how do I teach the cat my room is taboo?
August 11, 2008 4:48 PM   Subscribe

how do I teach the cat my room is taboo?

I'm currently sharing a house with a cat.
said cat likes to sneak into my room and crash on my bed.
I'm not a huge fan of that given that it's not my cat.

how I do I make the cat understand to stay out of my room?
posted by krautland to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you explain why keeping the door closed doesn't work?

Many (most?) cats will not walk on tinfoil.
posted by winston at 4:55 PM on August 11, 2008

I'm not sure if you can teach him to stay out of a room altogether, if you're going to have the door open. If the bed specifically is a problem, you may be able to train him by keeping a squirt bottle near the bed and spraying him anytime you find him there. Depends how much you're home, though - if most of his bed time is when you're not around, he may just learn to stay off the bed when you're around, which is not quite the desired lesson.

For the whole room, all i can think of is that I know there used to be some sort of electronic mat you could buy that, when walked on, would emit a short electric pulse that was supposed to train the cat not to walk on it. You could conceivably put one of those in the doorway, although unless it's very large, I'd think the cat would just learn to jump over it. (And presumably your roommate might be annoyed if you started shocking his/her cat, without trying some intermediate training or door-closing options first.)
posted by Stacey at 5:03 PM on August 11, 2008

Damn, winston beat me to the "get a door" comment, but bet I'll be the first to suggest a flamethrower! They hate those (it's all the fur).

Squirt gun?

A badger on a leash?

Seriously, most cats (not mine) hate water, so any time it enters your room, teach it the meaning of "Omnes relinquite spes, o vos intrantes" with a shot of water between it's beady cat eyes!

Or move. That will teach it!
posted by cjorgensen at 5:06 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

In the interest of answering the underlying question - why did you agree to move into the house in the first place if you weren't cool with the cat and its catlike behaviors?

You may have to lock your door to keep the cat out, I've had cats that were particularly good with opening doors.
posted by msamye at 5:06 PM on August 11, 2008

A ScatMat will get the cat to learn not to get on the bed. You might even just be able to put it in the doorway, and it won't walk over it. If you're worried about touching it yourself, it's nothing worse than a static shock. It does a great job of keeping our dogs off the couch.
posted by AaRdVarK at 5:10 PM on August 11, 2008

You might want to look at finding/making a more attractive cat bed -- then a) the cat might prefer it to your room, and b) you'll feel less like a meanie (which you aren't) for keeping the cat away from what it sees as a refuge.

An attractive cat bed will have the right amount of privacy and will be very, very soft.

And every time you see the cat in the bed you provided -- trust me, even if you don't really like the cat -- you'll feel a sense of accomplishment.
posted by amtho at 5:13 PM on August 11, 2008

Response by poster: Can you explain why keeping the door closed doesn't work?
because the door lock is old and broken and the cat can nudge it open even when it's supposedly closed. it's one of those that barely holds the door shut.

In the interest of answering the underlying question - why did you agree to move into the house in the first place if you weren't cool with the cat and its catlike behaviors?
I'm helping the roomie out by letting her stay with her cat until she finds a suitable place. do you want the complete backstory?

so tinfoil is the only real answer thus far? is there something like that spray people use to stop dogs crossing a specific point?
posted by krautland at 5:19 PM on August 11, 2008

Get an old fashioned screen door hook/lock. One on the inside of the room and one on the outside. Should cost no more than $1.
posted by JayRwv at 5:29 PM on August 11, 2008 [4 favorites]

My suggestion would be to fix the door. It should be done anyway and will completely solve your problem. Win win.
posted by Justinian at 5:30 PM on August 11, 2008

You can buy cat deterrent spray that's supposed to stop them hanging out in specific places. Bitter apple is a name I hear used but you'll be able to find it at a pet shop or possibly a supermarket easily enough. In my experience a determined cat will just ignore it but I have heard of it working for other cats (my cats are pretty naughty). Maybe if you spray enough onto your bed so that it no longer smells welcoming (which may put you off too) and set up a nice bed elsewhere then the cat will stop choosing your room as a place to nap.

I have a small cat who knows how to work door handles and can open even tightly shut doors. We've found that the best way to keep her out is to shove a door stop under the door while it's closed. This works best from the inside of the door - the side which the door opens into - but also makes opening the door the other way difficult due to friction (we have to really jam it under there). We rent so permanent fixtures aren't an option otherwise a simple hook and eye catch would do the trick. I think your best bet is to find some way of jamming or locking the door shut so that the cat physically can't get in.
posted by shelleycat at 5:31 PM on August 11, 2008

Tinfoil won't work with all cats - one of mine chews on it. I would get a hook and eye closure for the door - shouldn't leave too big of a hole in the frame/door when you take them out.
posted by blackkar at 5:34 PM on August 11, 2008

I came in to suggest tinfoil, also. It's worked wonders on a few special chairs and sofas. Only needs to be there temporarily (a few days?). It will have to be enough that kitty can't jump it into the room.
Or, fix the door.
posted by artdrectr at 5:37 PM on August 11, 2008

Response by poster: I can't fix the door and that doesn't address the teach question.

will a cat ignore tinfoil in the dark?
posted by krautland at 5:53 PM on August 11, 2008

We had this problem. If you don't want to mount a hook-and-eye lock, use a door stop. Be prepared for a lot of rattling of doorknobs when you close the door. Try the bitter apple on the doorknob. In the cat's mind, it's the cat's room and they're pretty persistent/annoying when they can't get past a closed door.
posted by desjardins at 5:55 PM on August 11, 2008

Cats can be very resistant to teaching when it comes to their comfort. Maybe two-sided tape on the bed, but really just blocking the door with something is your best bet.
posted by biscotti at 5:56 PM on August 11, 2008

The downside of commercial repellant sprays is they often smell repellant to people too. (BTW, bitter apple is used to deter chewing. It doesn't do much for boundary setting). The other problem is individual cats display a wide range of tolerance for things which are supposed to freak out the entire species. That said, here's a list of things that many— but not all—cats tend to dislike and avoid:

Citrus scents
The feeling of foil under their feet
Stickiness (double-sided tape, for example. Vaseline.)
Electric shocks
Sprays of water
Change (the verb, not the noun)
Loud, sudden noises
Hissing noises
Other cats

There's a product called (irritatingly) "Ssscat," which uses a motion detector affixed to the top of a can of compressed air. It's not inexpensive, certainly more pricey than a simple hook & latch, but anecdotally, it's freaked the living crap out of every one of my cats.
posted by jamaro at 6:07 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cats can be pretty determined about getting into places. I keep my cat out of my bedroom and the walk-in closet/bathroom with the doors, and out of the kitchen which is doorless by installing a curtain over the entrance, using a shoji screen behind the curtain, and barricading the sides with things that are hard to move and will also fall and make loud noises if he tries to squeeze past them. He still gets into the kitchen sometimes.

My cat knows he's not supposed to go into any of those places. I clap my hands loudly and yell "No!" sharply, if the entrance to the space is open and he tries to go in. Still, knowing that he's not supposed to doesn't equal not doing it. It just means he tries less, especially when I'm around.

You might want to try installing baby gates? And then combining that with the tinfoil and some other deterrents (loud noises/squirting water). Cats have pretty good eyesight in the dark, so he shouldn't ignore the tinfoil just because it's dark. And the idea of the tinfoil is that a few experiences with it will cause him to not want to go in even if the tinfoil's not there anymore. Some people use double-sided tape. Things like this will work permanently on some cats, but other cats will keep trying.
posted by quirks at 6:08 PM on August 11, 2008

I can't fix the door and that doesn't address the teach question.

Cats are very hard to teach, and even if you do manage to teach them something - it's not going to be 100% (this is why people have dogs). You really have 2 choices - either fix the door (or find some other way to keep it closed - or put an old bedspread on your bed every day to keep the cat away from your bedding. Sprays, tinfoil, mats - these are just challenges to many cats, and they will spend every waking moment trying to confound you just for the joy of it (which is why people have cats).
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:12 PM on August 11, 2008

Old/fat cats may not be able to deal with a baby gate.

Another option: When my wife and I weren't nearly as rich as we are now, we lived in an apartment with our cats and I built a simple/cheap "screen door" out of PVC pipe and chicken wire which just popped into the door frame. While our front door looked a little like the stage at Bob's Country Bunker from the Blues Brothers, the thing left enough room to allow air through the room but kept the cats contained.

Yet another option would be to coat a piece of cardboard with double-sided tape (or loops of clear packing tape, sticky-side up) and lay that in front of the door. When cats step on the sticky stuff, they usually get weirded out and back out of there. The problem with that is, if they can jump past the cardboard, you may be boned.

Final option is to embrace our feline overlords. They eat, nap and complain, which is what I would do if I had my druthers, so they must be doing something right.
posted by Overzealous at 6:15 PM on August 11, 2008

I can't fix the door and that doesn't address the teach question.

You haven't lived with a cat for very long have you?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:54 PM on August 11, 2008 [5 favorites]

You cannot teach a cat anything except with a spray bottle or a boot.
posted by Vindaloo at 7:15 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

you need a two-pronged approach: give the cat a nicer alternative to your bed and make it not want to open your door.

go to your local pet store and buy a nice soft, fluffy, warm bed for the kitty. put a blanket or some catnip in it. put the cat in it occasionally. she'll learn to like it.

as for your door, you might try rubbing lemon juice on your door. if that doesn't work, double-sided tape with some cayenne pepper on it will work, but it can cause the kitty some serious discomfort. or you could just put a large pan of water in front of your door. she won't want to step through it. unfortunately, you may step in it on your way to the bathroom.

for what it's worth, i found a 20-cent hook-and-eye latch keeps my wonky bathroom door shut. you could also just prop the thing shut with a rubber doorstop or a heavy shoe.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:30 PM on August 11, 2008

Spray bottle is the only real answer, IMO.

Personally, I accompany it with a little "cat hiss" sound, every time i spray the little beggars, which has the added advantage of (eventually) causing a Pavlovian fear of my little sound in them, so even if I don't have the water handy, they will split when they hear it.

Really, what Vindaloo said.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:39 PM on August 11, 2008

> how do I teach the cat my room is taboo?

Forgive me while I burst into hysterics for a moment.

*comes back into room, wiping eyes*

That's probably not very helpful. Long story short: you don't. Cats don't respond to post-transgression discipline (i.e. "you were a bad cat, you did at all well. You have to associate negative sounds or feelings with the actual action, meaning you need to catch them in the act and do something negative at that moment. For example, with toilet paper, you put a can filled with coins, so when they pull at the paper to unspool it, KER-RASH! loud scary noise. Sometimes a water pistol will work, but sometimes not.

And even that doesn't always work. I thought I had "trained" my cat to avoid the toilet paper. A few weeks later, he started right back in. I ended up literally moving the toilet paper dispenser high enough to be firmly out of his reach.

They're brats. They're lovable, sweet, affectionate ... but they are utter brats.
posted by WCityMike at 7:49 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Most people have already said it, but keep a water pistol handy. When it comes in, or goes near the door, spray it.

Or you could smother the little feline squirt, and get a real pet like a dog instead. :-)
posted by Mephisto at 8:01 PM on August 11, 2008

Any teaching / water pistol approach is going to require a certain amount of time and focus on your part to make it really work; otherwise, the cat will just learn not to go in your room when you're there. Which is probably not the real problem.

Your best bet is figuring out some way of keeping the door closed. Doorstop, latch, chair under the door, rope around the doorknob hooked to some stable thing (screw in drywall anchor in wall), fixing the knob (do some internet research on this -- it might be doable) -- these will probably take less time than "training", be kinder both to the cat and you, and actually get results.

In other words, there's no magic solution. Just use your cleverness for that door :)
posted by amtho at 8:09 PM on August 11, 2008

The problem with spraying the cat with a spray bottle is that this will only work when you're at home--although sometimes a cat will get the idea from a squirt or two, I really wouldn't be surprised if there was still cat hair on your bed on occasion when you come home.

Really, the best solution is to buy a lock (someone upthread suggested the hook kind, which would be cheap and easy) for each side of the door, one to lock the cat out when you're out, and one to keep him out when you're in. This is the sort of thing that you'd have a damned hard time teaching a dog without keeping him leashed and observing him all the time, much less a cat (and much less someone else's cat).

Also, since it's not your cat, you might try being affectionate with him outside of your room. I'm not entirely sure why, but cats seem to love hounding people who treat them diffidently. Making it clear that you two are buddies might actually make him lay off a bit.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:58 PM on August 11, 2008

Meanwhile, on the cat version of ask metafilter, your cat is asking how long it will take until this human gets tired of chasing her off the bed and just surrenders to the inevitable.

This is a cat. The house belongs to her.
posted by jasper411 at 10:29 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Try loosely wadded newspaper or tinfoil under the bedspread. Anything to make it weird and uncomfortable. Maybe just change your bedspread to something he doesn't find so enticing.

I think cats are teachable, but you have to use the right incentives and most of your "teaching" is really redirection. Don't play with this, play with that, etc. Dogs are -- like small humans -- desperate for approval, and so you can punish them within a period of time after an action, and they'll at least try to figure out what to do differently next time. Cats don't care so much about approval and need more immediate feedback, which is why stuff like the surprise noise or the water squirt work. Whatever you do, don't expect immediate results -- it can take a while for an incentive to sink in. My Fry spent weeks jumping up onto high shelves and toppling whatever was on them to the floor before a persistent campaign of water squirts -- which would always dislodge him, not always gracefully -- actually resulted in no more jumps up to the shelves. I think it was always a deliberate attention-getting device anyway, and so he eventually found better ways to get my attention, like flicking his tail in my face until I would cuddle.
posted by dhartung at 10:34 PM on August 11, 2008

Both of my cats are terrified of compressed air.

I don't actually even have to keep the actual compressed air around anymore -- just the empty bottles. They take off running if I so much as pick up something metal and cylindrical.

I'm not sure if spraying the cat with air would serve to keep it out of your bedroom but it might be worth a shot.

I vote for trying to rig the door closed when you're not there and spraying the cat with the air when you are. If you try to rig the door closed when you're there the scratching and door ramming will eventually drive you crazy.
posted by ZeroDivides at 2:35 AM on August 12, 2008

After one of our cats decided to "mark" her territory on the bed, we kept them both out of the bedroom for a few weeks. The best deterrent (in addition to a closed door - we also wanted to keep one of them, who has a lot on her mind, from meowling at the door all the time) we found was to put a fan in front of the door positioned to blow across the doorframe. Cat did NOT want to sit in the windy spot.

This, of course, did not last forever. Eventually we mere humans gave up and went back to our subordinate position on the food chain. (Thankfully, no territory has been re-marked.)

I would not be surprised if when we die, we find that our whole purpose in life was to open cans of tuna fish because we have thumbs. The cat really IS the one in charge here.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:44 AM on August 12, 2008

Visit your local hardware store (some stationery stores have them as well) and see if you can find some of the sticky hooks which can be attached and removed from walls/doors without damaging the paint/wallpaper. Attach two at person height, add some string between them and you should have a method to keep your door shut that can withstand cat force without the landlord-angering drilling of holes.
posted by Sparx at 5:25 AM on August 12, 2008

I had the same problem in my last apartment. She loved to destroy stuff in the bedroom, and the door latch was old and weak, so she got in the habit of jumping up and pulling the handle enough to make the door pop open.

I "solved" the problem by pulling the door shut from the outside, and pulling a chair inside the room as close up to the door as possible. This works best if your door swings into the room in question. Grab a chair, keep one arm inside the room, holding the chair, and pull the chair as flush as possible to the door without squashing your hand. Then shut the door. Even if the cat gets the door open, it won't be able to squeeze through the little space.

Not the most elegant solution, mind you, but it's impermanent, from an apartment-condition standpoint.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 6:33 AM on August 12, 2008

This situation is normal and generally unsolvable; cats have no capacity for obedience.
You don't have a cat problem; you have a door problem.
Easier to fix the door by whatever means. Doors aren't willful.

On the dog version of metafilter, they are asking why you don't just kill the cat now and get your friend a new cute kitten after she moves. Kittens are free.
posted by bartleby at 2:31 PM on August 12, 2008

i was in the same situation with my roommates cat. he learned real quick that he was not allowed in my room. he would still go in occasionally if he thought i wasnt around, but knew it was bad news if he was in the room and i saw him.

much to the dismay of many people here, i kept him out by dominance; i pinned him to the floor, picked him up by the neck and glared at him nose to nose, hissing like a cat. a slap across the head and an emphatic aerial exit learned him real quick... like 2 months. quick for a cat.

this is the cat that liked getting sprayed with water because it save him saliva for baths.

oh, and loved the sound cabinet doors bouncing made.
posted by phritosan at 11:16 AM on August 13, 2008

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