door dashing catIf you have ever witnessed a door-dashing cat or kitten, you know the challenges of stopping one! I owned a door-dashing cat. I adopted him as an 8-week-old kitten from a rescue who said he’d been living in a Chinatown alley. This little guy had some serious street smarts! When I first adopted him, I lived in an apartment building. I thought it was adorable how he’d hear the “bing” of the elevator door down the hall and would run to my front door. When I opened the door, instead of happily greeting anyone who came inside, he’d dart like a lightning bolt into the hallway. Then the game of chase was on! I learned to keep a fishing-pole toy in the umbrella rack by the front door to lure him back inside. My hallway was relatively safe (he did end up in the elevator once!)… but then, I moved to a house. A house in the hills filled with coyotes! Not to mention cars, dogs, raccoons, and all the dangers that await a cat outside. His door-dashing was no longer cute. It was a huge threat to his life. Determined, and though trial and error, I figured out what worked to keep one door-dashing cat inside. Read on to find out what I tried, and what may help you with your door-dashing feline!

–  Block front door access: If you can close a door to keep kitty out of the room or hallway that accesses the door, this is the easiest method. Many homes simply don’t have this option.

Alternate entrances: If you have more than one doorway into your home, sometimes alternating randomly which door you go in and out of will avoid “kitty lying in wait to dash” and allow you to safely get in and out.

Treat toss: You can train a food-motivated cat to run the other way when the door opens. Keep cat treats next to all your outside doors.  When you’re getting ready to go outside, grab a handful of treats, get your cat’s attention (like shake the treat bag or if you’ve clicker- or word-trained your cat, use that) and show him that you’re going to toss the treats before you open the door. Then scatter toss treats as far away from the front door as you can, then as quickly as possible get yourself/other people/dogs outside or inside. You can use this for coming inside too, if you can keep a jar of treats outside your door. My cat now waits by the corner of couch which is usually where most of my tossed treats end up.

Add a “kitty-lock” door: Like a bank door air-lock, but for you cat. If you’re lucky your home may already have a hallway or entrance with doors you can keep closed, but you can also build one. How you create your kitty-lock depends on your home. Some front doors have a small porch that can be screened in. Or, if you have an interior entrance vestibule or hallway, you could install an additional interior door. This solution can be expensive, but it works 100% as long as you close one door before opening the next.

Create a “kitty-lock” barricade: Like the above built-in door, a kitty-lock barricade can be inside your home or outside — or both! A kitty barricade needs to be something a cat can’t easily jump over or slip through, giving you time to safely get in or out. Try 36″ or higher folding wire dog exercise pens or extra-tall baby gates like the walk-through kind designed for stairs. If you a renter or can’t permanently attach them, arrange the end panels of a wire pen tight up against walls on either side of the door, with something heavy to hold them in place.

Give kitty safe outdoor time: Create a safe outdoor cat enclosure like a catio or purchase a “cat walk”. Sometimes just a closed window (or open with a secure strong screen) with a window sill cat bed, or with a same-height table or bookshelf lounging spot, can give your outdoor-craving cat the experience she desires in total safety. If you have a fenced-in yard and are considering training your cat to walk on a harness & leash <– be sure to read that article first.

Spray training: Please use this as a last resort, after trying the above. To avoid kitty associating you with the adverse spray, it’s best to use motion-detection cat deterrent spray cans like these. If kitty knows you are the source of the spray, that will likely happen. This is safest in conjunction with a kitty barricade, and if you can enlist a helper, all the better. The cans can take a little practice to get the aim right, so practice with yourself first. If you can’t get the cans, if your helper can hide outside around a corner (so cat will not see him) you can use a sprayer hose. Be sure to set up the kitty barricade on the outside side of the closed door, creating a safer area if kitty dashes out. Rarely cats don’t mind being sprayed , so this only works if your cat doesn’t like it. (Often the “stream” setting is more disliked.) Open the door, and when kitty dashes or even steps one paw outside, the automatic spray goes off in front of them and most cats will dash back inside! Close door. Repeat. It may take a few days and few sessions. If you cat keeps dashing after 3 days of 3 sessions, this training will not work for your cat.

ear-tipped cat looking out a barn door
Our foster cat Solace posed for these photos for us — he’s not actually a doordasher, and this door opens onto his catio, so please don’t worry, he’s safe!

How have you kept your door-dashing kitty safe inside? Share your solutions on the Facebook page, and share this article with your friends who are adopting a new cat, or are having difficulties with a door-dasher of her own!