Last week, a friend experienced every cat guardian’s nightmare: a family member was careless about leaving the door open, and her two young kittens got out.
My friend had left to run some errands. She had asked that the kittens be closely watched while she was gone. When she returned home, she called the kittens. They didn’t respond. She went from room to room searching. No sight of the kittens. She went outside and walked all around her large property, shaking a treat bag, and calling for them. Becoming increasinly hysterical, she got into her car and started slowly driving down the road, all the while calling their names. She found them about a quarter of a mile down the highway, huddled together on the front stoop of an auto repair shop.
My friend’s story had a happy ending. The kittens returned from their adventure safe and unharmed. My friend’s nerves may take a little longer to recover. But not all stories of indoor cats running out the door end this well.
The following tips and safety precautions can help keep your indoor cat safe inside, where she belongs.
Create an enriched, stimulating environment for your indoor cat
By providing a catified home for your cat, you’ll prevent boredom, and they won’t even want to go outside.
Consider leash training
Some cat experts recommend leash training indoor cats so they can safely go outdoors. I do not always agree with this recommendation. It depends on your cat’s temperament, but for some cats, giving them a taste of the great outdoors, even if from the safety of a leash and harness, simply makes outdoors more enticing for cats – and that’s exactly the opposite of what you want.
Train your cats to come when you call them
This is not all that hard to do. Call their name, and reward them with a treat each time they come to you. For many cats, simply hearing the sound of the treat bag coming out of the cabinet will do the trick, and that’s fine, too. You need a reliable signal that tells your cat she needs to come to you. This will not only help in the event that your cat does get out, it will also be useful in emergency situations.
Use caution when opening doors
Cat sitters are well aware that many cats are door darters, and they act accordingly. My cat sitter always puts her bag into the opening of the door before she even enters – that way, she can gently push any curious kitties back into the house before she comes in.
If you have a cat who consistently darts for the door when it’s being opened, distract him. Throw some treats into the hallway behind you before you leave, or ahead of you when you enter. Use a laser pointer to distract cats who respond to it. Don’t use squirt bottles to deter your cat. Squirt bottles do not stop undesired behavior. All they do is ruin the bond between you and your cat.
Another option is to not use your front door at all. I have friends who never let visitors enter through the front door. The enter through the garage and the adjacent laundry room. This way, the garage door can be closed before the laundry room door to the house is even opened. I like this “double entry” system so much that I started using it in my own home. Even though Allegra and Ruby are not door darters, this way of entering my home is safer when I have my hands full of bags, or when delivery people show up.
Make sure that all family members know that letting the cat out is never okay.
Close your cats into a room when you have service or repair persons at your home
Service persons may need to frequently enter and exit your home during the time they work inside your house. It’s safer to keep kitty away from the activity until the repairs are completed.
Make sure your cats are micrcochipped
In the even that your cat gets lost, a microchip may be the only way she’ll find her way back home. Collars are important, too, but they can come off. If your cat wears a collar, make sure that it has updated contact information. A friend has all his cat’s collar tags inscribed with the words “I’m lost if outside.”
I cannot even imagine what my friend went through while she was searching for her kittens. The closest I’ve come to feeling what she was feeling was when Allegra hid inside my kitchen cabinets while I was out running errands. When I returned, I couldn’t find her anywhere. That episode took a good twenty years off my life!
Do you have any tips for keeping your cats from getting out the door? Please share them in a comment.
Photo by Jerome Decq, Flickr Creative Commons