Painted cabinets, cats and lemons

LinelleFebruary 7, 2013

Another cat thread? Who me? ;-)

I have white painted cabs that are holding up very well thank you (13 months). I have a cat who can open cabinet doors. I think he was born knowing how to open doors. Of course, lower drawers might have avoided this, but it's too late for that now.

So, Zephyr stands up on his hind legs, puts his paws on the top of the door, grabs with his claws, walks backwards, and presto! the door is open. Having open doors or a cat in the cupboard doesn't really bother me. What bothers me are itsy bitsy marks his claws make. They're on the upper top of the door which is essentially hidden by the slab door above (full-ish overlay). It doesn't really show, but I'm thinking that over time, it could get messy.

I'm trying to think of deterrents that don't mess up the cabinets and don't require me to be present. Please don't suggest child-proof locks, which will just make him try harder and possibly mess up the door surface. This cat doesn't take no for an answer.

I've read that cats hate the smell of citrus. This could be it! I love the smell of citrus so it wouldn't be obnoxious to me.

Something tells me that repeatedly putting small amounts of lemon juice on a painted surface can't be good for the paint. I wonder if any of you 1) share my problem, and/or 2) know of a strong citrus-y smelling substance that won't hurt the paint job.

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Well I don't know your cat, and he sounds pretty persistent, but what if you hung little bags of lemon zest on the door knobs for a few days. Would he get outgrow the habit so you could take them down?
Also if you just put something that smelled very citrusy in the cupboard would he hate it so much once he got the door open that he wouldn't want to go back? If that would work you could get a stinky candle or maybe they even make citrus air freshener?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 5:47PM
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Well, I have no solutions to this other than blocking the door. We have 2 cats. Zen learned how to open all the bedroom doors early on-they are the latch type handle instead of a doorknob, and he would just get up on his hind legs and reach up and pull down on the handle. We ended up putting hooks in the moulding and then a loop of small nylon line around the handles to make sure he couldn't open them (DH is allergic to cats, so we restrict them from the bedrooms). This worked really well. But of course, not a solution for your new cabinets. And, also-not the most high class look, but we chose hooks that matches our other hardware and dark line.(lol) Anyway. Our other cat, Zoe, opens cabinet doors like you are describing, but she does it from the bottom, not the top. We have mostly drawers in our kitchen, but when we remodeled (2010), she tried doing that, especially to our pantry doors. She still does that from time to time to other doors (we have cabinets in the basement that are similar) but not in the kitchen. Really, if they are determined, the only thing that I found to stop them was to completely block the door so it wouldn't open. I know, not an option in the kitchen.
Zen and Zoe are seniors now and don't get into things like they used to.
Looking at this photo, I notice Zoe is sticking out her tongue at me.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 5:57PM
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Zephyr is a very persistent and stubborn boy. I just cut a lemon into quarters and put them in little plastic dishes in front of the doors just to see what he'll do. I was thinking about making some lemon sachet thingie to put just inside the cab. We shall see. He can also open doors with lever handles. Every door in my house has to be wedged open with a door stop or else he will go in the room, shut the door, and then wail because he's shut in the room.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:15PM
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Citrus oils are toxic to cats, so whatever solution you use please don't use one that has the potential for your cat to get any on his paws and then lick it off. Maybe rather than using an exposed lemon in a dish or a sachet with relatively open mesh, use a plastic food storage container with multiple very small holes poked in the lid, then put the orange or lemon in that, and then put the whole thing in the cupboard. That way the scent would escape enough to keep the cat away but wouldn't allow any contact with the oil. You'd have to be careful to wash your hands and put it all together in a way so that no oils would end up on the outside of the container.

You can Google "cats citrus oil toxic" and lots of info, including stuff from the ASPCA, will come up about citrus oil toxicity.

Good luck with Mr. Zephyr; he sounds like a very endearing companion to have in your home.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:17PM
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hmmm..... We use a bitter apple spray that deters the dogs but not sure if it works for cats.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:32PM
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Double sided tape where he likes to get in the most? that worked on my couch....maybe looped painters tape?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 8:11PM
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pentimento, thanks for the warning about citrus toxicity for cats. My cats are far more important to me than a painted cabinet door. Strange that I found lots of online articles and discussion about citrus being a deterrent and none mentioned this.

kailuamom, I considered sticky tape, e.g., Sticky Paws, which has worked really well on furniture, but I was afraid it might harm the paint.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:29PM
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I was also thinking about something sticky. Honey came to mind, but I couldn't think how you'd apply it.

The double sided sticky tape works on furniture for scratching.

Can you hang something from the handles like tinsel? Something that flutters and reflects like a crow would like? Or make where he steps backwards uncomfortable? Tape on the floor?

Hmmm.. Water that falls on him when he opens the door?
Little stinker. Love him!
Thank goodness mine haven't started that trick. My dog is bad enough.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:32PM
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That's absolutely hilarious!

Are his paws making holes? Or just leaving little marks? If the it's the latter, I'd put a reminder into my calendar for the 1st of the month to run a paper towel with cleaning solution over the tops of the doors, and hope that he got bored of it after a while. I'm not sure how many cabinets he does this to, but it probably wouldn't take that long to wipe down every once in a while (at least, this is my theory with my back door and dog paws... :)

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:58PM
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My cat eats tinsel. Not a good choice.

I don't have any suggestions, but wanted to add that lower drawers probably wouldn't help. I had a cat who was quite adept at opening drawers. He also managed--after many attempts--to open the bathroom door, which has a knob, and I'm sure was completely latched. It was his first day with us, and as is often suggested, we had tried to restrict him to just one room to help him acclimatize. We gave up after that.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 11:03PM
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Hmm, don't have an answer for a persitent cat who has already learned to open the cabinet doors. When we got our cats, as kittens, we added magnetic latches to all of our lower cabinets---no unattractive kids locks, no extra steps needed for us to open the cabinets, but it holds just tight enough that none of the cats can open the lower doors.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 12:53AM
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Well, there is the Scat Mat but not every owner is OK with the little bit of shock that it gives them. It really is harmless though. Bubble wrap in front of the doors? A set mousetrap under newspaper?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:53AM
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We have cats who liked to open the cabinet doors in our basement under the tv and climb in to sleep among the components (dvd, audio receiver, etc. It gets very warm in there. We used the magnetic latches. They gave up on it pretty quickly after they realized they couldn't get them open anymore. I haven't seen them try it in years. Maybe he wouldn't be as persistent as you think.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:10AM
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The linked video shows Zephyr in action pre-reno. Now that the new doors are full overlay, it's a testament to his determination that he can even fit his paws in the small space.

Artichokey, it's his claws. They have made tiny pin holes. I suppose I should trim his claws more often, but I don't think that will make much difference.

This is the cat that can take a squirt of water to the face, laugh, and come back for more. Ha ha, didn't hurt!

Here is a link that might be useful: Zephyr in action

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:23AM
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how about Nature's Miracle, Scratching Deterrent Spray.

i know its for scratching but it might work for your problem, they don't like the smell of it and it works for my cat - for the scratching. he doesn't open doors.

petsmart carries it. they might have something specifically for your needs.

good luck!!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:32AM
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My first thought was that my dog Hendrix could hide in the cabinet. But that might be worse than the claw marks.

Then I remembered an April Fool's joke my mom played on me when I was in high school: she said my sister borrowed my favorite jacket and got a hole in it. I raced upstairs and swung open my closet... and my mom had rigged a stuffed animal (Tasmanian Devil, no less) on strings to fly out when the door opened. Completely shocked the heck out of me! Not that I want to scare your cat, but do you think some kind of surprise factor once or twice would work? (Although Zephyr sounds like the kind of cat who might consider that fun!)

What if you hung a towel bar on the door(s)? Would that deter him? Would it bug you?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:45AM
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I have a dog that knows how to open cabinets too. At least in her case it was driven by her interest in getting into what was in the cabinet so I was simply able to remove the items of interest (clean dish towels). But I'm guessing (not being a cat owner) that it's more of a game than anything. How does your cat feel about noise? Could you hang something that would make a lot of noise (like a cowbell) off of the knob or pull so that when he starts moving the door it would deter him?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:34AM
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chicagoans, that's a funny story, but good thing you didn't have heart failure.

I forgot to mention that Zephyr pulls all the bathroom towels off their bars. The hand towel hangs over the heat register on the floor. I've found him lying on the warm towel, blocking the heat for everyone else. Purring madly.

When I was in 7th and 8th grade I had a horse, a very sweet and gentle fellow. I rode him over to my friend's house in a newish subdivision. Her mom was out running errands. We led King into their family room through the garage as we heard her mom coming up the driveway. Her mom walked straight into the house through the family room and met King, just standing there, all alone. Her mom's reaction was to calmly say: "Ellen, you don't use good judgment."

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:46AM
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Linelle, seriously L'ing OL! That video is awesome. Maybe try the double sided tape in an inconspicuous area first to see if it damages the paint or not. For cats that jump on counters, I've heard of cutting pieces of those carpet protectors (the ones with the little nubs on the underside) but putting the nubs facing up. The kitties jump on the counters and don't like the feel of that on their paws. Wondering if you could put one on the floor at the cab doors to deter him a little bit. The stinker!!!! But oh so cute!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 3:31PM
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Fori is not pleased

I think Christine has a good idea--make the floor in front of the cabinets inhospitable.

But booby trapping the doors with a jar of marbles is fun too.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:37PM
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Making the floor in front of the cabinets inhospitable to a cat is likely to have the same effect on me. My kitchen is small and the cabs are right in front of where I stand. I'm gonna try the Nature's Miracle stuff and maybe even sticky tape.

I did read about a device that is a combination motion detector and air blaster. It's a little pricey, but the reviews suggest a lot of success with cat behavior modification. These cats are nearly two years old, and we've made some progress. To wit: my Christmas tree stood unscathed until I took it down myself. Given these cats, this was huge.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:10PM
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Do you have knobs on the doors? If so, tear off a 10" square-ish piece of aluminum foil and kind of 'grab' the knob with the center of the foil and scrunch the foil around the knob so it holds. You could then put a rubber band around it. Make sure it's big enough that the top of the foil goes over the top of the door. I think cats hate aluminum foil and how it feels on their claws.

poor kitty though. Such a good trick.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:31PM
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Lori (loribug26_gw) Wagerman_Walker

I am loving the video!!! and I'm in love with this cat.

I have a house full, five currently, have had up to 6 at a time. Mine open things from the bottoms.

I know what I'd do. I'd have him declawed in the front. Mine are all declawed in the front. Have two that still go outside all the time, and can run up trees and all normal cat things even without their claws :)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 10:53AM
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Although Zephyr and his sister Bessie are strictly indoor cats, I could never have either declawed. The price I pay is dealing with clawed cats. I would love to get new living room furniture, but I can't while these guys are still tearing through the house, across every surface at warp speed. They can infuriate me and make me laugh. I encourage them by taking hundreds of photos of their cuteness. I love them despite their unruly ways.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Fori is not pleased

Any solution is likely going to inconvenience you during the training process. If it's too much trouble to step over something or move things to get into your cabinets for a few weeks, maybe you should just remove the doors until the cat forgets he can open them or dies.

There is no magic bullet here. It will take work. That's just cats! :)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:20PM
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I don't know if this would work, or if it would damage the paint, but if you could use a spicy solution (on the theme of nature's magic) like cayenne on the doors....the marbles etc. sound like good plans, too. Is Zephyr bored? Maybe you could get him his own cat house with his own cabinet doors to play with.

The video was great. I looooved the story of your horse King in your friend's living room. Your friend's mom deserves a medal for her self control.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:22PM
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fori, Zephyr isn't 2 years old yet, so I'm hoping he won't die any time soon. He's still a baby, and we haven't hit the Terrible Twos yet. He would absolutely love it if all the cab doors came off. Are you kidding me? He'd be in heaven, just like they were when the old doors came off and before the new ones were installed. It was cat spelunking, their own amusement park.

karen, I'm sure Z is bored. I wish he would learn to read or get a hobby. Both he and Bessie are thieves and take things of mine and hide them. I'm just afraid that if I gave him his own house and cabinet doors to play with, I'd be sending the wrong message. Not sure he can distinguish between his and mine, know what I mean? :)

They are sweet, funny, rambunctious critters. Despite their mischievous ways, they enrich my life.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 1:04PM
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I don't know if it will help with the doors, but if you can get one of those chase the feather on a string things you can siphon off some of the energy that all young cats have. 15 minutes before work, after work, and before bed can only help. And maybe one of the find the ball cat maze things too. Yes, regular clips on the nails helps, but if this is a game, then the only way to outsmart them is to create a better game and give them some exercise.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 4:39PM
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My cats hate foil. I'd lay out foil under the cabinets for a few days. They learn pretty quickly.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 4:52PM
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Double-sided tape, lightly applied to the cabinets where he pulls should discourage him. They hate sticky things.

I have 3 cats, two can open almost any cabinet, and one is tall enough to reach the door handles. If they are lever handles, he can pull them down and open the doors.

We have toddler locks on almost every door.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 5:59PM
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lazygardens, oh my word, is that a Bengal cat? I've heard they're very clever indeed.

I think Sticky Paws (double-sided tape) might work. It certainly keeps them from scratching my furniture.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 6:49PM
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Well I'm not a cat lover, but I don't hate them either. I would definitely have to get the booger declawed.

There is something about a cat crawling all over the counter and in cabinets that really freak me out. Just knowing their paws were scraping around in a litter box at some point and then touching my counters etc - well I can't wrap my head around that.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 7:31PM
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For those of you advising declawing, do you realize that it involves the AMPUTATION of the last bone in each digit? It is a horrible mutilation and is illegal in many places, and should be illegal everywhere. Cats who are declawed are more likely to develop many problems from severe arthritis in the toes, litter box aversion, and biting. It's completely inhumane. I can't believe anyone would profess to like cats yet value their furniture over their pet's health and wellbeing.

Zephyr is adorable, what a technique he has! One of our cats likes to open cupboards but he hooks them from the bottom.

Try Sticky Paws, a double sided tape that doesn't leave adhesive residue, after a few tries and experiencing the unpleasant sticky tape, he will probably stop doing it (and later you can remove the tape).

You can also keep his claws trimmed so that they are not sharp enough to make the marks in the paint.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:12PM
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Hey mountaineergirl, who you calling a booger? :p

I'm known to kiss those very paws, which shall retain their claws.

This post was edited by linelle on Mon, Feb 11, 13 at 23:52

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:51PM
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I'd be careful with double sided tape. I used some that I bought from the pet store on a chair that the cats seemed to zero in on and it left a residue. It took me a lot of effort to get it cleaned off. I don't remember the brand name of the tape, but I've been afraid to use it since then.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:55PM
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Hey I didn't say the little booger wasn't cute! Lol

Did not know that about declawing. But did know that they tend to bite more.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 7:58AM
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"I'm known to kiss those very paws, which shall retain their claws."
Love you linelle (and your classy kitties-looking especially classy in that photo) LOL.

Lazy--your cat is so beautiful, very tall like my tuxedo.

Funny what you all said about the (bedroom)door handles. I am trying to train my cat to open the bedroom door(lever handle) as she doesn't want to budge at 4am when DH gets up but then changes her mind when she smells toast and of course wakes me up to open the door. :(

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:09AM
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Linelle, have you seen the toy undercover mouse. My brother's cat, Fubar, is alone all day and she loves this toy.

Here is a link that might be useful: undercover mouse

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:17AM
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I would use painters tape, looped to be double sided. I would not use any other gimmick sticky stuff, as I would be worried about the cabinet finish. If you want to use another product, put painters tape down first then attach the other product to the painters tape.

You could rig some balloons just inside the cabs, so when opened, the cats claw snags the ballon and it pops.

I like the magnet idea for keeping the doors closed but then won't kitty just try harder, scratching the cabs more?

I think the peppers or other stinky deterrents work better with dogs. Cats might get some on their paws, then lick - but I don't see there being an immediate connection to where tha nasty came from.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 10:50AM
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Such cute pictures and sweet video!
We also have a kitty that can't stand cabinet doors being closed. Doesn't get inside once he opens them. He just wants to make sure they are ALL open. Once they are all open, he leaves the room and usually takes a nap; his job is done.

We ended up with Magnet Tape.
A thin strip all across the inside top of each cabinet door.
Works wonders!

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazon Page full of magnet tape (I hope)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 10:55AM
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You guys are the best!

LWO and localeater, my house is strewn with cat toys. Of course, they would rather shred the toilet paper and empty the wastepaper baskets. Having twins is a curse and a blessing. I can't imagine Zephyr being on his own. For sure he'd dismantle the house. The two of them thunder through the house endlessly playing tag-you're-it. I could never dangle a feather on a stick to amuse them as much as real cat games.

I will have to check out Undercover Mouse. I once had a toy called Panic Mouse (see link). I had a huge Norwegian Forest Cat called Luther who loved Panic Mouse. He would finally collapse beside it and the wand would jam against his head and stop, eventually causing the battery to run down.

TSG and Kailua, thanks for the advice with the tape. I swear by Sticky Paws double-sided tape for furniture. It definitely stops the scratching, but it also leaves residue. You tend to apply it and forget it and then it's too late. Might try the painter's tape underneath. Since I'm trying to come up with something to protect the paint finish, I don't want the solution to muck it up.

Magnets -> trying harder. Yep. Who hasn't seen their cat at the sliding glass door, standing up, going paw-paw-paw, as some signal you're supposed to understand?

ERF, training your cat to open doors. You may rue the day, just sayin'.

Here is a link that might be useful: Panic Mouse

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 11:21AM
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Linelle, that youtube video is so cute!!! I had no idea cats were like that. I have two dogs who don't seem to be too curious. Lol...

Your kitty is so cute!!!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:11PM
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Linelle: Goo Gone does a tremendous job removing sticky adhesive. It has citrus in it (which I learned from this thread is bad for cats!), so you'd want to be careful using it around them, and obviously test it on your furniture, but it's pretty amazing at removing sticky adhesive, even old adhesive residue that's collected dust, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Goo Gone Spray Gel

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:18PM
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Linelle - and others ... he's an F1 hybrid Savannah. Scary smart, and very large. His father was an African Serval, mother was a domestic cat of some breed (I don't know what breed).

He is not good-tempered. We're rehabbing him slowly, but he is a rescue for disposition reasons.

And he just discovered how to get into the upper cabinet where we put the paper towels and shredded a roll of them, all over the kitchen. It's time to install toddler locks on them.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:27PM
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lazygardens, just read a bit about Savannahs. I had no idea about their breeding. Is this the cat equivalent of wolf-dog crosses? Sounds like their agility and jumping ability is something else, easily scaling an 8-ft. vertical leap. Do you have other cats or dogs?

I've already posted pics of what my small and seemingly angelic female cat can do to a roll of toilet paper. So far, they haven't turned their attention to the paper towels sitting exposed on the counter.

artichokey: Love Goo-Gone! I'm not so sure it's wise to use it on twill couches.

gr8day: I was just talking to one of the receptionists at my vet about cat personalities. If you don't have cats or aren't familiar with them, they can all seem pretty inscrutable. Underneath the similar shape and size lurks a unique personality and often a refreshing silliness.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:59PM
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I wondered if he was a Savannah. Since he's a first-gen cross, did you need a permit, lazygardens?

(I've never seen anything that can jump like a Savannah.)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:59PM
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>easily scaling an 8-ft. vertical leap

And they do it from just sitting there, which is what is so amazing. No crouching or getting ready. One minute they're sittin' around seemingly not planning anything at all, then wham! They're up by the ceiling.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 3:12PM
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Here is an idea I had forgotten. Get that plastic runner stuff that goes under area side has plastic spikes. Put that side up.

We had a cat who was after our speakers and it worked to keep him away. It also hurts if you step on it with your bare feet. But it might work for you if you put it down when you aren't in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 3:34PM
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NEVER have a cat declawed. It is very painful.

And I see someone else mentioned the carpet thing.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 3:39PM
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Good luck. I hope you find a solution soon. Do you sanitize the dishes before eating /cooking? I agree with the other poster who mentioned something about that. The cat crawling on my clean dishes/cookware would be more of an issue to me.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 3:53PM
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I do not sanitize my dishes before eating/cooking. I do wash them after eating and before putting them away. :)

Here's the thing. Zephyr likes to open cabinets and that seems to be his goal. These cabs contain casseroles, pots and pans and My Nightmare Blind Cabinet Of Chaos (mostly plastic containers and lids). My dishes are kept in upper cabs. He doesn't get into the casseroles or pans. He walks around stuff. Cats are like that, lots of finesse, not like a golden retriever loose in the cab. All he wants to do is open the door and then find some other mischief.

Cats live in my house. I have greater fears than if my cat stepped on a dish.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 4:39PM
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In Arizona, no permit required for him. In some states he'd be banned.

To get his size in perspective, the "kitten" that is fleeing in terror is a muscular adult female that weighs 9 pounds. She learned that his height can be used against him because she has a lower center of gravity. He can be taken down by bulldogging or clipping - she comes out of an ambush and either gets him by the head and rolls him over or hits him low and knocks his feet out from under him.

His best jumping trick is when Chaos, the small cat, is chasing him. He does a cartoon-style switch from running to a straight-up hop, she runs under him because she can't stop fast enough, and he lands behind her so he's chasing her. If I can ever get it on video, he's gonna be a YouTube star.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 8:43AM
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Catch "the hop" on video and he'll definitely be a star. When my cats switch chased-to-chaser, it merely involves doing a 180 on the hardwood, with lots of skidding. This is one time I'm grateful for the ability of oak grain to blend scratches.

What's his temperament like?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:43AM
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Declawing cats is extremely painful and reputable vets will no longer perform the amputations. The procedure is illegal in Europe due to the cruelty involved, and the risk of a cat escaping and being unable to defend itself. (A dear friend lost a cat to a neighbor's dog this way.)

Cat Stopper is a nice-smelling herbal based repellant. I use it inside occasionally, and outside to deter the neighbor's cat daily. I probably wouldn't put it on the doors without testing it first. But you might douse cotton balls and tie them to the door knobs until he associated the smell with the door?

There is a trick for orienting blind dogs to a new home in which you get a variety of those car air fresheners and put a different smelling one on each of your doorknobs to help the dog recognize the flow of the house. Obviously you couldn't leave them there forever, but a citrus smelling one on each knob might retrain your cat?

Bubble wrap! One of our guys LOVES bubble wrap. He'll sit and pop bubbles like a lunatic.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cat Stopper at

This post was edited by MizLizzie on Thu, Feb 14, 13 at 10:40

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 10:39AM
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Linelle - "What's his temperament like?"

Like a toddler, but way faster and with claws, and "grabby" and territorial - as in used to hop onto the kitchen counter where I was working and try to drive me off by hissing and swatting at me.

He was placed with us because his encounters with the prior owner's grandchildren were likely to end up in blood and tears - not because he's mean, but because he was very free with his claws and teeth if they had anything he wanted, and would mug them and take their toys. He needed a no-children home with calm adults who were willing to take some damage while civilizing him, and willing to keep him even if he was just eye candy with attitude forever.

He was unwilling to be touched by humans to the point that it took total anaesthesia for a vet exam. He's now enjoying some head scratching and stroking, and has learned to take greens from my hand without damaging the hand, but it's taken 2 years, bloodshed (mine), and some mood-altering drugs to get to this stage.

However, he's totally fond of Chaos ... sits on her and washes her face, makes a special chirpy noise when he sees her coming ... she's his little buddy, and has been since he saw her. Even while he was at his worst, it was gut-bustingly funny watching them playing.

His half-brother (same father) is far different - loves his owner, loves being petted, and just hops onto high places at the sight of her grandchildren - reportedly a total sweetheart of a cat. That's the risk with a F1 hybrid anything: sometimes you get the wild parts, sometimes you don't.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:38PM
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I just wanted to say beautiful cat. Good of you to take him on. I can see how he would need a lot of entertainment to keep him out of trouble.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:53PM
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LG, I think this is a real heroic thing you're doing, "taming" this guy. What's his name? How do you train him to not hiss at you and claw to claim your territory as his? Does he ever scare you?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:55PM
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Linelle -
His name is "Boojum", from the Lewis Carrol poem "The Hunting of the Snark". A boojum is an especially dangerous and rare variety of snark.

How do you train him to not hiss at you and claw to claim your territory as his? A combination of ignoring his drama and tantrums while making sure hands were out of the way or working in gloves (welder's gauntlets!) but not backing down, spray bottles of water when he absolutely had to be evicted, and slowly getting him used to the idea that detente and peaceful co-existence with 2-legged animals was a better way of life.

If he wanted a door opened, and he hissed and slapped at my hand when I reached for the knob, I walked away ... so he learned to not slap at hands that were opening doors. BTW, he's NEVER slapped at a hand that's holding a food dish.

We also stopped using "teasers", those feather on a string toys, because they encourage swatting with claws out. We use wine corks with feathers stuck in them and throw them. He's gone from trying to grab them out of my hand to waiting several feet away to catch them and play cork-soccer with me.

And drugs! Very much because of alcohol-free extract of valerian mixed in tuna, twice daily for several months at a relatively high dose. It's an "anxiolytic" and lowered his anxiety level to the point we could have some calm interactions, which made him less edgy around us, so we had even more good moments ... it built on itself after a while. We tapered off the dose after a few months, but he still needs it on windy days, because they make him very on edge and grumpy.

He's past not being hostile into being social - we have a cold house and one sunny spot on the bed where I read and he's welcome to sleep near me and the other cats. So he does.

Does he ever scare you? Of course! That's 16+ pounds of fanged fury there, should he care to use it. Like I said - if you don't have scars, you aren't rehabbing :)

Scares me less than he used to because he's learned we can take hints. He'll give a warning nip if I'm making him uncomfortable now, or a claw-free slap instead of sinking fangs into me or slashing me.

Servals hiss and growl to communicate far more than domestic cats do - his hiss can mean "Whassup, dude?" as well as "I'm going to rip your face off" as well as "I have dibs on this shelf!" He seems to like lying in wait and letting off a steam-engine hiss as someone walks by, just to see them jump.

Snarling at or near a door usually means "open this door for me" or "get out of my way, I'm coming through".

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 5:46PM
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lazygardens, when I saw your first picture I thought he was a serval! I have tried to take pictures of wild ones in Africa but I've only seen them at night and it's hard to get night pics. They are such beautiful cats. How far from "wild" is he?

linelle, your video is awesome! What a talented cat. :)

My daughter brought home a kitten about 9 months ago. I didn't care for cats but this one is growing on me. Even though I walked around with bloody legs for months from him 1) climbing my leg with his claws when I was sitting at the desk and 2) lying in wait for someone to walk by and attacking.

Now that I am reading about cats opening doors, I won't blame my husband for leaving the BR door unlatched the other night which allowed the cat to get in. I bet he opened it himself.

Hugh has some bad habits but opening cabinets isn't one of them. He does climb in the drawer where I have the printer and steps on the buttons and copies or scans.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:50PM
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LG, thanks so much for telling us about Boojum and how your relationship has evolved. Does he go outside, or would he make a beeline back to Africa, decimating the local wildlife on his way out?

The image of him lying in wait as a guest wanders innocently by, and then freaking them out with his huge hiss is hysterical. At least to someone sitting at the other end of the internet.

sundownr, all it takes is one cute kitten to win your heart. I disliked cats until I was about 30, or so I thought. One semi-feral cat turned me completely around. Now I'm a crazy cat lady.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:14PM
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sundownr - F1 hybrid, or half serval. His father is a serval, from several generations of semi-domesticated or house pet servals.

Linelle - He's house only, although he has escaped a few times, but the local wildlife scoffs at him. He may have the potential, but he doesn't have the practice it takes to catch anything. He comes back for food.

His main talent is terrorizing the local small dog population.

Because he can open the door between the garage and house from the inside, all we have to do is leave the main door open enough for him to get in, and shut it when we hear him - like a very large live trap.

And, to drag this thread back onto KITCHENS, here he is inspecting the contractor's prep work for a stove replacement.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:54PM
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I know this is a year old post, but ...

lazygardens, I don't know if you've seen this but I finally got a photo of a wild serval hunting in very tall grass.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 2:48PM
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That is an amazing shot. We have been helping to sponsor a serval in our local carnivore preservation. IIRC, he was rescued from a domestic situation. Just could not "domesticate" so he now runs wild at the shelter.

I would love to hear an update on Boojum if lazygardens is so inclined.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 3:23PM
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One night my cat was on the counter, trying to open the upper cabinet door. When she got it open, she reached in there and pulled out a live mouse! Once she got the mouse, she didn't do that again. So, maybe your cat hears something in there and wants to investigate. Declawing cats is inhumane. Even my vet doesn't like to do it. She recommended instead of declawing, getting some nail covers applied to the cats claws. They're called Soft Paws and they are soft plastic nail covers that the vet glues on the nail, the tips are not sharp so if she scratches they won't damage anything. They come in colors, my Holly wore pink or purple. Your vet will probably have them, and put them for you. They last a while, of course as the nail grows, they will come off and you'll need to trim the nails and replace with more soft paws. You can find them online, just google Soft Paws soft paws nail covers. I did learn how to apply them myself, but if your cat absolutely hates to have his paws and nails touched, best to let the vet do it. Holly lets me do about 2 nails at a time before she squirms, the vet will get them all done in 5 minutes. You can order them on line, but even if you have to get the vet to put them on, its still cheaper than replacing scratched up cabinets, they look adorable and its is a very humane way to stop the damage from scratching.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 5:29PM
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My only fool-proof solution to pet damage through the years has been to embrace it. With 3 cats and 4 dogs, I do a lot of embracing....

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 11:52AM
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Glad this post resurfaced. Love the video of Zephyr. I believe he is still opening cabinets? The horse story, good for a Sunday morning laugh.
Lazygardens, very interesting reading about Boojum. Would love an update.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 12:28PM
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