One of the worst habits our cats have has got to be their ability to wake us up from a deep sleep by scratching and clawing at our bedroom door. Somehow I’m sure we are not alone in that.
Cats love scratching things, and they are particularly active at twilight hours, so it makes sense that once you are ready for bed they are ready to begin construction on your bedroom door. But, as with most cat habits, the best way to correct it is to first understand it.
Why Is My Cat Scratching My Door?
The most common reason a cat scratches a door is because they want to be let in. That’s right, they don’t intrinsically hate the door so much they want to destroy it, they just don’t have thumbs so they can’t turn the doorknob. Instead, they use their claws to try opening it up. Maybe they pair that with meowing excessively, which is what Yavapai does. Every. Single. Night.
Outside of wanting the door to be opened, this unwanted scratching may be a cry for attention. It’s really common for cats to use odd habits to get our attention to signal that something is wrong. Or maybe nothing is wrong and they just want your attention. They're cats after all. And a cat's scratching behavior is probably just as erroneous as any other trait cats display. Wild cats are most active in the night hours, so it should be no surprise your cat's behavior changes once you want to sleep.
The first question to answer is, do they do this every night, or do you have a cat scratching at door in morning hours? If so, think about when it started, and if you have noticed any other unusual behavior from your cat since then. If the answer is no, then they probably just want your attention, or they hate doors. I’m really leaning towards them hating doors, personally.
Why Don’t You Just Keep The Door Open?
The obvious solution to this problem is to simply leave your door ajar throughout the night. But then the cats win.
In all seriousness, I’m sure you’ve come up with this solution on your own, and I’m sure you have a perfectly good reason for not keeping your door open all night. For us, we have two.
First, Yaki is a maniac. The other two cats are good. Sure they will run around at night, but we could sleep through that no problem. Yaki is the problem. He’s a climber, and this cat likes to climb up on the dressers and desks and start knocking items over while we are sleeping. So instead of not having anything nice on display and being completely sleep deprived, we close the door at night.
Our second reason is a bit closer to the heart. One of our cats, Pima, can’t really walk these days. He spends his time in a cat bed, and we carry him to the litter box and his food bowls. He doesn’t feel great about this and he’s extra defensive around other cats these days, so when Yaki comes by to lick his ears, Pima gets very defensive and starts hissing. This, of course, makes Yaki get defensive and, at the least, curious, which doesn’t help the situation. It’s very common for Pima to pee in fear of other cats, so we used to wake up to messes, which is just not the best way to start a day.
This leads us to closing the door at night. I can hear Yavapai getting frantic already.
How To Stop Your Cats From Scratching Your Door All Night
So we’ve tried quite a few suggestions as to how to stop this behavior and it’s really going to depend on you and your cats. Not all these work for all cats, but let’s get started.
Tire Them Out Before Bed
This is the one that did it for us. At least, it does when we have the energy. We’ve found that on the weekends our cats don’t mind the door being closed, probably because we spent our day with them and they were more active.
One of the best things about cats is that it doesn’t take much to wear them out. 15 minutes of playtime and you can bet they will be sleeping for a while. If you really can’t spare that amount of time for them on a nightly basis (don’t worry, we get it), you can always try the second option.
Provide More Toys For Them
Your cat(s) want to spend time with you because they are bored or they love you. If they are active and scratching the door, they want to play. So the toys you gave them aren’t really doing the trick. We are big fans of cat exercise wheels, as they really help to tire your cat out, but you can set them up with more basic toys just to keep them entertained. A pro tip: pick cat toys that don't make a lot of noise.
Add Scratching Posts Near The Door
This one failed miserably for us. We have a cat scratching post and a cat tree right next to the door. What it means for them is that they have a door they should scratch at. Now, don’t get me wrong, our cats love the scratching post and the cat tree, but at night there’s really nothing like the feeling of a door between your claws.
Another tip we’ve heard for this is to douse the scratching post in catnip before bed. The idea is that your cats will choose the catnip and then go crazy and fall asleep afterwards. We like this idea, but the prospect of giving them catnip every night sounds exhausting honestly.
You can try to put a cat tree close to your door, or you can use hanging cat scratchers that hang off the door to entice them to take their destructive scratching out on a scratching mat, but as most cat owners already know, cats prefer the closed door.
Use Double Sided Tape
This method might work, but we’re against it. Not a fan of imagining our cats getting their fur ripped out, I’d rather just not sleep. But it could be effective. Similar to keeping cats off furniture, keeping cats from pushing their paws between the gap under your door you can stuff the door with something. We used to add a towel there, until they got smart and pushed the towel back and continued scratching.
I’ve always fantasized about having enough time to come up with a foolproof blocker so they couldn’t get under the door that you can remove during the day, but I haven’t really gotten around to it yet.
The infamous spray bottle, the number one way to express your frustration with your cat. You can try to spray them once you hear a cats scratch, but the reality is that you're going to have to get up all night if you want them to stop scratching.
How Not To Stop Your Cats From Scratching The Door
So we reviewed some great ways to stop your cat from scratching the door, but now we need to talk about the things you should avoid doing.
Don’t Yell At Them
I’ve done this one a lot. Middle of the night and you aggressively open the door and start yelling at your cats to leave you alone or go do something else. As cat owners, we know that it doesn’t really work on most cats. In fact, it really doesn’t work because I’ve tried it countless times. What it does is make your partner think you are insane. And it helps spread fear in your cats, but they don’t understand that their scratching is what is causing it, they just know you are now a scary person.
Don’t Try To Scare Them
There’s a great video of a guy wearing a cat mask who scares his cats when they open doors. This is fun to watch, but not great for your cats. Again, they are not going to understand the relationship between them scratching the doors and the effect. They are just going to see something terrified and get scared. Not helpful.
I’m sure you thought about getting rid of those pesky claws, but there’s great alternatives to declawing a cat that don’t involve hurting them, primarily trimming their nails so they don’t produce so much damage to your door. Just don’t declaw them please, it’s not right. Their destructive behavior means they are scratching furniture, your destructive behavior means you cut their bones.
If you’re like me, all these tips kind of help but there’s no silver bullet to a problem like this. If your cats keep you up at night, your best solution is always to play with them more so they are tired. You can also try giving your cat melatonin to help them to sleep. Remember, there’s lots of temporary solutions to problems with cat behavior, but long term solutions require changes to your routine and theirs as well. Be patient, they just want your love and attention.