How do you keep your cat inside (front door edition)?
December 4, 2015 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Pretty simple question: how do you keep your cat(s) from darting out the front door when you leave/come home?

Looking for ideas on keeping our two kittens indoors. At the moment we have a large piece of cardboard we got at Costco - using it as a block to the foyer area. I'm quite tired of living with it, though, as it is tall (has to be so they don't jump over it) and cumbersome to move (supporting chair is heavy, large, and makes for an awkward space in the foyer).

I do not know other cat-owners and am wondering what people do to keep their cats safe and indoors.

Some additional notes:

- our kittens (Jacqueline; Jake) are chipped.
- they do not wear collars at the moment
- we live in an apt. if that's relevant; street is some ways away but a danger, as it's busy.
- we've been using a water gun to train them with our balcony screen (so they know what it means) - would this be a way to train them not to dart out the door?
- they both love the foyer area when the cardboard is removed - particularly Jake.
- I cannot over-emphasize how sick I am having to move a large piece of cardboard with supporting heavy chair every time I want to leave/return. Need solutions, please! I mean I'm sure it's obvious once you know but I grew up with dogs... cats seem more squirmy and liquid.

Thanks in advance.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
We carefully choose apartments with an enclosed stair/entryway, however tiny, so that when the cats get out into the "catlock" they can't run into the street. We enter and exit our apartment as though we were in some kind of action thriller, and our two-year-old is getting well trained in the art of hustling out the door without letting the cats escape. I have to hold them off with one foot while pivoting on the other and scooting backwards half the time. I'll tell you, it isn't glamorous and it's been 6 years and the situation hasn't changed. Our cats LOVE escaping into the hallway, it's like the highlight of their lives. They give us the most devious expressions you can possibly imagine on a cat.

The good news is that the couple times they actually got OUTSIDE, they totally hated it and froze right on the steps and wanted to go back in immediately. So loving the thrill of escape doesn't necessarily mean they'd actually run away.
posted by Cygnet at 6:06 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I put my foot in the door when I come in. I've gotten so used to doing it that I had to think through my home entry process to even recall what the heck i do. If my cats do get out, though, there's just a hallway with one other apartment and an elevator, and it would be so amazing if the timing worked so that the elevator would open when they got out, and they'd get in and ride it and then also get out the building front doors that if they did all that, the mission they were called to do was probably more important than their role as my housecats.

Also agreed with Cygnet, the main thrill seems to be the escape. There's nothing to do in that hallway so if they do get out there they hustle back in.
posted by sweetkid at 6:18 PM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

Holy crap, sorry to be a judgmental ass about it but GET COLLARS ON THEM!! I have an actual answer to your question but the collars will be a huge help if they DO get out, even if it seems unlikely they'll reach the street. Mine are reflective with a bell and have the words INDOOR ONLY - CALL [my number] printed right in the collar and the same on the tag that also has my address. People (like me) will look to see if a cat we encounter outside has a collar and make note of it in case we see a "lost cat" poster up the road.

I am a fanatic about this because my cat is an ultimate escape artist. No other method has worked as well as getting a training collar for him. I felt downright monstrous about it, but compared to the grisly details people in my neighborhood kept posting about cats left half eaten by coyotes, him getting a weak shock was worth the guilt. I'm worried about even admitting it on Metafilter, but it's reduced my worry about the little dude so much!

It beeps when he comes close to the transmitter, so he's only been shocked one or two times, he learned quickly the boundaries (you can increase or decrease the range). I make him wear it (along with his other collar) when strangers come over who don't watch for a cat darting outside like a hawk like I do and it greatly reduced the number of times he's tried to run for it when not wearing the collar overall. I still open the door slowly and have a shoe rack blocking the side of the door, so if he tries to dart out he runs right into me instead of behind me. I also keep a spray bottle outside the door, if I know he's waiting I will spray him with it as soon as I crack the door open.

Here is the one I own: PetSafe Pawz Away Indoor Pet Barrier.

If you go that route, I think you could take turns training the cats with just the one instead of needing to buy two. Good luck!
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:30 PM on December 4, 2015

Best answer: Agree that sometimes the thrill of escape can be dashed by the Terror Of Outside. My old cat was an escape artist for a while, then one day I decided that "fine, dude, you want to go outside? I'll take you outside," and I carried him out the door. I didn't make it two steps before he was scrambling backwards over my shoulder and down my back to run for the door and go back inside. And he never tried leaving again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I put my foot in the door when I come in. I've gotten so used to doing it that I had to think through my home entry process to even recall what the heck i do.

With a former cat, I got so used to doing this and saying "PSST PSST PSST!" that I would occasionally do it at work when I was tired. Cat never got past me.
posted by Etrigan at 6:32 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

When going inside, block with foot. When going outside, pick cats up, open door with elbow, back out slowly, throw cats into the hall, slam door. Um, perhaps I should reread this thread for better ideas.
posted by instamatic at 6:34 PM on December 4, 2015 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Are they food motivated? Have a bag of treats by the door, toss a treat a few feet away and then make your exit. Also have treats in the mailbox for when you are coming back. Make staying indoors more rewarding than darting outside.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:38 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

posted by Metroid Baby at 6:41 PM on December 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

When going outside, pick cats up, open door with elbow, back out slowly, throw cats into the hall, slam door.

Ha, I have done this too when on a timeline to get somewhere and really didn't want to waste time on cat wrangling. It's a fine second choice OP, but probably more cumbersome than the cardboard.
posted by sweetkid at 6:42 PM on December 4, 2015

When going outside, pick cats up, open door with elbow, back out slowly, throw cats into the hall, slam door.

Yep, that's pretty much it, unless you're carrying small children and/or heavy packages, in which case fancy footwork is required.
posted by Cygnet at 6:44 PM on December 4, 2015

In my house, we have our cat chipped, collared, and she's not too much of a bolter, but we still utilize the "foot blocking exit" protocol. We also find it useful to sing the Elton John song, "[Get Back] Honky Cat " while doing so.
posted by Morrigan at 6:48 PM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

My cat has learned to respond to a loud, sharp NO in most cases, so that combined with putting something in front of the door as it's opening usually works. Mind you, he only responds to my NO, which is a deep Thundervoice, so that's probably why he often gets out when The Boyfriend comes home and tries to stop him with a more melodious tenor.

So here's an idea: During the day, when they start acting up and doing things they're not supposed to, respond with a sharp, unmistakable NO combined with a blast from a can of compressed air. You don't have to hit 'em with the air - just the sound will probably do. In time, they should associate that sharp, unmistakable NO with "I should not be doing what I'm doing right now," and that will at least give you time to get through the door.
posted by MShades at 6:54 PM on December 4, 2015

When I was in an apartment, the aforementioned scooting method was pretty much the only solution (however, I was on an indoors hallway, so I could just grab them if they pulled a Houdini routine). As a homeowner, I've given up on the front door entirely, and come in through the garage into a closed-off laundry area.

What's the layout of the foyer? If I'm understanding your description of your current method correctly, there's a hallway that might be closed off with a bit of tinkering? This old Ask has some ideas that might work with some modification.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:47 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Foot-blocking and inciting fear (via noise and erratic scary foot movements) were what I always used when I had escapist cats.
posted by rtha at 7:57 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

When I first got mine they loved to break for freedom and it was especially hard as its a house and so escape meant exciting garden.

I used the water bottle to train them to stay away from the door. Hilarious, as after a while I just had to point it at them and they'd scrunch up their faces.

When I enter the house I hold my shoulder bag low to the ground to block them. I also talk to them as I'm opening the door "hello kittens, it's me, move away from the door please".

They accept it now (and they'd been indoor/outdoor cats at the foster home prior to me adopting them so they really knew about outside) but I don't think I'll be entering the house as a normal person for a long time, if ever. And I'm too scared to let anyone else enter in my absence, so no leaving a key with a neighbour to let a tradesperson in.
posted by kitten magic at 8:17 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh and another thing that worked with the spray bottle training. You go outside door, with bottle. Open the door a crack and spray kitties. Close door. Repeat after a few moments as brave kitties try again. They will soon get the idea that a terrible water spraying monster lives in the hall and sticking their little heads in an opening door is a Bad Idea.
posted by kitten magic at 8:21 PM on December 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

We have a sign over the doorknobs, inside and out, saying "don't let the cat out" to remind ourselves and visitors. Entering involves blocking with a bag or foot, wedging oneself in narrowly, and closing the door quickly. Plus as soon as we're in, Good Things Happen in the kitchen, so the cats are in a routine that brings their attention inward.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:21 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Foot in cracked open door, to the point of shoving the cat out of the way a little forcefully. Not a kick, but a firm "move back." The cat can handle it, and a slightly firm push is safer than a cat outside.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:44 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I keep my packages near the floor to provide a movable barrier if I have packages. If not, foot. We have what I think of as the airlock, so two doors with a hallway/entryway in between. The airlock kind of sucks when you bring in groceries or a lot of bags of whatever. There's just so much opening and closing of doors! Open outside door, shove some bags inside, go back shutting outside door, grab more bags, go in through outside door, now there's too much stuff so you have to open inside door plus pull closed outside door. Lots of foot shoving. Some NO. Mostly mock outrage..."REALLY?!"

I disagree with the collaring suggestion, btw. My cats are chipped. I feel like they run more risk from the collar than the benefit that they'd get from being collared. Back in the dawn of time when everyone used to let their cats outside we used to flea collar our cats, but even then they got stuck on bushes sometimes. Even as recently as the late 80s we had a kitten who got stuck on a shrub and almost died because the breakaway aspect of the collar just didn't breakaway (even though she was the appropriate age and weight). Thankfully the other (adult) cat alerted us to the problem and we saved her. My indoor-only kitties are troublemakers and curious and get into everything, and sometimes they get into super small places. I don't want to worry that they'll get stuck somewhere, so no collar for them.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:13 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

We operate the air lock approach going into and out of the front door; open main door coming in, both crowd into tiny lobby, cautiously open inner hall door, wave foot wildly at rapidly approaching cat(s) while intoning variations on no, go away and get back idiot boy. Reversed for leaving the house. Friends have spontaneously taken to asking if the air lock is in place when they leave now.

We haven't lost one yet. Cat, not friend.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:24 AM on December 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

An extra tall baby gate with a door in stead of the cardboard. Like this. You can get extensions to make them any width you need and there's no installation, they are tension mounted and easily removable if you move.
posted by amro at 4:40 AM on December 5, 2015

I've found it very useful, if maybe a little mean, to have my cats be afraid of the sound of loudly jangling car keys. When they were tiny they were were also door darters, and I would lean over near the ground and shake my keys right at their level. It only took a few times before they learned. Now, they hang out at the door waiting, but as soon as they hear the keys, they step back to wait for me. The key trick also works when you need to put things in the oven, need to use scissors (my cat Ed is desperately curious about packages from Amazon), etc. But I use it sparingly, only when I'm doing something that could actually be dangerous to the little guys.
posted by backwards compatible at 4:43 AM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My cats are idiots and it kills me EVERY TIME I fake them out with shaking the Pounce Treats can and throwing the treats into a far corner of the room away from the door where they would run like the dopey maniacs they are to scarf them down.

After a few days, they cottoned on quickly that the door opening meant treats in the OTHER corner of the room, so now when I open the front door, I am greeted by 4 dingalings sitting in the far corner of the room.
posted by kinetic at 5:27 AM on December 5, 2015 [27 favorites]

Try Sscat. Put it by the door as you leave. I have a feeling it will take less than a week for them to get the message.
posted by like_neon at 6:00 AM on December 5, 2015

so now when I open the front door, I am greeted by 4 dingalings sitting in the far corner of the room

I love your cats.

nthing foot in the door, plus guiding your cat with your foot if they're trying to get out. Leading with my foot is a habit now, and I do it entering almost any home. But your post is unclear - does your door open up to a hallway indoors or just the regular outdoors? One of my cats lives for my hallway, and I will carry her out there sometimes for adventures, I just make clear not to let her out when I'm coming or going. The distinction probably doesn't make any difference to her, but whatevs.
posted by good lorneing at 9:02 AM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mine don't try to get out when I'm leaving (which seems odd), only when I'm coming in. So I open the door a fraction, block the opening with my foot or bag, and do a loud "Psssst!" if they're seeming determined. At night, I also stick my hand into the fractionally-opened door to turn the light switch on so that I can get a visual on them. One of the cats has learned that I'm going to do that, so he waits on the table under the switch and sticks his muzzle into my hand so that I pet him, which is both sweet and reassuring that he's not about to race out the doorway.
posted by jaguar at 10:46 AM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't know if my cat is typical, but he really does seem to understand futility. He knows the human isn't fast, won't use violence, and isn't that smart. What the human IS, is patient and stubborn. If he gets outside, the human will calmly follow, follow, follow relentlessly until he surrenders. He will be brought back inside. He's learned this, and rarely bothers beyond a token move toward the door, as if to test if I still care. A half-hearted gesture to block with my foot is enough for him to leave it alone.

The same thing works for giving him his pill. He doesn't like it, but doesn't bother trying to run and hide anymore. He just flops down on the floor unhappily when he knows I'm coming for him.
posted by ctmf at 11:52 AM on December 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tossing treats works for my Houdinis, chipping works for my peace of mind. Taking main escape artist out on leash has helped with escape tendencies.
posted by mightshould at 3:37 PM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Like others here, I use the foot blocking technique combined with a Cat Boogeyman act intended to scare them away from the door. And if I'm on my way out and they seem particularly determined, I'll pick them up and gently lob them back into the house to buy myself a few precious seconds in which to slip out. It seems to work.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:58 PM on December 5, 2015

Best answer: I have had good luck with putting a laser pointer on my key chain and running a dot away from the door. Playtime = Outside Less Interesting
posted by *s at 6:49 PM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, one of mine was a complete escape artist as a kitten/teenage cat (I still have scars from the poison oak I had to walk through during the hour-long retrieval from one of his escapes), but consistent gentle reinforcement that he is not supposed to be right at the door when I open it seems to have worked, though it took a good year. He'll often still sit right at the door when I unlock it, but a gentle, "Hey, back up," is now sometimes all he needs to back away. So if you're consistent about the discipline, they may start to grow out of it. (They're cats, though, so "may" is the operative word there.)
posted by jaguar at 6:56 PM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the excellent and creative suggestions! I'm inclined to a positive-leaning approach, such as using treats or a laser pointer to distract them from our leaving. Cheers!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:05 PM on January 4, 2016

Way late to this thread, but I sure wish the Tile had been available when our little escape artist was still around. We tried all kinds of stuff, and when he got out it always failed and we'd end up just waiting for him to come home again. They're these small, lightweight keychain things, and you could clip them to your cats' collars and then if the cats do get out you can just find them with your phone. Seriously, consider it!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:03 AM on February 7, 2016

We actually did try the Tile with our escape artist kitties. They lasted approximately 48 hours until one dunked his into the water dish then somehow managed to pull it off the collar. The other one just stopped working about 24 hours after that. Very uninspiring.
posted by instamatic at 11:27 AM on February 7, 2016

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