Can Cats Open Doors?


cat about to jump up and open a lever door handle

While dogs typically get all the credit for being smart, our feline friends can be pretty darn clever too!

Most cats are smart enough to do some incredible things, but can cats open doors?

Yes! While not every cat will figure it out, many cats are able to open doors with a little persistence. Cats have the easiest time opening doors with lever handles but some felines can even turn doorknobs in order to open the door. 

Let’s take a closer look at our clever cats and how they’re able to open doors! But first, we need to answer one important question…

Do Cats Know How Doors Work?

We know that cats can open doors, but do they actually know what they’re doing, and do they realize what’s on the other side?

In most cases, yes!

While cats wouldn’t be able to give you a schematic of a doorknob, many cats do realize that the door handle is the key to opening the door. Because cats also possess basic object permanence, they realize what’s on the other side of the door.

But What Exactly Is Object Permanence?

Object permanence is the ability to understand that objects and things continue to exist even when they’re out of view. Of course, this is something that humans take for granted but not all animals are able to pull this off. Not only can our canine and feline friends understand this concept but some birds can too!

For an example of this in action, consider the last time your cat’s favorite toy slid under the couch. Your cat realized even though they couldn’t see the toy anymore, that it still existed and was under the couch. They either sat there and stared at the couch contemplating their next move or tried to pull it out. Scientists have taken this a step further and conducted several studies to review the limits of a cat’s ability to understand object permanence which you can check out here.

What Does This Have To Do With Doors?

While researching this article, I stumbled upon several folks that suggested cats have little to no ability to understand what’s on the other side of a door. Not only does that not sound right, but anyone with a cat will be able to think of about a thousand scenarios to refute this!

Cats certainly seem to understand that the door is a portal to another part of the house or the world. If there are multiple doors leading to the same place, some cats may get confused but based on several studies of object permanence in cats it’s generally safe to assume that they’ll still be able to understand the idea of multiple doors going to the same location.

Do Cats Understand How Doorknobs Work?

Cats can understand that interacting with a doorknob is required to get it open but it’s very unlikely that they grasp any more than that. In other words, cats probably don’t understand how turning or pulling the handle leads to an open door, just that it works.

After watching their human companions interact with a door thousands of times, cats eventually realize that interacting with the handle is what controls the door. From there, they jump, paw and bat at the doorknob until it opens.

Why Do Cats Open Doors At All?

Just because cats can do something doesn’t explain why they do it- so why do cats bother to open doors at all?

At first, the answer might seem obvious and you could assume that cats just want to get to the other side. But anyone with a cat knows that this just isn’t always the case!

We’ve all experienced cats begging desperately for a door to be opened only to just walk away when they get what they want. I’ve actually written an entire article on why cats hate closed doors which explains a lot of the motivation behind why cats want to open doors.

It’s possible that it’s related to territory but in many cases, cats just seem so curious that they can’t help themselves. They just want to know what’s happening on the other side of that door!

Is It Normal For Cats To Open Doors?

Well, normal is relative.

Is opening doors as normal as using the litter box? Far from it!

I’ve lived with hundreds of cats over the years from fosters to my own feline family members and not one of them opened a door. I can’t even recall a single cat trying to open a door. Of course, even a few hundred cats is a small sample size compared to the number of cats that are in the world but it still suggests that the behavior isn’t that common.

It’s fair to say that while it’s not abnormal for cats to open doors, it’s not an extremely common behavior and most cats won’t be able to or even try to open doors.

Is My Cat Smart If They Can Open Doors?

If opening doors is relatively uncommon for cats, does that mean your feline friend is above average intelligence if they’re able to open doors?

If your cat can open doors they’re certainly not dumb by cat standards and it’s fair to say your feline friend is a smart cookie. However, there’s a lot of variation between doors and many cats can quickly figure out how to open doors with lever handles. If your cat can open doors with round doorknobs then they’re certainly a step above the rest in terms of smarts.

It’s not just intelligence that matters though and cats that are more persistent than others will more likely to figure out how to open a door even if they’re not quite as bright.

Let’s take a closer look at what may make it easier, or harder, for your cat to open doors to give you a better understanding of just how smart your cat is.

How Big Is Your Cat?

In most cases, adult humans don’t have to wonder if they have the strength to push or pull open a door…but your cat does. If your cat is a bigger feline like a Maine Coon or something even fancier like a Norwegian Forest Cat then they’ve got a lot more power behind them to push open that door.

Not only do they weigh more, but their bigger paws make it easier to apply more force to the handle or knob. That means they’re much more likely to figure out the doorknob problem a lot faster which could make them seem extra brainy.

What Kind Of Door Handle Is It?

If they really put their mind to it, most cats can figure out how to open a lever door handle. With a long narrow handle, there’s plenty of surface area for cats to grab onto and there’s not much precision required.

But if your cat is opening a traditional round doorknob then you may have a kitty Einstein on your hands!

Do Polydactyl Cats Have An Advantage?

Is your cat a polydactyl with tons of extra toes? If so, that could give them a small advantage when opening doors since they have a bigger paw to work with.

Even the smartest cats aren’t opening doors with much precision and in most cases, they’re just hitting their paw against the door until it opens. A bigger paw will make this easier.

That being said, many folks refer to a polydactyl’s extra toes as “thumbs” but these extra digits don’t actually function as a human thumb and instead they just make it a little easier for these cats to apply the needed force to the doorknob.

Can Cats Turn Doorknobs?

Yes, while most cats can figure out how to open lever doors some cats are smart enough to actually turn a round doorknob in order to open a door. Not only does this require intelligence but it also takes a persistent cat to figure it out.

Are you still a little skeptical that a feline could even do this?

Check out this video of a ninja-cat easily opening a door by turning the knob:

Can Cats Open Screen Doors?

Yep, cats can do this too!

In some ways, opening a screen door is even easier than a traditional door for a cat since their claws will easily attach to the screen and allow them to pull it to the side. Since sliding screen doors can open incrementally, cats can see the progress of their work and can be a bit more persistent.

You can see this in action in the video below. While this doesn’t appear to be the first time this cat has pulled this off, notice how she’s able to slowly get it open bit by bit:

Can You Train A Cat To Open Doors?

Yes, but be careful what you wish for!

You can train a cat to open doors but you’re not going to be able to “untrain” them once they’ve learned the technique. As with teaching your cat any trick or behavior, positive reinforcement training is the best option.

If you’ve got a lever handle, the overall process is pretty straightforward and you just need to teach your cat to grab the door handle. If your cat is food motivated, you can place a treat on the handle and encourage them to jump up and reach it. Your cat will open the door as they try to reach the treat.

If food isn’t your cat’s thing, then their favorite toy could work too. But you’ll need something that will motivate your cat to jump on the door handle.

It will likely take several attempts but eventually, they’ll put it together and connect the door handle to the door opening.

From there, you can encourage your cat to open the door handle by placing treats on the other side of the door, shaking a bag of food on the other side of the door, or anything else that will motivate your feline friend to open up! As soon your cat does open the door on their own, give them plenty of praise and positive reinforcement.

When it comes to round doorknobs, you’ve really got your work cut out for you. The process is the same but you’re going to need a lot more patience to help your cat understand how a round doorknob works.

How Do You Stop A Cat From Opening Doors?

The first time a cat opens a door, it’s almost always cute, fun, and even a little exciting. You might even eagerly try and catch your brainy cat opening a door on video.

But after the thousandth time, your cat opens a door that you’d prefer to keep closed…it gets a little less exciting.

If you’ve young children in the house, having no control over doors can even be dangerous.

So let’s look at a few options for keeping control of your doors.

1. Try A Cat-Friendly Latch

Adding a latch or additional locking mechanism will make it almost impossible for your cat to open to door. Especially if that latch is above the doorknob and out of reach.

But your cat is still going to want to open that door. That means meowing, pawing, and clawing at the door so it’s worth considering a pet-friendly latch that keeps the door open enough for cats to come and go but closed enough to prevent dogs and kids from passing through.

The Door Buddy is the most popular option for this and it allows you to keep your door secure while still letting your feline friend get where they “need” to be. You can check out the video of how it works on their Amazon page.

2. Child Proof the Door

If you want to keep the door completely closed at all times, then adding a childproof feature to the door can help. They make options for round doorknobs but also easy-to-use add-ons for lever door handles which you can check out on Amazon.

These will make it impossible for your cat to open the door and allow you to safely keep it closed.

3. Ditch The Lever Doorknob

We’ve already talked about how some cats can actually turn a round doorknob but those felines are few and far between. In most cases, it’s a lever handle that’s allowing cats to actually open the door and changing the type of knob can make it much more difficult for cats to open the door.

If you pick up a heavier doorknob, you can make it almost impossible.

And don’t worry if you’re not particularly handy because replacing the doorknob is a lot easier than you might think.

4. Use A Deterrent

You can try adding some kind of deterrent near the handle to make it a lot less pleasant for your cat to try and open the door. Things like double-sided tape are commonly used to discourage cats from scratching things they shouldn’t but it can also work for doors.

You can pick up some cat-safe (but still cat-annoying) tape on Amazon and then place it in front of the door. It will be a little inconvenient since you’ll need to step over the tape, but your cat will quickly learn that it’s not very fun to try and grab the doorknob anymore.

5. Lock The Door

This is actually my least favorite option because if I tried this myself I can almost guarantee that I’d lock myself out at some point. Then I’d be wishing that my cat could open the door.

While stashing a key somewhere could work, for most folks this is going to be the least convenient option. Still, it is an option and it could be a good one if you’ve got another reason for keeping the door locked.

Closing Thoughts

Most people probably wouldn’t assume that cats can open doors but they certainly can! Not every cat has the brains, persistence, or motivation to try but just about any cat can open a lever-style door handle if they wanted to.

There are even some cats that can open a round doorknob which still blows my mind every time I see the video!

What about your cat? What kind of door can they open?

Logan M.

Logan has always loved everything about cats! Growing up with a family full of pets and a lifelong passion for animals he pursued work in the veterinary industry. After 10 years, he started BetterWithCats.net to help cat owners learn more about their feline friends.

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