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There are a few questions about closed doors, but I feel my question has a bunch of different angles which makes most replies inapplicable.

One of our three cats has a big issue with going to the vet. While normally a very calm cat, catching him to put him into the box turns into a literal persistence hunt, all the tricks to get him in the box won't work until he just gives up from exhaustion and we can pick him up - but even then only with gloves or your hands will be severely cut, as he puts up a fight for his life. This is also the reason why we need to close the bedroom door when we want to catch him, because otherwise he will hide under the big bed that we can hardly move and therefore cannot catch him.

This has caused him to associate a closed bedroom door with the "torture" of getting caught and going to the vet. While the door normally stays open, my wife sometimes gets up much earlier than I do and will have to close the door for 1-2 hours or I cannot sleep anymore. With every visit to the vet the behavior gets worse. Currently we are at the stage where he will cry (yell) non-stop at the door, attempt to scratch it open, pounce into it without interruption, which means I can now choose not to sleep because my wife is getting ready for work with the door open or because the cat is crying his soul out...

Are there any recommendations how we could approach this situation?

EDIT: Funnily today's vet visit was super calm, he hid in a corner, walked into the box after a few minutes and has been super quiet even with the bedroom door closed. Maybe he read this post and was embarrassed...

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    Does he scratch when he is outside the bedroom? When he has access to all the rooms in the house except your bedroom? – C.Koca Sep 12 at 13:22
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    Yes, exactly, he wants to get into the bedroom, he assumes its time for the box when the bedroom door closes and wants to go hide under the bed – Yanick Salzmann Sep 12 at 13:24
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    Oh and when he is inside and you close the door he wants to go out, albeit not that vehemently – Yanick Salzmann Sep 12 at 13:25
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    The obvious solution is to have a cat flap on your bedroom. But not a handsome solution. – C.Koca Sep 12 at 13:27
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    Have you tried gently squeezing the cat behind the neck, and then picking him up? This usually has a strong calming effect. – vsz Sep 13 at 12:04
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You need to break the existing conditioning your cat has at the moment. The classic approach would be to close the door and immediately open it again. Then slowly increase the time that the cat will accept the closed door.

Make sure you always open the door before he starts to fuss and complain and by all means before he freaks out - or you’ll likely start at square one again. Plan to work on that for quite some time, multiple times per day, and absolutely don’t do that catching him routine again. Don’t talk or fuss or console (hint: if you “console”, something must be “wrong” in his view, and so increase his anxiety), be very casual and matter of fact. Do it when he’s far away or near you, to make clear that the door opening and closing is not related to him.

If you are interested, you could look into clicker training to teach him to remain calm or ask you “politely” to open the door. But in high-stress situations it’s going to be tough, adrenaline tends to override food and learning drive.

Until you break the closed-door-panic, you must keep the bedroom door open even if it impacts your sleep.


Edit:
This post purposely focuses on the door issue as asked about in the question. How to de-stress vet visits and crate training is an adjacent and related field where cat and owner can benefit from training. Dealing with these may or may not help with the door drama. From the way the OP presented the situation, I feel the closed door has evolved into its own problem.

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    That sounds interesting, I just fear we might be back on square one the next time he has to go to the vet. We will have to close the door again or the second he sees me entering the door with the boxes he will run to the bedroom and hide under the bed as far away as possible :( – Yanick Salzmann Sep 12 at 15:51
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    That’s a completely different thing - don’t ever do this kind of catching again. A trivial solution may be to pick him up first (get a helper), then go get the carrier. If you can’t put him easily into the carrier, investing in another model may be an option. – Stephie Sep 12 at 15:55
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    Yea, that is indeed a different issue, I fear he will then just associate being picked up with going to the vet which would would not be desirable. Also that helper will have to be very well protected as he becomes extremely agressive when he realizes something is up and will use everything he can to escape. But yea, I am going to research on things to do here outside of this question. I assume there was maybe some past trauma. – Yanick Salzmann Sep 12 at 16:02
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    But picking up probably happens very frequently anyway... I would guess we have a few Q/As on the vet/carrier topic. – Stephie Sep 12 at 16:03
  • He lets you pick him up, but its not really his favorite thing so we try not to do it too often. – Yanick Salzmann Sep 12 at 16:05
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Our cat was not thrilled to go into the box either (it was less severe than you, though). As soon as she felt that something was wrong she would run for her life under the bed and good luck getting her out of there.

We did two things:

  • we broke the routine of closing her somewhere and sneaking in with the box
  • we put the box right in the middle of the living room for a few days, it was just sitting there without any use. Then we moved it across the apartment to various rooms.

What happened is that the cat initially was scared, then got used to the box and event entered there from time to time (we would not close it).

Then, after some time, when she was in, we would close the box and reopen it shortly afterward. And move the box with her inside (open or closed).

She ended up not paying much attention to it anymore. When she was being transported somewhere she did not like (anywhere, basically), she would jump out of the box when home but we would leave the box where it was. After a few hours, she was giving up being pissed off by the box and the more we did that, the shorter that cooldown time was. Then she stopped associating the box with the problem of getting out.

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    I agree with this. This is definitely going to work. It takes the investment of time but in the long run it's worth it. – chasly - reinstate Monica Sep 13 at 8:50
  • Thanks I've found some good starting points for the box-training, I think we might be able to do something here, he responds very well to training, it took him like 2 times playing with the laser pointer to associate the rattling of the chain of the laser pointer to play time and the third day he already was running to us when I picked up the laserpointer from a different room :) – Yanick Salzmann Sep 13 at 14:28
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I feed my cats twice a day in their transportation crates. If I need to take them to the vet, I just close the door as they are eating.

I would suggest getting a new crate (no bad associations), and start making it the most wonderful place ever. Put tasty food treats in there. Make it warm and cozy. Anything you can do to increase the value of the crate.

Once the cat is unafraid of the crate, start feeding them there exclusively.

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    Welcome to Pets SE! Please keep in mind that the question doesn't ask about how to get a cat into a transportation crate, but how to stop the cat from scratching at and screaming in front of the closed door. Although your answer is viable, it doesn't answer the question asked by the OP. – Elmy Sep 14 at 13:07
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    @Elmy This is an example of an XY problem. While OP is asking a question about how to prevent his cat from meowing at the closed door, this is only relevant as part of a strategy for transporting the cat. My suggestion addresses the transportation problem through an alternative strategy which avoids locking the cat in a room at all. As such, I believe the answer is on topic. – Steven Gubkin Sep 14 at 14:27
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    I didn't know it actually has a name and is called XY problem, but I am also feeling the same thing and I think it's a valid answer - sometimes good answers are "what you need" not "what you want". Also, links work differently in comments, it looks like the formatting of Wikipedia link is off, would you like to have it edited and repaired by me? Oh and also welcome to Pets. – lila Sep 14 at 19:16
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    @lila Yes, I would appreciate you fixing my link. I had never tried to format a link in a comment before. – Steven Gubkin Sep 14 at 19:31
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    While in my opinion there is some bit of an underlying X-Y problem, addressing the crate topic won’t necessarily and automatically deal with the door issue as well. It may just as well have evolved into a “closed door -> panic” automatism. I think that crate training will be good for the cat in general, but in my opinion, the door is a separate field that needs work, especially as the OP has (involuntary) trained the door reaction quite solidly. – Stephie Sep 14 at 20:27
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When you aren't going to the vet, and you want to sleep, put the box just inside the bedroom door when it's closed. When you open the door he will see the box and decide to go elsewhere.

Okay, you'll have to get up a few times earlier than you want but you won't have to do this many times - cats learn quickly..

You may have to adjust this a little according to how he reacts. For example if he cries at the door when you aren't going to the vet, pick up the box and show it to him. He will believe that crying outside the bedroom causes the box to appear.

There are dozens of other possibilities you just have think like a cat! Their logic is pretty basic.


P.S.

I'm not sure if I've explained well. Here's the simple cat logic:

At the moment he thinks closed door means box will appear outside of the bedroom.

You need him to believe that an actively opening bedroom door means the box will appear inside the bedroom.

This won't stop him going into the bedroom when the door is already fully open. If it does, ask again.

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  • I am not sure whether adding another scare to the existing fear is a good approach. – Stephie Sep 13 at 8:38
  • P.S. I see that @WoJ has in fact outlined the long term solution in their just-submitted answer. I recommend it! – chasly - reinstate Monica Sep 13 at 8:49
  • Yep, saw it. The classic procedure. I focused on the immediate issue in my answer, assuming that we have Q/As on the box topic. But admittedly didn’t check. – Stephie Sep 13 at 8:51

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