“You’re out of your mind.”
Thomas didn’t say that to Daphne and myself. (He’s a cat — he can’t use words.) But he clearly meant it. He saw what we were doing. What else would he think? We used a power drill and a saw to cut a rectangle through our kitchen door.
“This is probably illegal. Have you checked with whoever rules on such things?” he might have asked.
Also: We’re tall. We have hands. Couldn’t we just open the damn door? We do it all the time. He must have thought it twice as absurd when we placed a white plastic thing in the hole.
Welcome to the feline doors of perception, which tend to be as opaque as the wooden slab we modified to give Thomas access to our garage — a veritable cat playland filled with bugs, different air, lots of new smells, an old rug, and — well, I guess that’s about it. (Cat — little brain, easily amused.)
Oh. There was a new litter box, too. We wanted to give him a second one in addition to more play space. The “more play space” was also something of a compromise. Thomas gets limited (and supervised) time outside during certain daylight hours, so for night hours we wanted to give him something like the outdoors without it being the outdoors, which is filled with raccoons, owls, monster trucks, vampires, and all sorts of things that want to eat a cat.
So we got a plastic swingy kitty door and went to work.
As home modification goes, this was severely minor. Nonetheless, knowing what I know about mechanical projects of any scope, I budgeted two or three times the amount of time I believed it would take. No matter what the job, you always encounter unexpected things. Okay, so make that “almost always,” because this time the work went just as envisioned. The only “except” is that it took a little more time to saw through the door than I’d thought. Regardless, Daphne and I were done within a couple of hours.
Our elation (it wasn’t really elation) was short-lived, though, because Thomas didn’t know yet that the door was a freakin’ door. We still had to train him.
Time out: This is the first time I’ve really trained a cat to do anything. Which is another way of saying that when I’ve attempted it (“Stop Scratching That Old Thrift Store Sofa Because Someday We’ll Have a Much Better One” comes to mind), I met with limited success. Which is another way of saying “no success.” To be fair, I “inherited” the cat in question by entering a relationship (so I didn’t know her as well as I might have otherwise). I also “inherited” the sofa because mine looked like a bed (because it was a bed). Thirdly, I had no easy access to training advice because back then, “Internet” still sounded like a made-up word you’d hear on the old black-and-white Twilight Zone.
Given my history, I figured this cat-training project would take, well, the rest of my life, give or take.
It started slowly. Which is another way of saying “Thomas didn’t get it.” (Cat — doesn’t get it.) So we persevered. The door is next to Thomas’ food and water station, so when he was near it, we’d demonstrate how it works. We’d swing it open one way, then the other. After a couple of more days we gently took Thomas’ paw and touched the door to demonstrate that he could move it. Next we gently guided his head into it just to show that he could move it that way too.
Numerous times we stood on either side of the door to encourage him to use it. One of us would hold the door open while the other called to Thomas. Still he didn’t get it. (Cat — sometimes still doesn’t get it.)
Until the day he did.
After enough encouraging (and several times through a held-open door — for which he got treats), he nudged his way through on his own. It was a little alarming to him at first — it took a while before he knew that the door closing behind him wasn’t a threat — but he adjusted and learned to pass with relative ease.
The training took about a week. Considering I don’t plan to have kids, it’s probably the closest experience I’ll have to “baby’s first steps” (if you allow for my baby having razor-sharp teeth and a tail, as well as a ritual of fake-killing a bird effigy a couple of times a day).
Bravo, Thomas. You’re the bomb.
What’s your experience with kitty doors? Do you have one? How long did it take to train your cat? Or do you have a cat who won’t use it? Tell me in the comments.
Break on through to the other side, says the Cat Dandy:
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is associate editor at Catster and Dogster.