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Why your cat won’t stop scratching when you close doors

Like most people, cats are not fans of a door being closed in their faces and will often act out in response. My two cats were quite adamant about keeping an “open door” policy in the house, so much so that we even had trouble keeping them out of the bathroom when we needed real private time.

It started when they were kittens — anytime a door was closed on them, they’d scratch at it endlessly until someone would open it for them. We tried ignoring them, but then the scratching would become more intense and would often be accompanied by yowling. I thought for the longest time that it had to do with my cats having been so little when we got them and thought they just needed extra coddling. However, after consulting an expert, I learned that may have little to nothing to do with it.

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Why open doors all the time?

Mychelle Blake, MSW, CDBC and pet behavior expert for the Pet Health Network, told SheKnows that “cats are social creatures and want to be able to interact with the other individuals in their household, whether they be human, feline or another pet.” It’s a common misconception that cats are antisocial loners that couldn’t care less what their humans are up to. They may also simply be curious about noises or smells coming from the other side of a closed door.

Something that I didn’t even consider is that cats are also very territorial, and if they’re suddenly cut off from areas they used to have free reign over, they can become distressed.

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The more affectionate, sociable cats you have, the more likely they’ll be to become agitated by a closed door. They may meow excessively, yowl, paw and/or scratch at the door and even herd you in the direction of the door they want opened. This behavior may only happen at certain times of the day, though. For example, when they’re more active and checking things out around the house.

That being said, if you notice any of this behavior starting out of the blue, you may want to take your cat to the vet just to make sure it’s not a more serious issue.

What can you do?

Distract them — Blake says “if the cat is scratching at the door, one solution is to put a scratching post and/or cat tree right outside the door and rub it with catnip to attract the cat to scratch there instead. For determined scratchers, one option is to get some clear plexiglass panels and attach them to the bottom of the door, so the cat’s nails can’t do any damage.”

Exercise — If your cat scratches at your bedroom door when you’re trying to sleep, try giving it a really intense play session right before bedtime. The goal is to tire it out, so it won’t have the stamina to scratch or yowl.

Make the closed door area pleasant — Try putting fun toys, bags and boxes outside the door that will hopefully be more fun to play with than your bedroom door. You can also leave a cozy bed outside your door that smells like you. That way, if you’re sleeping on the other side, your cat can still feel like it’s with you in a way.

Blake had some closing, sage advice: “The key is to be very patient and wait the cat out, and understand how he or she is feeling rather than getting annoyed.”

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