How can I stop my cat from turning on the bathroom faucet?
May 23, 2014 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Help! My cat has discovered how to turn on the bathroom sink faucet by herself, and she will not be dissuaded. I'm sick of coming home to running water every time I leave the house. Any ideas?

My cat (requisite adorable photo here) has discovered how to turn on the bathroom faucet by herself. The handles look similar to this, and somehow she has discovered how to pull them forward (well, only the right side, actually—I'm not sure she realizes that they both do the same thing). I'm sick of coming home to running water every time I leave the house, and this is also causing stress between my roommate and I.

Relevant Details:

- She has plenty of fresh water to drink, and I recently bought a cat drinking fountain hoping it would fix the problem, with no luck. She likes the fountain, but still goes for the faucet as well.

- She almost always does it while I'm sleeping or when no one is home. It's rare to catch her in the act, so negative reinforcement (e.g. a spray bottle) is difficult.

- She is not easily discouraged by scary/annoying things that would bother other cats (e.g. sticky tape on surfaces, loud noises)

- I have tried covering the handle with things to make it inaccessible to her, but none of them have stayed on. I live with a roommate and we frequently have guests over, so trying to keep it consistent when people need to use the sink has been difficult.

- I have tried shutting the bathroom door, but this is also unsustainable, as people come and go and it's a hassle to make sure it is always shut.

- I rent, so I'd like to avoid replacing the handle or any part of the sink.

- I have tried temporarily shutting the valves under the sink (thinking maybe if no water came out for enough attempts, it would break her of the habit), and this only resulted in damage to the sink that my landlord had to repair (it's old).

I'm thinking the best option would be to have some way of making the handle too difficult for her to pull... but it would need to be something easily reversed and that wouldn't require much thought for the people in the house. Any ideas?
posted by aldebaran to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
this is also causing stress between my roommate and I

I have tried shutting the bathroom door, but this is also unsustainable, as people come and go and it's a hassle to make sure it is always shut

Sounds like you AND your roommate need to just make a house rule- No Cat In Bathroom Ever, Door Stays Closed Always. We actually did this is my old apartment with four roommates, because although he couldn't work the taps the cat's dirty feet would scum up the sink, and it worked just fine. If the roommate doesn't like the cat doing this, then s/he ought to be willing to close the damn door and have friends do the same.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:14 PM on May 23, 2014 [23 favorites]

Take the knob / handle off and keep a pair of pliers on the sink.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:15 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, it's not difficult to keep a cat out of the bathroom. I have three cats and manage to do it, even with guests coming and going. Just tell people "please close the bathroom door when you are done and make sure a cat doesn't sneak in."
posted by joan_holloway at 12:19 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is the wall behind the sink tiled? If not, you could attach a cup hook to the wall and then stretch a rubberband around the handle and onto the cup hook. If the wall is tiled, you could try the same thing with a suction-cup hook, but they aren't as reliable and you'd probably have to reattach it frequently so it won't lose suction while you're out.
posted by Mchelly at 12:19 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

If I have the right idea about what kind of handles you're working with: Seems like you could get a large rubber band, wrap it around one handle (so it doesn't slip off), stretch it across, and do a loop around the other handle. I think the tension would be too great for a lil' kitty to turn it on, but if you get the right kind of rubber band people might still be able to use the sink without you having to take the band off and on every time.
posted by lovableiago at 12:22 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

1) Ignore it, is it really that big of a deal?
2) Do better about keeping the door closed.
3) One of these. They're made for door handles but I'm pretty sure you could mount it horizontally and accomplish what you need to accomplish.
posted by phunniemee at 12:23 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't have any amazing solutions for you, but here's what I came up with.

A physical solution: put a tupperware container over the entire fixture and sink when you leave the house. I say "and sink" because something that just covers the faucet & knobs would be light enough to knock over.

A physical solution: install a spring on the door so it automatically shuts.

A psychological solution: get a little zen water fountain, put it next to the sink, and turn it on when you leave the house. If the cat just wants running water, this might work. It would waste electricity instead of water.

A social solution: put a friendly reminder sign on the door to shut the door when you leave. This would only work if everyone is already happy to shut the door and they just forget sometimes.
posted by aniola at 12:25 PM on May 23, 2014 [11 favorites]

We have an on/off aerator like this. It's a renter friendly change. You could just flip the switch at night and your cat wouldn't be able to turn the water on at all. And when guests come over, you just make sure it's flipped on and it works like a normal faucet.
posted by smackfu at 12:26 PM on May 23, 2014 [12 favorites]

If there's enough people going in and out that a House Rule won't stick, just put a little sign on the inside of the bathroom door:

"Please close the door on your way out."
posted by griphus at 12:26 PM on May 23, 2014

You're going to have to inconvenience your guests one way or another. I think the most foolproof way is to make the handle unworkable - either with a rubber band or a container placed over it in such a way that she can't lift it up but a human can.
posted by bleep at 12:36 PM on May 23, 2014

What you need, my friend, is the SSSCat.
posted by baby beluga at 12:38 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

use packing tape to tape the handles to the wall while you're out.
posted by koroshiya at 12:39 PM on May 23, 2014

Rubber band the handles to each other, you'll have to experiment a bit with placement. Wide rubber bands last longer against sharp kitty teeth.

On preview: use packing tape to tape the handles to the wall while you're out.

Try putting a rolled up bit of tape sticky-side out on each handle.
posted by jamaro at 12:40 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I get that you don't want the expense, but talk to your landlord and change out the faucet. The fixtures are pretty cheap (under $50) and it's a pretty easy DIY job.

Really, some times you just have to do the actual thing, and not the next best thing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Wide rubber bands last longer against sharp kitty teeth.

Rubber bands are a problem with kitties. Mine love them and try to steal them. I have banished them from the home.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:42 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Would you rather construct a crazy Rube Goldberg-esque anti-cat device which you'll need to remove to use the sink and have to explain to every guest you have anyway, or would you rather just keep the door shut?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

So instead of a rubber band, why not a scrunchie?
posted by winna at 12:53 PM on May 23, 2014

How does she feel about double sided tape? Could that go on the handle for a couple of weeks to see if she stops? Deal with it later if she starts again.
posted by maryr at 1:03 PM on May 23, 2014

I was going to suggest rubber-banding the handles to one another. A lot of cats hate aluminum foil--maybe cover the handles with foil for a while until the cat loses interest? Repeat whenever she regains interest in them?

I like aniola's suggestions too.

(Adorable cat, btw!)
posted by purple_bird at 1:20 PM on May 23, 2014

Sign on the door is the easiest fix. If you try that and the cat still manages to get in, change out the faucet handles. As Ruthless Bunny says, it's inexpensive and easy to do. If it were me, I wouldn't even bother telling the landlord about it - just keep the original handles and put them back when you leave.
posted by donajo at 1:22 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

We had this exact same problem. Instead of rubber banding the handles to each other (stretching out the rubber band across the faucet and turning it into a delightful kitty toy), we lined up a sturdy chopstick horizontally behind the handles, then individually (and tightly) rubber banded each handle to one end of the chopstick. If the photo shows your exact faucet/handle situation, you might need something slightly larger than a chopstick (ruler? paint stirrer?) to stretch all the way across.

The nice things about this solution for us were: 1) no stretchy exposed rubber band for the kitties to chew on; and 2) it's easy for a human to slip the rubber band off the end of one of the handles, which automatically frees up both handles for sink use.
posted by rebekah at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Rubberband the handles together. If this annoys the roommate enough, they will eventually come around to remembering to close the door.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:50 PM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another potential solution: Train your cat to turn the water off. If you have a lot of free time.
posted by aniola at 1:55 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

NO RUBBER BANDS, PLEASE. Ever, near any cat, for any reason. That suggestion makes me break out in a cold sweat. Many cats adore chewing on rubber bands. Chew, chew, swallow, swallow, --> dead cat. Or if you're very lucky, just a miserable cat and a large vet bill for the surgery to remove the rubber band from the cat's intestines.
posted by Corvid at 5:54 PM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Apparently there are a lot more possibilities than I thought!

To clarify, it's not just my roommate and friends who aren't keen on closing the door, I would rather keep the door open myself, as 1) I don't want to have to knock all the time, and 2) the bathroom window provides the only natural light for the hallway. Also, technically I'm not supposed to have a cat (shhh!), so asking my landlord to change the faucet for no reason would seem a bit odd.

I think I'm going to try, in this order: 1) Tupperware over the handle until she loses interest (super easy to move and replace, and if it's the right size she won't be able to knock it off) 2) Aluminum foil (I know sticky tape doesn't bother her, but I've never tried this), 3) An on/off aerator as the last resort. The rubber bands + chopstick trick (tightly wrapped to avoid chewing) also sounds like it would work well, and although I don't like the hassle of a "contraption", I imagine we would only need to keep it up until she forgot about the whole idea, so I might still consider that too.

Thanks for the great ideas, guys!
posted by aldebaran at 6:07 PM on May 23, 2014

Instead of rubber bands, use Velcro cable ties, from another human who has a no-rubber-bands-ever rule.
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:47 AM on May 24, 2014

We had this exact same problem except with the cat being able to turn the faucet to the bathtub. After trying a few things, we found that taking a plastic Solo cup, cutting a hole in the bottom, and then sliding it over the faucet handle worked great. The cat initially pawed at the cup but she wouldn't be able to apply enough pressure to the loosely-placed cup to turn the faucet handle.

When company comes over, we remove the cup and stash it away. It's a little rough-looking but, hey, it works.
posted by nolancaudill at 5:19 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a cat who did this same thing. However, he also liked to curl up in the sink - and his weight depressed the sink stopper. Can you see where this is going? I came home one day to a home that had massive flooding. Fortunately, insurance covered most of the repair costs, but the place was a mess for weeks.

I understand that you rent, but after my experience I'd still recommend just getting new fixtures, of this type. That's what I have now.
posted by jeri at 9:07 PM on May 25, 2014

Taking the handles off should be simple and effective; typically there's one screw through the top of each handle. You may have to pry-off a cover cap first. Underneath, most handles fit onto mating splines on the valve stems, so all you have to do is push the handles back on in half a second (no screw needed) to use the sink. Unless your cats evolve opposable thumbs and learn to put the handles on themselves, you should be all set.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:40 AM on May 27, 2014

« Older How can I do more coding while still using my...   |   What is the ideal grill cleaning regimen? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.