Can I Teach My Cat Not to Dash Out the Door?

Next, have your cat practice staying on the perch while the door opens. At first, you may only turn the knob slightly, without actually opening the door. Reward him for staying in place. Then open the door a crack and reward him for staying. Work up to having your cat stay on his perch even when the door is fully opened. If your cat jumps off his perch, shut the door immediately, reset him on the perch and try again.

Once your cat jumps to his perch on cue and waits while you open the door, it’s time to practice the behavior as you come from outside to inside. Ask your cat to station and open the door, reward your cat on the perch with a treat, pet or toy as you are walking out, and then leave temporarily. When you come back, ask your cat to station as soon as you crack the door open. It may be helpful to have someone inside to guide your cat, as sometimes the jump from asking a cat to station when you’re inside to asking him to do the same when you’re on the other side of the door can be a big leap. Your goal is to have your cat target his area both when you leave and when you return. Be sure to practice with all members of your family.

Make the Indoors a Fun Place to Be

Another way to keep your cat from dashing for the open door is to bring the excitement of the outdoors inside. Provide your cat with ample opportunities for exploration and play; think vertically in terms of cat perches, cat trees or even cat shelving to expand his space without having to increase the square footage of your house. Give your cat a variety of places to venture as well, such as cat tunnels, covered beds or even simple cardboard boxes.

Cats spend a great deal of their waking time in pursuit of food, which is often distributed daily in the food bowl. Add spice to your cat’s life by hiding 10 percent of his daily ration in random places around your house (including on his perches) for him to find. Place treats or kibble in food puzzles, or freeze chunks of meat, such as tuna, in an ice cube tray with water to make meals and snacks a little more work. Grow cat-safe house plants, which can be found at specialty pet stores, to provide your cat with an opportunity to graze during the day. Single-cat homes with a cat-friendly feline may also benefit from adding a second cat to provide companionship.

A perch mounted on a windowsill allows your cat to sun himself and watch outdoor activity, such as birds, and gives him a small taste of the outdoors while keeping him safely contained. A Catio, which is netting and perches that allow your cat to be outdoors while safely held inside, serves the same purpose. Cat fencing gives your cat freedom to roam while keeping him safe from cars; however, he's still vulnerable to predators, such as large birds of prey or other cats (and the diseases they carry), so there is a risk involved.

Finally, be sure to microchip your cat, which gives you the best chance of recovering him should he ever take advantage of an open door and escape.

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