Closet Cat
January 25, 2017 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Will my cat be able to figure out how to get into the closet to his favorite napping spot if I replace the closet door with a curtain or is this a terrible idea?

My cat likes to wake me up in the middle of the night to get me to open the hall closet door so he can get in there to sleep. Sometimes I remember to open it before I go to bed, sometimes I don't. It has to stay closed most of the time because if it's open it will block access to the bathroom.

Here is my cat.

Last night after waking up to let him in the closet, I started wondering if we replaced the door with a curtain maybe he could go around the curtain and just get in there himself whenever he wanted. This would also solve the problem of him occasionally getting closed up in the closet.

My boyfriend seems to think this is a hilarious idea and will just result in one of us having to get up to pull back the curtain. What do y'all think? Will the curtain work? Is that a crazy idea? Is there some other solution to this that I haven't thought of?
posted by ilovewinter to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The curtain will work. Also, it can be left slightly open without blocking the hallway or the bathroom. Now, having said that, cats are cats and your cat will find some other excuse to bother you in the middle of the night.
posted by AugustWest at 9:13 AM on January 25, 2017 [30 favorites]

Unless your cat is known for not being able to figure things out then this will be fine. At the most you might have to show him how it works once or twice.
posted by bleep at 9:15 AM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

It will probably work, but some cats are ridiculous and will not figure it out - you might need to do some sort of temporary halfway measure, like have the curtain but keep it pulled partway open for a while, to help him figure it out.

Other options, not necessarily any better, but if you're just looking for brainstorming:

- Install a cat flap in the closet door, if you'd rather have a door than a curtain.
- Keep a doorstop in that doorway so it's always slightly open, see if your cat can learn to prod it the rest of the way open himself when he wants in. (He will not shut it behind him, obviously, so you're gonna wake up to a wide-open closet door if you go this route, but maybe that's okay if you'd like to try something cheap and easy before you take down the closet door.)
- Try to create an enticing new favorite-napping spot, once he transitions to it, stop letting him in the hall clost at all. (Probably won't work, cats never like the spots you create for them, it's a rule.)
posted by Stacey at 9:18 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's totally worth a try, but also worth noting that my cat wakes me up when she wants to eat even if she already has food. She just wants a little acknowledgement that it's dinner time, I guess. So your cat might like the middle-of-the-night company even if she can get into the closet on her own.
posted by something something at 9:19 AM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Your cat will figure it out but it may take away some of the appeal of the closet and it may no longer be his favorite hiding place.

For some of my doors I screwed in a small piece of wood to the top of the door jam so that it would keep the door ajar. I can pivot it out of the way when I want to close the door completely.
posted by bondcliff at 9:21 AM on January 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The curtain will work, assuming you have an average cat. I use a combination of a heavy curtain and a mostly-closed door so that I can run a window unit air conditioner in my bedroom without having to leap up and down every ten minutes to deal with my cat, Dr. Cat. Dr. Cat figured out the curtain/door-gap thing on the first try. Admittedly, she just got tenure so you can tell she must be pretty smart, but still.
posted by Frowner at 9:21 AM on January 25, 2017 [15 favorites]

Your cat will probably figure it out, but may or may not continue to enjoy the napping spot and might want you to pull back the curtain anyhow, because cats enjoy having servants. It will definitely solve cat getting stuck in there, though.
posted by jeather at 9:25 AM on January 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

The cat could definitely figure out how to get past a curtain. It may also figure out how to climb up or sharpen its claws on the curtain, so don't buy any super-expensive fabric.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:29 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree that the curtain will work, but also believe strongly that cat will probably continue to wake you up, as regularly scheduled. That may be the main attraction of the closet napping spot.
posted by backwards compatible at 9:32 AM on January 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

That is an excellent cat. As others have said, the curtain will likely solve the trapped in the closet problem, but the rest are not so much problems, from the cat's perspective, as they are features.

Mine wake me up to cuddle them more effectively. Or to feed them--different food, because they always have food, it's just not always the RIGHT food. And sometimes they just stomp on my face / boobs when they get the zoomies at 5 am. (There are many paths through my apartment that do not involve my face or boobs, but they are not interested in those paths.)

Also my cats know how to get out of the bathroom just fine -- I've seen them both do it -- but sometimes they want me to do it for them, so they ask politely (by yowling until I do it).

Cats, man.

posted by schadenfrau at 9:46 AM on January 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I think this will work, but he has to think it's his idea and that you don't want him to go around the curtain, so I would discourage you from introducing him to the new material in any way. Just put it up and let him figure it out. Wow, you naughty genius, you got around my impenetrable new door! you'll cry, in secret victory.

I love closet cat.
posted by kapers at 9:49 AM on January 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

Cat will almost definitely wake you up regardless, because cats are like that. However with the curtain your cat will now be able to come and go as he pleases, which might please him. Or he may decide that ruins the closet experience entirely. Because cat. I'd do what you want with the closet, because doing anything to please cat usually has unexpected results.

If i personally were to remove my closet doors it would actively piss off my cats, because they could no longer perch on the top of the door and ninja attack me from above when least expecting it. Hmmmm....
posted by cgg at 9:50 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can you take the door off and temporally tack a bedsheet over the closet opening.
posted by tman99 at 9:50 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you comfortable with your cat taking the association of moving the closet curtain, and extending that out into moving your window curtains? We taught our cats to move the curtains so that they can better view birdies, but they've taken the incentive to now move the shower curtains if they're looking for us in the morning. So it's less of a doubt that she'll figure it out as much as she'll take that knowledge and be a cat.
posted by librarianamy at 10:03 AM on January 25, 2017 [11 favorites]

Like Frowner, I have a curtain for my bedroom door that I put up in the summer to (theoretically) keep the AC in the room. I purposely made it shorter by about 12" so that the dogs could go in and out without confusion, because apparently dogs are are stupider have other things on their minds, than cats do.

So, what I'm saying is, if your adorable cat doesn't get it with the full curtain, maybe shorten it?

I don't know from all this cat psychology.. I just have dogs.
posted by sarajane at 10:09 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

If he seriously doesn't get it, you could always clothes peg a corner of the curtain up to make a little entrance.
posted by taskmaster at 10:33 AM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

With this like this, I always say "just give it a try". Just don't throw away the door while you're testing out the curtain. Some cats'll be like "score!!!" and others will sit outside the curtain and wail until you pull it back for them. Some will see the curtain as a fun new climbing thing and others will be scared of it. Just give it a try.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:45 AM on January 25, 2017

I'm one who puts up a curtain in the bedroom door when I run the AC in there. My cats had exactly zero problem figuring it out. Of course most of mine are well into too smart for their own good territory, and the less bright one has other cats modeling it for him.
posted by wotsac at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2017

I'm not sure if my cat is just a creature of habit or just kind of dim. We've had him for about four years, and the first year, I fed him his nightly wet food. Three years ago, I assigned that task to my son. Now Every. Damn. Night the drill is for the cat to come yowling to me, for me to yell up to my son to feed the cat, and for my son to come downstairs and feed him or show him the food that he's already put out. Nothing is going to change my cat's belief that he will not be fed unless he goes through me.

So if your cat is like my cat, you'll just be woken up to move the curtain aside.
posted by bibliowench at 11:11 AM on January 25, 2017

He will most likely get it. I did this with a closet that had a folding door which was not conducive to it housing the litter boxes. Removed door, added curtain, all good.

Also seconding the idea he will apply this knowledge elsewhere. I have a towels on my couch to protect it from (lets call it potential digestive issues, shall we?) covered by a sheet and they have figured out how to burrow between the sheet/towels to nap during the day.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 11:26 AM on January 25, 2017

My cats know how to open curtains, sliding doors, bi-fold doors, my wardrobe doors, and regular doors which are not quite completely closed. I reckon your guy can work out a curtain :)
posted by kinddieserzeit at 11:53 AM on January 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could replace the doorknob with a euro-style lever handle. I've known cats who could figure out how to operate these. Just make sure you let the cat know you disapprove and he'll be doing it all the time.
posted by H21 at 12:03 PM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

The door / curtain is not the issue here. The problem is that your cat has trained you and you have trained your cat to expect you to open the closet in the middle of the night.

I also have a closet cat who loves to talk and gesture to request things but my wife and I are absolutely firm that once we are in bed we stay in bed no matter what the cat does. Our cat does not bother us at all because the rule is absolute so any nighttime request behaviors are 'extinguished' by the lack of reward. We implemented this really quickly when she started asking for breakfast at 5am.

We do however accommodate daytime requests and have even put a puffer vest onto of storage Tupperware for her to curl up in.

Cat's and their owners are very much operant conditioning driven and it is really up to a cat owner to decide who is in charge.
posted by srboisvert at 12:20 PM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think the curtain will work just fine. I will back up H21's suggestion though, and can tell you from experience that cats can learn lever handles, especially if you don't want them to.
posted by bluesky78987 at 1:45 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

For god's sake don't encourage the cat opening normal doors with handles. My cat hasn't figured out how to move sheer curtains, but she can get behind opaque ones no problem. So....i have no idea what to tell you.
posted by Stewriffic at 1:54 PM on January 25, 2017

Response by poster: As predicted by some of you, closet cat refuses to sleep in the weird doorless closet. He now instead sits outside the bedroom door. He doesn't make any noise at all, but it's very sad when I get up at night to go to the bathroom and he's sitting there longingly staring at the bedroom door. My next plan is to put catnip, treats, and his favorite sweater that he stole from me in his closet retreat which is probably what his evil plan was all along.

(He can't sleep in the bedroom because I'm mildly cat allergic and can't sleep on top of cat fur.)
posted by ilovewinter at 2:47 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

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