Why do cats scratch at the door? Here are some tips to help

Sometimes, our lovable, curious cats can be a pain in the neck. Why do they just stand there, scratching and meowing at a door, and then not even walk through when you open it? Let's take a closer look.

If your cat regularly scratches the door, it could potentially hurt itself – and the door.
If your cat regularly scratches the door, it could potentially hurt itself – and the door.  © 123RF / Pixelthat

We've all been there sitting at the dinner table munching, when it seems like our cat can't make up its gosh-darn mind.

Scratching at the door, meowing like crazy, and not going in or out.

What is actually going on?

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Many cat owners and fans have wondered whether cats are being deliberately provocative with their behavior, and while it would be incredibly hilarious, pure humor does not explain why your cat keeps waking you up in the middle of the night because it's scratching the door.

Why do cats scratch and meow at the door, and what can you do to stop them? In this cat guide, TAG24 is on the case!

Why does my cat scratch the door?

To a cat, their house or apartment isn't just their home. They don't understand the concept of ownership and instead, these furry friends consider the entire space their personal "territory." As a result, they expect to be able to go anywhere they want, anytime they want.

This territory might not even be logically laid out. It's not just your yard, but possibly your neighbor's yard as well, and they're going to be very unhappy if they can't reach anywhere that they deem their own. They also probably don't have an understanding of your sleep pattern, and as a result, they scratch and meow at the door at night.

There are a variety of possible reasons for cats scratching and meowing at doors. Here are a few:

  • The cat does not want to be alone
  • The cat wants to be let through the door
  • It might be looking for a warm place to sleep
  • Your kitty might be hungry or thirsty
  • Your cat is bored
  • Scratching the door has become a habit
  • Cat does not know or like locked doors
  • The cat uses the door as a scratching post to improve paw care

If your cat is a little bit compulsive with its scratching, it could indicate a health problem. If you start to get suspicious, take your kitty to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Why does my cat meow at the door?

When a cat is meowing at a door, it's a little more cut-and-dry than when it's scratching. While your kitty will often combine that scratching with some meowing, the meowing indicates something more specific.

Generally, if a cat meows at a door, whether it's scratching or not, it's probably because it wants to be let through to the other side.

Cats will scratch at a door if they're not used to them being closed.
Cats will scratch at a door if they're not used to them being closed.  © Unsplash / Marjan Grabowski

How to keep a cat from scratching the door in the first place

Your furry feline friend might be insanely adorable, but that doesn't mean that it won't annoy the living heck out of you from time to time. Scratching at the door is one of these annoyances, and something that can get our blood boiling - especially when the darn cat doesn't even walk through when you do open the door!

There are a few ways to keep your cat from scratching the door in the first place, if it has become an annoying habit:

  • Distract your cat somehow: Use some cat grass, some food, or give your cat some cuddles. Just remember that unless you magically find some "permanent" distraction, it likely isn't going to be a sustainable solution.
  • Deter your cat: If you can keep your kitty away from the door, then it can't really scratch the door, can it? Try using some oil repellant, or just something your cat hates, to keep it away from the door.
  • Get a scratching post: If you don't have a scratching post already, consider investing. Scratching posts provide a healthy and safe way for your cat to look after its claws, and should reduce how much it will scratch other things like doors and furniture.
  • Keep your cat stimulated: Make sure that your cat is allowed as much freedom as possible during the day and play with it as much as you can. If you can tire out your cat, it will be less restless in general.

Let's be honest, it's actually pretty hard to stop your cat from scratching and meowing at the door, so try not to get frustrated with your furry friend!

How to stop a cat from scratching a door

If you have figured out that the reason for your cat's obsessive scratching is not a medical one, then there are a ton of things that you can try to stop it from scratching the door. Notice which doors it enjoys scratching the most, and consider a few of these options.

Here are a few things you can do to stop your cat from scratching the door:

  • Offer plenty of warm places to sleep: Make sure that your cat is comfortable and happy at home, and has plenty of places to sleep. Don't use it every day, but things like special heating pads for cats can be pretty effective.
  • Make sure it can scratch: Get a ton of stuff you don't mind your cat scratching, and incentivize it to use the "stuff" rather than the door or your furniture.
  • Make sure your cat is watered and fed: Keep your cat's food and water bowl always stocked, so that it won't be harassing you for food.
  • Get a second cat: Your cat might simply be lonely and bored. As a result, it may pester you with constant scratching and meowing at the door. Get another cat, so that it can play with someone else.
  • Keep it exercised: Get those muscles movin', get those kitty legs runnin', and get playin' with your feline friend.
  • Get a cat flap: Install a cat flap. It's that simple. It won't scratch at the door for you to open it if it can just walk right-on through.
  • Control your cat's territory: Decide which rooms you want your cat to enter, and which ones you want to keep it out of. Stay consistent and only allow the cat into the appropriate areas, keeping all other doors closed.
  • Train your cat: Use the strategy outlined in the next section to train your cat.

Ease your cat into a daily routine, and you may be able to resolve a lot of these problems. This can be done over a period of time, and can be attempted even after your kitty has started scratching at the door.

Hot Tip: Try not to link your behaviors with food, or the cat may end up expecting certain things based on what you do. Don't feed your cat first-thing in the morning, for example, as your cat will make a ruckus to wake you up for food.

Step-by-step training tips to stop cats clawing at the door

The cuddly character will often just stand by a door, scratch at it, and look confused. Help them with some training.
The cuddly character will often just stand by a door, scratch at it, and look confused. Help them with some training.  © Unsplash / Biel Morro

There are always home remedies to use and toys to distract your cat, but training is always your best bet. It can be hard, though, because cats are stubborn, and really would prefer to sleep or eat than to do anything else.

How do you train a cat to not scratch at the door?

Step 1: Head over to the door that the cat likes to scratch. Close the door and reward your cat with a treat only when it stays calm and does not scratch. Open the door again, and repeat this process several times over a number of days.

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Step 2: Once the cat is remaining calm when the door is closed, start going around to the other side of the door and closing it. Again, this step must be repeated several times, with the cat given a treat for staying calm and not scratching.

Step 3: Once the cat is used to having the door closed, keep things consistent. Make sure that it understands that doors do not open automatically every time it scratches or meows at a door.

If you complete these steps and remain consistent, your cat will stop scratching whenever it sees a closed door.

What to do if your cat won't stop scratching at the door

When a cat scratches at the door like a little devil, it can easily drive you so far up the wall that you may as well be standing on the roof. That constant open door, close door, open door, close door cycle can waste a lot of time, but it's not worth getting too worked up about it.

Stay calm, stay patient, show your kitty some love, and get your cat used to closed doors to help stop it from constantly scratching and meowing at doors.

Cover photo: 123RF / Pixelthat

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