Why Do Cats Hate Closed Doors?


why do cats hate closed doors

Cats are legendary for hating closed doors so if you’ve got a door-hating feline, you’re not alone.

But understanding why cats are committed to challenging closed doors can be a little more confusing. Oftentimes, you’ll find yourself opening a door only for your cat to peek around the corner, give it the all clear, and then stay in the room they were already in!

What’s going on here and why do cats hate closed doors?

It could be several reasons but most cats just can’t seem to stand the fact that they don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the door. It could also be related to their need to control and patrol territory which is a powerful feline instinct. 

Let’s take a closer look at each possible reason along with a few options you have for managing your feline friend’s frustration with any closed door!

Reason 1: Cats Are Too Curious To Not Know What’s Happening

Cats are curious creatures- sometimes to a fault.

For many cats, a closed door is a temptation that’s simply too great to resist. Sure, they may have just seen what was on the other side of the door two minutes ago but things could be different now!

Curiosity isn’t just a weird quirk- it served a valuable purpose for your cat’s wild ancestors as it drove them to explore new territory and hunting grounds. A cat’s instinct to explore uncharted territory would help them find prey and expand their territory.

As the folks at Cuteness put it, “From the outside, as beings that hopefully don’t spend a lot of time looking at our environment as full of “prey,” most humans would look at cats and think they’re just curious about what’s outside. But in fact, their hunting instincts keep them watching their prey at all times.”

If cats hear interesting noises, smells, or activity on the other side of the door then the curiosity is going to be too much to resist. So much so that some cats will even successfully open a door just to see what’s happening on the other side!

It doesn’t matter to your cat that they already have a good idea of what’s on the other side, they need constant access in order to satisfy their curiosity!

Reason 2: They’re Territorial

It can sometimes feel like our little housecats are anything but wild. With their fluffy beds, fancy litter boxes, and meals from a can it can seem like they’ve moved on entirely from the habits of their feral friends.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth and your cat’s wild instincts are alive and well today. One of the biggest driving instincts is the need to control and patrol territory.

As the folks at International Cat Care put it, “A cat’s territory consists of a core area, or den, where it feels secure enough to sleep, eat, play and potentially enjoy social interaction. This forms the hub of the territory which is the area beyond the core area that the cat actively defends against invasion from others. ”

That closed door means there’s a part of your cat’s territory where they don’t know what’s going on. Not only that, but for some reason, their human companion has decided to assert some control of their territory!

The only logical thing to do is to meow, scratch, and paw at the door until this problem is resolved.

Reason 3: They’re Feeling Social

Cats are often pegged as not very social or even completely aloof but anyone with a cat knows that just isn’t always the case.

The BBC points out that of all the animals that humans have domesticated, cats are the only ones that have a history of living as solitary creatures. While animals like dogs have strong social ties with their own species, just like humans, many cats would spend much of their lives as solitary creatures.

The BBC explains this further: “Given that cats are such an outlier among the animals we live with, it’s no wonder that we might have been getting their signals wrong.” Said another way, cats aren’t anti-social, but as humans, we can have a hard time understanding their communication style.

Heck, the fact that cats only meow as a way to communicate with humans should be enough evidence on its own to show how social our cats really are. Even if that socialization is just to demand petting, playtime, or a treat, it’s still reason enough to pursue a relationship with a human.

A closed-door can not only mean that they don’t have access to their favorite human friend but even worse they don’t know what you’re doing. It’s really a double whammy of reasons why they hate a closed door.

Reason 4: You And Your Cat Are A Team!

Despite their long history as solitary creatures, when there are plenty of resources some cats have been known to live as a group or a colony. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, when resources are plentiful like in urban areas or your home “Multiple generations of related females can live together, which also allows for communal rearing of kittens.”

These types of colonies, or clowders if you want to use the fancy term, are even more common with groups of spayed and neutered cats as they don’t have the same drive to compete for multiple mates. These groups of cats not only live together and share resources but also look out for each other.

What does this have to do with closed doors?

You and your cat are part of the same team, colony, clowder, or whatever you want to call it! That means you need to look out for each other! When there’s a closed-door they don’t know what you’re doing and that’s a problem.

Okay, some folks might think it’s a stretch that our cats see us as a sort of feline companion but cat behavior expert John Bradshaw argues otherwise. He points out that dogs clearly see us as a separate species as evidenced by the way they interact with us.

But when it comes to cats, Bradshaw explains that we haven’t found any evidence to suggest that cats see us as a separate category in terms of socialization. He explains that “They obviously know we’re bigger than them, but they don’t seem to have adapted their social behavior much. Putting their tails up in the air, rubbing around our legs, and sitting beside us and grooming us are exactly what cats do to each other.”

It’s not so far-fetched to consider your cat’s hatred of a closed door as a concern for their clowder companion! Or maybe concern that you’re hoarding all the good fish for yourself!

Reason 5: They Like The Attention

What could be a little annoying to you might just be a fun game for your cat!

Cats may just enjoy getting you to open the door and all the attention that comes with meowing, pawing, and scratching at the door. Of course, we know that it’s not always good attention but it’s hard for cats to really make that distinction.

You could think of it the same way that a baby will drop things on the floor seemingly just to watch it fall and for the fun of watching their parent pick it back up. For some cats, insisting that closed doors get opened could be a similar type of game.

Of course, this probably isn’t the main motivator for our cats and isn’t a good explanation for how the behavior starts. But it can explain why some cats keep up the behavior.

Reason 6: They Really Do Want What’s On The Other Side

It really could be that simple in some cases.

The most obvious drives for your cat would be food, water, or a litter box. While humans are used to eating specific meals at specific times, for a predator like our cats meal time would have been spread throughout the day.

One study found that a typical feral cat, the wild cousin of your feline friend, will eat roughly nine mice throughout the day. That means your cat’s instincts drive them to eat several small snacks throughout the day. If a door is blocking your cat’s access to their food dish, they may feel the need to get it opened up, even if they just ate! The same is true of your cat’s water habits.

But what your cat wants on the other side might not always be so significant or noticeable. Your cat could simply want that ideal sunspot or even just to know that they can access their food bowl!

Should You Worry About It?

Hating closed doors is a normal cat behavior and it doesn’t mean your feline friend is weird or unusual. In most cases, it doesn’t cause a real problem in the house but it can be annoying for the humans that have to live in a world of doors.

What To Do About It?

Even though hating closed doors might be normal cat behavior, it’s not always possible for humans to keep all doors open all the time.

In many cases, you need to have closed doors in the home. Whether that’s for privacy reasons or to keep children safe, there’s a reason why houses are built with doors!

So let’s look at a few ways to manage your cat’s disgust for a closed door without losing your mind at the constant meowing and scratching.

Check Out A Cat-Friendly Latch

In some cases, you don’t actually need to restrict your cat’s access to the other side of the door but you do need to restrict the access of other pets or children. That’s where something like the Door Buddy can be very useful.

It’s a simple latch that attaches to the door and frame which leaves the door just open enough for cats to get through but still closed enough that children or litter box raiding dogs can’t squeeze past.

It’s a simple and budget-friendly solution to this common cat problem! You can check out a video to see exactly how it works, along with today’s price, on Amazon by clicking here.

Consider A Cute Cat Door

While you might not want to install a cat door on every single door in your home, adding a small cat-sized door can be a great way to end your cat’s closed-door campaign. You’ve got a ton of options and styles to choose from but my favorite is this cat-shaped door from PetSafe which you can see on Amazon.

Improve The Territory They Do Have Access To

As we’ve already mentioned, cats may feel the need to control and patrol their territory that’s on the other side of the door. In some cases, you can try making the territory that’s already available to them more appealing so they’re less driven to break through.

This could anything that’s comfortable, cozy, and belongs to your cat. Adding a cat tree is usually the first thing that comes to mind, especially since they satisfy so many critical needs for cats including the need for territory.

Give Them Something Else To Do

Boredom can drive some cats to spend more energy on “fixing” your doors so one solution is to make sure your cat has plenty to do. But unfortunately, just making toys available around the house isn’t enough and interactive play really is the gold standard of feline playtime.

Cat expert Pam Johnson-Bennett explains, “While you may have lots of toys around the house for your cat, the problem is they’re essentially “dead” prey. They don’t move. The only way to create action is if your cat bats at them. With the interactive toy, however, she doesn’t have to be both predator and prey – she can simply focus on being the hunter.”

Interactive playtime can burn off extra energy and let your cat relax instead of worrying about closed doors. Playtime also has plenty of other benefits including helping your cat maintain a healthy weight and minimizing stress.

But that’s just the beginning of things you can do with your cat! You can check out our full list of fun cat activities for even more ideas!

Try A Feline Deterrent

Deterrents can be an effective part of any behavior modification strategy, but it’s important that they’re not the only thing you’re counting on to change your cat’s behavior. Make sure your feline friend is getting plenty of playtime and has other appropriate exercise outlets before jumping straight to deterrents.

The best detterents are those that you can place near or even on the door to discourage cats from clawing,  pawing, or just hanging out at the door. You’ve got several options here but my personal favorite is double-sided sticky tape.

Cats don’t like sticky things and if every time they touch the door or stand in front of it they have to walk through a sticky mess they quickly decide that there are better ways to spend their time. Just make sure you get a brand that’s safe for cats and this is my go-to choice.

Another interesting and somewhat high-tech option is a motion-activated spray cat like this one on Amazon. When cats get too close, the can lets out a hissing sound (which cats do not like) along with some harmless liquid. It won’t take long for cats to move on from a particular door if they have an unpleasant experience every time they get close.

Is It Bad To Close A Door On A Cat?

Unless you’re blocking your cat’s access to food, water, litter or other important resources like a cat tree there’s nothing necessarily bad about keeping the door closed. In some cases, it needs to be done for the safety or privacy of people in the home.

But don’t feel bad when you have no choice but to keep a door closed!

How To Handle Specific Interior Doors

We’ve talked about handling door hating cats in general, but let’s look at some specific examples around the house.

Bathroom Doors

One of the most popular doors that cats love to challenge are bathroom doors. While humans have a certain expectation of privacy when they’re in a bathroom cats just don’t play by the same rules and everywhere in the house is fair game.

You probably aren’t excited about adding a cat door to your bathroom and that’s understandable. Besides a deterrent, one of your best options is to try to entertain your cat with a toy before you go into the bathroom.

I’m not saying you need to have a 20 minute play session before every bathroom break but try keeping one of your cat’s favorite toys in the bathroom and toss it around the corner before you enter. While it might not keep your cat busy for long, it’s a good start towards to redirecting their behavior away from the door.

If you add in a deterrent, like some sticky tape, then cats will be even more likely to focus on their toy instead of your bathroom trip.

Bedroom Doors…During All Hours

It can be a little annoying when cats demand entrance to a bedroom door during the day but usually not too much of a hassle to let them in or out.

But when it’s 3:00 AM and your cat has decided it’s time to enter the bedroom things can get a little more complicated…and frustrating.

If this is happening regularly, the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure there are no important resources in your room that cats could want. That means things like toys, trees, food, water and litter boxes. Make sure there are also comfortable spots outside your room that are at least slightly comparable to your bed.

From there, you want to make sure that you don’t encourage the behavior by letting your cat in or rewarding the behavior in any way with playtime or treats. Those things should happen before bed but should never be a way to appease your cat in the middle of the night.

Once all those boxes are checked and your cat has everything they need, including playtime, it’s a good idea to try some of the deterrents we’ve listed above.

Closet Doors

I have closet doors that look like any other door in the house and I will find my cat staring at them longingly. Occassionally, she’ll stretch out on the door in what looks like a last attempt to will it open.

Some cats will take things a bit further and meow at closet doors just like any other.

Assuming there isn’t anything dangerous inside, closet doors make great candidates for something like the Door Buddy which will keep the door just open enough to let cats inside.

What About Doors That Lead Outside?

In some cases, cats will express extra interest towards a closed door that leads outside. This even happens to cats that have never been outdoors but cats can be especially persistent if they’ve previously been exposed to the outside world.

So what can you do to manage a cat’s obsession with the outdoors…without actually letting your cat out?

The absolute best option is going to be a catio that allows your cat to access the outdoors safely. The word catio is a combination of the words “cat” and “patio” and it’s just a safe and enclosed outdoor area for cats. In many cases, you can give your cat 24 hour access to their catio by leaving a window open or taking advantage of a cat door.

We’ve also looked at several portable enclosure options that could work as a catio in some cases but if you’re handy it’s a great idea to try and build your own! But anything that lets your cat safely satisfy their interest in the outdoors can help including taking your feline friend for a nice walk around the neighborhood!

When Doors Are Used A Scratching Posts

Cats will use all the tricks in the book to let you know they aren’t happy about the current door situation. That includes yowling, meowing, and of course scratching.

In some cases, doors will be used as scratching posts to get the point across. Other cats just seem to enjoy using the trim of the door as a scracthing post.

Everyting we’ve mentioned above will work and if you don’t already have a cat tree with a scratching area, that’s a good starting point. But another excellent option is to mount a vertical scratching post near the door or even on the door when possible.

This vertical cat scratcher on Amazon makes a good option and while it’s designed to be mounted on the wall via screws you can also use command strips to mount it directly to a door without damaging anything.

Closing Thoughts

Cats hate closed doors.

It’s an almost universal behavior across our feline friends and they much prefer to have their entire territory aired out and open. But in most cases, it seems that cats simply can’t resist the urge to know exactly what’s happening on the other side of the door.

You’ve got several options for managing the behavior and the best will almost always be a combination of redirection techniques and deterrents.

What do you think? Have been able to help your cat get over their dislike of a closed door?

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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