Does your indoor cat ever make a dash for the door as if it was trying to escape outside?
Our kitten, Clancy, darted past my daughter’s feet the other day, racing off in hot pursuit of a squirrel. We’re not that far from a major highway, so the three minutes it took for me to snatch him up and get him back inside were absolutely terrifying.
Why do cats dash for the door?
Where the wild things are
In Clancy’s case, he was planning on catching himself a squirrel. Like many indoor cats, he spends lots of hours watching birds, squirrels and other wildlife through the window.
It’s not that your cat is trying to escape you. It’s just trying to get out where the action is. Every time the door opens, enticing scents and sights tempt a cat to give chase, explains cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett, star of the television show “Psycho Kitty.” This lure of the great outdoors can lead to a behavior known as door darting.
The dangers of door darting
Door darting endangers both you and your cat. You could easily be injured if you trip over the cat dashing under your feet. Or, you could be hurt while pursuing an escapee. Indoor cats who get outdoors could easily get lost, be hit by a car, eat something poisonous or be attacked by another animal.
Tips for stopping a door darting habit in its tracks
Catster offers some really helpful tips for anyone dealing with door darting. If you haven’t already, have your cat spayed or neutered to lessen its urge to roam. The site also suggests waiting to greet your cat until you reach a consistent spot on the other side of the room. With time, they’ll welcome you home at your meeting spot instead of at the door. If your cat tries to follow you, you can use toys or treats to create a distraction while you leave. A bored cat will find a lot more trouble than one that is occupied.
For persistent door darting, cat owners may want to consider a technique Catster dubs the “squirt and shut.” In this situation, you keep a squirt bottle of water in your car or on your porch. Whenever you come home, you grab your squirt bottle and crack the door open just a smidge. If your cat is lying in wait, squirt him in the chest and close the door. Never squirt a cat in the face. Wait a few minutes before you open the door and go in so the cat associates the unpleasant squirt with the open door and not with you.
Of course, the squirt and shut technique only works if your cat hates water. Clancy loves water, racing to be there whenever he hears the sound of the toilet, the washing machine or the shower. We’re being extra cautious whenever we go in or out and making sure there are no squirrels in sight before we open the door.
Want to read more about why cats do the things they do?
Why Does My Cat Hide?
Why Does My Cat Trip Me?
Why Does My Cat Make That Face?
“5 Tips to Help Your Cat Break the ‘Door Darting’ Habit” — Catster
“Door Darting Behavior in Cats” — Pam Johnson-Bennett