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?
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 StayAway by Contech and ssscat by Innotek. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.