger. If you are comfortable leaving the main doors open, it is fine. Otherwise, only leave the doors within the house open for your cat to access.
Reasons Why Cats Open Doors
There are many reasons as to why cats open doors. Some of them include:
Cats are intelligent
Can we just agree that cats can open doors because they are intelligent? Their memory is almost eidetic, which enables them to master every inch of their territory. They know where everything is and when changes are made. Therefore, they know where every door is located and where it leads to. Due to their intelligence, cats will learn how to open the door by watching you do it. Days later, they can still remember how you opened it.
They are territorial
As far as your cats are concerned, your house belongs to them and not to you. They consider it their territory and need access to every part of the house. Territorial creatures hate feeling caged, especially within their own territory. Cats are also obligate supervisors; they want to monitor and manage every space within their territory. This explains why cats keep parading around the house as if they own it. If a closed-door is what obstructs them from accessing their territory, they will do everything to keep it open.
Did you know your cat can open the door and not use it? Since it is a territorial creature, it will open the door in case it desires to use it later on. Some cats will open all the doors in the house and sit to rest. They want to be able to go through anytime the need arises.
Cats are curious
Just from the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’, cats are guilty of being very curious creatures. A cat will open a door to see what could be happening on the other side. The idea of being in the dark about what could be happening or missing out on something makes the cat restless. It becomes so desperate that it can stop itself from doing everything to get to the other side. Your cat can show no interest in your closet because it already searched it.
Cats are social animals
Do you believe cats are solitary creatures? Maybe the feral ones are. Domesticated cats love getting attention from humans. Therefore, when you lock yourself in the bedroom or bathroom for privacy, your cat might open the door just to be in your company. If you are its favourite person, it will not want to miss out on any exciting activity you engage in. Even from the other side of the door, your cat can smell you since you have its pheromone chemical scent all over.
Cats have a strong sense of smell and hearing
Cats can smell the food in your freezer, fridge, or kitchen cabinet. Your pet cat is most likely well-mannered and might not steal but an intruder will. To be safe, put grills on your windows or keep them closed. If your cat hears noises from the other side of the door or smells one of its prey animals, it will look for a way to open the door.
Why Should We Keep Doors Open For Cats?
Apart from the doors leading outside, if there is no reason to lock your doors simply don’t. As a cat parent, you have the responsibility of making your cat feel comfortable. Your cat should be able to know it is in control by walking around the house freely. Territorial creatures become aggressive if they sense their power to control is being threatened.
Your cat needs to be able to access its food and water whenever it wants to. Imagine going out and locking the cat in a room different from the one with its bowl of food. It will starve and probably meow till it passes out. The same thing applies if a mother cat cannot access its kittens for a long period. Giving it access to its litter box is also very important. To begin with, nobody likes cleaning up a cat’s mess. To make matters worse, it can excrete in a hidden place. Everyone will be able to detect the awful smell yet it can take very long to find the waste.
If you find constant meowing and scratching of doors annoying, just keep doors open. Your cat knows that the louder the meows and scratching, the more likely you will do what it wants. At times, if a small kitten realises nobody is opening the door, it gets scared and traumatised then starts spraying. Others end up concluding the house is a hostile environment.
Cats are not as lazy as people say. They go hunting for rats, lizards, birds, and insects. This means they need to be able to go outside or in the basement. Remember felines are naturally not house oriented. They are meant to live in an open environment. They try adapting to the new lifestyle so don’t make it hard for them by keeping the door locked.
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How Does A Cat Learn To Open Doors?
Did you know cats can watch and learn? That’s how much intelligent they are! After watching you open the door several times, they begin experimenting. They stand on their rear quarters and reach for the door handle with their paws. You will be amazed to learn that they know how to hold the handle with both paws, and then take a few steps back to pull the door open! If they turn the handle but the door is only slightly open, they stick their front claws beneath the door then push it open. This is an undeniable high level of intelligence.
Cats also learn to open doors through operant conditioning. They take note of the consequences of their behaviour. If a cat opens a door by chance and notices the reward is to be able to access the outside world, it will do it again. The same applies to all the other doors in the house. It all begins through trial and error when the cat plays with the door out of curiosity. By operating the door several times, it learns how to open it without any help from humans.
Is it possible to train a cat to open doors? Yes, it is. Using a clicker or a retractable pen, make click sounds while giving the cat treaties each time. Repeat this for days until your cat learns to associate the click with treats. You should also buy or make a target stick and teach your cat to follow and touch it. Now, this is where the training begins. Make the click sound to summon your cat, and then touch the door handle with the target stick. This will encourage it to place its front paws on the handle. Reward it with treats each time and try jiggling the handle to give it an idea. Be patient, your cat will finally learn to open the door through training.
How to Stop Your Cat from Opening Doors
Cats do not only open main doors, but also the cabinet, closet, drawers, freezer, and fridge doors. Everything is all normal and fun until they start making nests with your linen, spilling milk from the fridge, stealing meat from the freezer, excreting in the drawers, and eating everything in the kitchen cabinets. They may not necessarily be your cats but invaders. When it comes to this, you have to stop them from opening the various doors.
If you use force or shouting to stop your cat from opening doors, forget about being its friend. You can use mild methods like spraying it with a water gun or the following methods:
Install a cat door
A cat door allows the cat to go out and come as it wishes even when nobody is home. It prevents cats from desiring to open doors, starving, nagging you to open for them, being affected by adverse weather conditions, and being attacked by other animals. A pet door designed specifically for cats is small, preventing bigger creatures from going through.
Make its environment appealing
Cats like jumping, climbing, perching, and playing. Put up cat trees, scratching posts, and shelves in the house. Toss fake mice, polythene bags, warm nest beds, and various cat toys in strategic places in the house. This will keep the cat busy and contented, making it have no desire to go outside or into your bedroom. Lastly, feed your cat well to prevent it from stealing food from the kitchen.
Install doors with knobs or latches
Cats find it easier to open doors with handles, but are incapable of turning knobs. They have a thumb but it is not as developed as a human’s. This limits them from grasping the doorknob and turning it. A door latch or tower bolt is too complicated for a cat to use, making it the most suitable solution.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.