How to easily keep a cat out of a room

Cat being kept out of a room

Is it possible to keep a cat out of a room without closing the door?

Have you ever tried to keep your cat out of a single room without closing the door? Even if you close AND lock the doors, your cat’s scratching and meowing at them may become unbearable pretty soon. But it is possible to keep a cat out of a room.

The most popular room from which to exclude cats is, no doubt, the bedroom. People don’t want cats bothering them during sleep, especially when the cat decides he wants to eat at 4 a.m. Also, allergic people may manage their allergy better by leaving the bedroom free of cats. Babies’ rooms and kitchens are also spaces where many people do not want to see cats.

Keeping your cat out of room without stressing him out?

Studies show that keeping a cat out of a certain area is not possible unless a human is present to give a negative cue. This means that offering an ice cream, in return for a promise not to go into your bedroom, will not work for your cat.

The sad thing is that negative reinforcement always includes stress (you can learn how to recognize stress in cats here), and kicking your cat’s butt whenever he tries to enter a room will make him hate you. It may backfire and trigger other forms of unwanted behavior, such as urine spraying, litter box avoidance, and just going nuts. Is there a workaround?

A device to keep cat out of room

Yes, there are several “humane” negative reinforcements for repelling a cat that do not associate the unpleasant event with you:

  • Electronic cat repellents may come in handy. These devices spray air (accompanied, in some cases, with a smell that cats dislike) whenever the cat approaches them. You put the device on the floor in the doorway and, when your cat approaches, the device’s motion sensor notices him and releases a burst of air, forcing him to retreat.
    Our recommendations are  SSSCat and StayAway. They work similarly. They work similarly, with one big difference. Whereas ssscat emits an air burst as soon as it detects motion, StayAway releases a small beep before the burst. You can later set the device to “beep only” mode, which may save some air in the can after your cat learns what’s coming after the beep.
  • One of the most popular and advised techniques for punishing a cat is to squirt water from a bottle on him. Are there problems with this technique? Yes! First, it requires your presence. Second, it requires you to stay calm, without adding “Shhh” or “You bloody creature.” Third, we’ve seen cats figure out the connection between the water and you, which may not improve your relationship with your cat.
  • Spray-on repellents can be applied on the doorway. These repellents usually emit a scent that is unpleasant to your cat’s nose. The trouble with these types of repellents is that cats usually ignore them, and they must be reapplied frequently. Check the label for proper usage.
  • We have also tried placing citrus fruit peels at the doorway. They do work; however, they dry out in less than a day (so you will need to eat tons of oranges and lemons), and they always prompt weird questions from people visiting.
  • Other repellents? We have heard (and sometimes tried) many other cat repellents. Some are funny, some are scary, but most of them rarely work as intended. What about a plastic mat with “loaded” mousetraps underneath it? We tried not to laugh. What about placing aluminum foil or double-sided tape at the entrance to the room? Our cat actually decided he wanted to play with the sheet of foil and the tape. To prevent your cat from jumping over the foil or tape, you should cover at least half of the room with it. That would definitely keep the cat out.

Step-by-step training to keep your cat off the room

Now that you are familiar with most common cat repellents, here is the step-by-step procedure of training (yes, training) your cat not to enter the room:

  1. Lower your expectations. It is not going to happen overnight. Your cat will still be able to get in the room, and most likely will. Don’t shout or throw things at your cat. He is stressed already, and you do not want to add to that stress. Follow all of the steps below, and be patient.
  2. Set up the cat repellent. You do need to get something to say “STOP!”. You cannot be around all the time; thus, you will need some assistance in the form of a cat repellent. See above for a list of the most common and effective repellents.
  3. Redirect your cat’s attention whenever he tries to enter the room. This, of course, is possible only when you are present. If you see your cat approaching the unwanted room, call him to you. If he does not respond to just calling, throw a toy in the opposite direction, drop a food kibble, or scratch the floor to get your cat’s attention. If your cat did manage to go inside the room, you either have to pick him up and carry him out or, better yet, take the deterrent away and call your cat out.
  4. Reward your cat if he responds before entering the room by treating, petting, or cheering him on. Skip this step if your cat has already entered the room. Give the reward IMMEDIATELY (within one or two seconds) after he responded. If it’s not possible to treat immediately, you may use a clicker to bridge this gap.If you keep your cat out of a room, make sure he gets your love in other ways
  5. Enrich the environment in all the other rooms your cat is allowed to step in. There are plenty of ways to do this. Create several perches above the ground level (cat tree, shelves, window perches) to expand his vertical territory, create places to hide (boxes, niches, cat houses), introduce interaction objects (puzzle feeders, toys), and provide an outdoor view. All these modifications will improve your cat’s life and reduce his stress. At some point, the rest of your house may become so much fun for your cat that he does not need to enter the undesired room because it’s not as much fun, even without a deterrent.
  6. Fill your cat’s day. This is the hardest step for most owners. It requires playing, petting, grooming, kibble hunting, and other activities. The hardest part is that you are required to do it every day—not just during the “training” period but for the rest of your cat’s life. Every cat will benefit from regular playing and other activities regardless of whether his owner is or isn’t trying to keep him out of a room.

It’s really hard work, we know. Some might ask, “Can I skip it?” Our answer would be – yes.

In order to keep your cat out of the room, it is not necessary to do the things listed above. A deterrent alone should work well enough; however, without the training, your cat is surely going to have other behavior problems in the near future. These steps are necessary to keep your cat out of the room simultaneously assuring he is happy, behaving well, and healthy.

Cat Behavior / Cat Training Tags: , , ,

8 Comments

  1. Thorhildur says:

    Hi!

    We have a problem with our Maine Coon cat (we have 2 other Maine Coon’s but he is the problem).

    They have never been allowed in the bedroom or in the baby’s room. Still he sits in front of the door screaming his lungs out every day, 20 times a day! He also does this in front of the bathroom. It does not mater if no one is in the room.

    He’s been doing this for a year now (we moved to another apartment). We have tried EVERYTHING. Clicker training, candy, petting, spraying water… Name it. (we haven´t tried the air containers because no one is selling it here in Iceland).

    This cat is the most stubborn, loud, thick headed cat ever alive.

    It’s not an option to let the cat’s be in the bedroom at night. We are expecting a baby in the beginning of 2013.

    Is there anything else we can do? The other 2 cat’s live a happy life.

    • Hardest part here is that the problem has been ongoing for quite a long time.

      Normally, if the cat is vocalizing because he wants to get inside the room, this behavior should cease at the moment he realizes his actions does not lead to a result.

      Problem may be due to several reasons, like, your cat might have “learned” this behavior and it has now become his habit. So, no matter if he wants to get inside the room, he sits at the door and vocalizes. Other reasons might be your cat knows that meowing helps other doors being opened, so he tries it for bedroom doors as well, and gets mad if it’s not working. Also he might be trying to “escape” the other cats, or something else in your household that is bothering him.

      You may try creating several elevated

      You may try to create separate elevated spaces for him and other cats, try playing with him on a regular basis or encourage him playing with the other cats.

      Try talking to your veterinarian in the next visit. Most vets are well educated in feline behavior as well, besides, many behavior problems especially those going on for prolonged times, may not be corrected without veterinary assistance.

      Also, make a note that a cat wanting to get inside a closed room, is not abnormal behavior. It’s normal. Abnormal here is that he does not let it go if his vocalization is not leading to results.

  2. Hi, there! I’m really concerned about my sister-in-law’s cat. He’s a troublesome. He always scratches people whenever he feels it too. He often goes outside and comes back sitting in bed. I’m allergic to cat so is there any way beside things you had listed above that can keep him away from bedroom? Thank you!

    • Hi! Yes, there are several things that may deter cats, however, either they are too mild to work (like citrus fruit flavors, spray deterrents), creates too large stress in cats (like throwing things at him, setting mousetraps under a plastic sheet at the entrance and other) or just are recommended often, but not appropriate for keeping a cat out of room (like laying an aluminum foil or a double sided duct tape at the entrance on the floor).

      The technique described in this article, actually requires constant training, and retraining the cat no to go in the room. It’s because we are not able to restrict the cat from crossing the threshold physically.

      This also requires a consistency throughout the entire life of the cat. Like, if you are allergic, and the cat is not allowed in the room only when you are around, this is not gonna work. Cat has to disallowed in the room during his whole life.

      An additional suggestion, what we did not mention in the article (but will probably add after it) is to install a baby gate. The cat will, of course, be able to jump over it, however, the training not to enter the room will have a clearer meaning in his eyes. That is, there will be a strict rule, not to jumps over the baby gate. Rather than just “do not enter this room!”, which is more vague.

  3. I am not sure if you’ll have an answer for me, but here goes.. I work in the office of a retail store that has a cat living there, as the store pet. The store is connected to a warehouse, that he has been allowed to be in from time to time, for mouse control. However, the warehouse has much more truck traffic coming in and out these days, and it is not safe for him to be back there. The problem is, the store workers are not very diligent about watching the doorway as they go back and forth to the warehouse, and he tends to slip by them. I care very much for the well being of this cat, and do not want to see him hurt or escape. Can you think of anything to use around the doorway to prevent him from wanting to go through? It can’t be anything obstructive, as the staff need to be able to push carts through it all day. The store manager is threatening a shock collar, and I am not at all comfortable with that idea! Any suggestions are gratefully accepted! Signed, Kim and Romeo

    • Hi, and thank you for your question.

      Your situation is no regular household, and, appears keeping door closed or someone watching for the safety of the cat is not an option here. After all, we can’t blame employees for doing their job, not looking for a cat rushing through doors.

      Shock collar, however, is not the only answer.

      First and the best, if at all possible, would be creating a safe area for your cat, which will have no access to storage door. This, however, depends on the size of your store (which we do not know) thus, it’s very likely its either impossible or hard to achieve. Just wanted to let you know, if there’s any chance of making this, it’s a way, way better option than described below.

      Other option is a product named CatScram. It’s a motion activated device that emits ultrasonic sound, audible, and disliked by cats. You might set up it close to the storage door and keep your cat safely out of it. If possible, place it so it’s not activated by employees too often, especially, if the cat is in direct presence for most time. So you might want to not place it in a doorway, but in a near presence of the door. Just make sure it covers all possible access ways of your cat. Even if it means you have to place several devices there.

      Also, do not set them up and leave, but notice your cat’s behavior, both when he’s approaching the door, or when the device is activated by someone else and the cat is in the room. If his stress is climbing (which is highly likely, but it would so with the shock collar, as well) try to make his major activity locations (feeding, litter boxes, cat trees) as further away from the door as possible. Also, make sure his environment is rich enough, in means of secure locations, both ground level and elevated ones and have someone playing with him frequently.

      Best wishes, and, if possible, let us know how it’s going.

  4. Hi! Your article it has been really helpful, but i have a special situation with my cat. I adopt her in january this year, she was abandoned with a vet, and because she was really sweet (she started to lick me as soon as i picked her up for the first time) i decided to bring her to my apartment.

    I live by myself, but my boyfriend stays in the weekends, and he really hate that the cat enter the room and jump in the bed. He hates seen cat hair every where so everytime that he stays i change all the bedding. Of course i have to close the door so “mara” (my cat) cant come inside, but she starts to cry ( or meow) as soon as she realize about that.

    She does that for about fifteen minutes and then she goes to sleep in the living room. Early in the morning starts to meow again till we actually wake up. It doesnt really bother me, but i know that she get stress every weekend. 

    I wont leave my boyfriend or my cat, haha, would you help me to help “mara” so she wont feel stress every weekend?

    • Hi, Alejandra!

      Problem in your situation is that it’s hard to reduce stress if you are inconsistent with what you allow or not to your cat. Cats are extremely sensitive to any routine changes and love predictability in their lives the most.

      For example, if you allow Mara in the bedroom all the time except on weekends, it makes her hard to understand what is going on and why the rules are changing.

      So, the solution here would be choosing whether you want your cat in the bedroom, or not, and sticking with the decision every day, not only on weekends. Of course, not letting your cat in the bedroom will cause her being stressed; however, if you make a nice environment to your cat in the rooms she is allowed in, spend significant time playing or cuddling with her, you might achieve she does not miss being in the bedroom and forgets about necessity to go in there. Of course, this will not work if you let your cat in the room on some days, but not on the other ones. Consistency is the key.

      P.S. Also, please note, your cat may be intelligent enough to learn the link between your boyfriend visiting, and bad stuff (not being let in the bedroom) happening to her, so she may start hating your boyfriend, and it’s hard to predict how she may express it.

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