Whether it occurs outside your front door or on the bedroom landing, a cat scratching at the door can be a fairly common cat behavior problem in our feline friends.
You've just closed your eyes to go to sleep when you hear the all-too-familiar sound of scratching claws followed by distinctive meowing. For some feline owners, it's a typical scenario and it can cause many sleepless nights, but why do cats opt to scratch at the door? And, more importantly, what can you do to stop a cat scratching at the door?
When even providing the best cat scratching posts is just not enough, here's our in-depth guide to what to try when you have a determined kitty on your hands.
Why is my cat scratching at the door?
Cats are typically territorial creatures. You'll often notice them rubbing against furniture as a way to leave behind their scent, and scratching also achieves this.
If you used to let your cat roam in and out of a room then suddenly close them off, they're likely to resort to scratching to be let in.
Your home and bedroom is their territory, so closing a door on them and blocking access can cause frustration in your kitty. A cat scratching at the door is essentially their way of demanding access to a room they believe they own.
If your cat is used to spending significant time with you, they may wish to follow you everywhere – including behind closed doors.
When left alone, some cats may resort to destructive behavior that includes scratching in places they shouldn't. Causes can range from simple things such as boredom or a change in routine through to genetics, early weaning as a kitten and anxiety disorders.
As cats are most awake in the twilight hours, you may find them energetically zooming about the house just as you're looking to get some sleep.
Our feline friends are typically active and curious creatures who love to play; scratching at the door is a way of getting your attention.
How to stop a cat scratching at the door
1. Tire them out during the day
If you're finding that your cat is a bit too active in the morning hours for your liking, consider keeping them entertained during the evening and aim to tire them out. Engage your cat in activity in the early evening by playing with them or training them. The aim is to tire them out and to reward them for being active at a less antisocial time of day.
Provide plenty for your cat to do during the day. Toys should be rotated so that there’s always something ‘new’ to play with. You may want to take some of these away at night if your cat plays noisily.
You could also fill a puzzle feeder toy just before bed to keep your cat downstairs and away from your bedroom door.
2. Establish a good bedroom routine
We don't mean tucking them in by 7pm sharp every evening, rather that it's a wise decision to establish where your cat will sleep and stick to it to avoid the onset of cat separation anxiety.
Despite the popular perception that cats are aloof, our feline friends can become overly attached to their owner, so it's best to decide whether you will allow them to sleep in the bedroom with you or outside in their own bed.
If you're finding that your kitty is clawing at the bedroom door and you'd prefer that they used their own cat bed instead, consider placing the bed outside the bedroom or close by as a place of refuge when he or she gives up. This should help to encourage your feline friend to use their bed once you close the bedroom door for the night.
If you'd prefer your cat to sleep with you instead, consider leaving the door slightly ajar in the evenings so they can go in and out without disturbing you.
3. Consider relaxing remedies
If the source of your cat scratching at the door is stress-related, you could opt to help them relax in the evenings.
For cats who turn their noses up at the luxury cat bed you just bought them, you could try sprinkling catnip over a cozy bed placed in another room.
Some feline owners swear by the calming marshmallow bed, a type of super fluffy retreat that encourages your cat to knead its paws into its soft material and de-stress.
Alternatives include installing a pet remedy diffuser; you might be surprised by how effective it can be in stopping kitty's claws from attacking your door and furniture.
A pheromone spray, such as Feliscratch by Feliway, is specifically designed to calm your kitty and can trick your cat into using their scratching post instead.
4. Place scratching posts
You likely already know that having a scratching post in the house is an essential purchase for your feline, helping them to keep claws off your favorite chair, but did you know that the placement and number of scratching posts is also important?
Ensure your cat has access to several posts, including a mix of vertical and horizontal surfaces and that it is tall enough to pose a challenge.
The posts also need to be secure – attach them to a wall or ceiling for best results.
Place your scratching posts near where your cat currently feels the need to scratch. Remember, they’re using it as a territory marker, so there’s no point having it in the wrong room.
5. Make the door less attractive
To make the door less attractive to kitty claws, you could use sticky tape or aluminum foil on the bottom half. Other alternatives include cardboard, bubble wrap, or furniture strips.
It may not be the most visually appealing method, but it is an inexpensive deterrent if you're missing a crucial spot of shut-eye.
Alternatively, if you're not likely to get up in the middle of the night, place an object in front of the door, such as a tray of rocks, to block their entry.
6. Consider an automated toy
Although activities such as playing with toys can prevent kitty boredom and distract cats away from doors and other furniture, it's not likely to be a helpful solution for feline owners looking to sleep behind closed doors at night.
One option is to provide several types of toys in other locations in the house where the cat likes to hang out. For example, why not place a cat tree close to a window to make another room is as stimulating and engaging as possible.
An automated cat toy could offer a viable distraction in place of a owner who's not physically in the room. These can often be programmed to automatically switch on at set intervals, encouraging your kitty to play away from the door.
Training is not commonly associated with cats, but it can be an effective way to stop a cat from scratching at the door. Instead of reinforcing anxious behavior, give your cat lots of praise and attention when they're quiet or entertaining themselves in another room.
Look to treat your cat the same way whether you’re leaving the house or leaving the room. If you treat leaving like it’s nothing to worry about, your cat will pick up on it and may feel more relaxed when you’re gone, including when you close the door for the night.
Ashleigh is Digital Editor on PetsRadar. With over 8 years of experience in print and digital media, she has acted as an editorial lead on a variety of projects, with animal themes a keen interest. As an avid animal lover, you can often find Ashleigh checking out the newest trends in animal care or looking at cute cat videos on TikTok.
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