Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My black Maine Coon, Newt, is 5 1/2 years old and normally an inside cat. But living with family he’s been jetting to the doors to get out! I don’t like him going outside for obvious reasons, and he’s also been catching lizards to play with them and then eating them. This scares me! Do you have any suggestions for to what I can do to deter him from getting outside? He normally comes back in, but I still don’t like him going out. Thank you!
Siouxsie: Door darting is a very dangerous behavior, Lisa, so we’re glad you’ve asked for some advice on how to get Newt’s compulsion under control.
Thomas: You need to take a two-prong approach to stopping door-darting behavior: positively reinforcing him when he stays away from the door and making inside more interesting so that he doesn’t feel the need to go outside.
Kissy: Of course, we’re sure he’s neutered. If he’s not, you need to do that right away! Tomcats on the prowl will escape by any means necessary. And do you think they care anything about how we feel? Noooo! it’s just “wham, bam, thank you ma’am!” And who ends up taking care of a litter of hungry kittens, scrounging on the streets for any last scrap of food …
Siouxsie: Oh, shut up! I’ve heard enough of your sob stories!
Thomas: Siouxsie, be nice. Kissy’s about to have an operation and the pain medication is making her weepy.
Kissy: *sniffle* And I have to wear this horrible cone on my head …
Siouxsie: Anyway, back to Lisa’s question. There are a couple of things you need to do to stop the run for the door. First of all, nobody should ever give Newt attention near the door. That’s probably going to be a tough one, because a lot of humans will say hi and pet us as soon as they walk inside — but you have to do it.
Thomas: If Newt has a favorite hangout spot on the opposite side of the room, train him to sit there and wait for you. If he’s a food-motivated guy, get him a treat he reallllly loves. Say goodbye while he’s sitting in his favorite spot and then feed him the treat. Once he’s eating it, go out the door.
Kissy: A clever cat might even enjoy clicker training. Cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger wrote Naughty No More, a great book on the subject, and one topic she addresses is clicker training to stop door darting! Naughty No More is available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook formats.
Siouxsie: And we think Newt probably is a clever cat — which is one of the reasons he wants to run for the door. He may be bored by his surroundings and want to get some intellectual stimulation.
Thomas: You can provide him with that stimulation by using tools like rolling food treat balls and automatic toys for when you’re not home. When you are at home, be sure to provide him with at least two 10- to 15- minute interactive play sessions.
Kissy: I love playing with the feather wand! It’s my favorite, and I sure hope Mama plays with me lots once I’m recovered from my operation. *purrrr*
Siouxsie: But there are lots of other interactive toys like Neko Flies, the Tipsy Nip Tickle Tassel, and … ooh, my tail is twitching with the very thought of playing!
Thomas: You can also make Newt’s environment more stimulating by giving him a cat tree, window perches, shelves, and other special places just for him.
Kissy: Until your training regimen is fully in effect, we’d recommend having a couple of cat toys by the door (in a place he can’t reach, of course), which you can toss across the room before you go out the door.
Siouxsie: Another stopgap measure — which we’d only recommend if Newt turns out to be so hardcore that you can’t get him to stop running for the door — is the Squirt and Shut method.
Thomas: Fill a spray bottle with water and leave it just outside the door. Before you come in, open the door just a crack. If you see him waiting to bolt, squirt him in the chest and close the door. Don’t come in after you squirt him. The idea here is that you want Newt to start thinking that the door is causing this unpleasantness, not you.
Kissy: We’re not fans of negative reinforcement in general, but door darting is dangerous enough that desperate times may call for desperate measures.
Siouxsie: In order to train Newt to stop running for the door, everyone in the house has to be on board with this program and everyone has to use the techniques we’ve recommended.
Thomas: Even one slip-up will start most cats thinking that it’s only a matter of time until they get their way, which will undermine all the training you’ve done up to that point.
Kissy: Good luck, Lisa, and we hope that with a program of retraining, Newt will soon give up his door-darting habit. Please let us know how things turn out.
We have had a similar problem with the same type of cat 5 years old.Last summer she started to appear to fall apart emotionally so we started to let her out from six in the morning till six in the evening. They appear to be an outside cat or as we call her a snow cat and the improvements to her mindset and health generally was out of this world. She doesn’t leave the yard and sticks close to home as we feed her in the back porch. Also sticks close to us when were outside and meets us by the car when we return from town, store etc. It appeared as if she needed to live in nature at least part of the time and live up to part of there nature just being nosey checking out the local area, chasing birds, leaves etc around the yard. Also as her paws are snowshoed we are waiting for snow to see how effective they are in the snow. She is a Norwegian Forest cat and Maine Coon mix. The Vet and his staff knew there was something special about her and as we knew both her birth date and location they issued her a birth certificate
My Snowshoe cat is a door darter. He never goes very far, sometimes twenty or thirty feet from the house and never into the street. He won’t run and lets me retrieve him when I speak to him I soft tones.
Since we have two Yorkies; Simon becomes alert when he sees the leashes broken out. We have developed techniques to fool him from bolting out the dorrr.
Snowshoe cats are very intelligent, but we outwit him 90% of the time…….so far
I’ve found if I use the “psssssst” hiss when I see my cats around the door (or when I come in the door) it gives them something else besides the door to think about. The best way to take their minds off the door for us though was to make up a “catio” for them out of a 10-foot square dog kennel with a ceiling. That is their room to play, lay in the sun, watch the birds, etc. and they can go into it any time through a doggy/kitty door. It’s been a great compromise for us all. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive, just safe, clean and secure. Win-win situation!
I, have three indoor cats that never go out. They were rescues from a feral colony and although I think they would go out if I left the door open too long, they seem content inside. My 15 year old boy, however, is an in and out cat. If I don’t let him out he will spray or actually sit beside me in bed and pee to get his point across. Not all cats are meant to be protected inside, although we may want them to be. When I watch my outdoor cats play and hunt and even some of the colony cats I oversee I see them as healthy and content and living a cat life. Some are very old and very healthy, others get into bad situations and die young. Even cats who never see the outside world can die tragically young. Sometimes it’s about what they want, not what we want for them.