The Intruder Cat
updated: Sep 07, 2013, 2:00 PM
By Amanda Frost
Last year I wrote to Edhat about problems with an intruder cat that was menacing our cats in our home
in France. The problem was the cat door, which allows our cats to come and go but which also tempts
neighbor cats, ones with bad manners. We finally found the solution, naturally the most expensive
solution, but the only one that guaranteed our cats' safety in their home.
Trolling the internet last year, I found an ad for an electronic cat door that restricts access to a cat with
a chip on its collar. But the cat collar wasn't possible for us because neither of our cats has ever been
collared, and since we aren't in residence half the year we couldn't make sure a collar (if tolerated)
would be safe. Not to mention the problem of a lost collar and a poor cat refused entry to its own
house. Then a company in England put an electronic cat door on the market with the capacity to
recognize a chip implanted in the cat. Bingo! A mere ninety-euro (ca. $120) beginning.
Then the fun began: Our cats were not chipped. So we made appointments with our vet. Our
domesticated female howled down the car but behaved fairly well during the five-second procedure.
The other cat, however, is a formerly feral creature, now pretty tame except for her refusal to be picked
up. So we tranquillized her and once she was staggering around the house I tried to put her in the
carrier. Nothing doing! Fight-and-flight responses apparently are never tranquillized. Finally we threw a
towel over her and rolled the whole bundle into the carrier. And guess what? Houdini got out of the
carrier in the car! At least she was tranquil enough not to throw herself at the windows or the driver.
Once we arrived at the vet's, she climbed onto the dashboard so we just opened the carrier on the dark
floor below her and tipped her in. In the end the vet had to anesthetize her just to get her to hold still
for five seconds. Bill for two cat chips: 130 euros (ca. $170), including anesthesia. (N.B.: veterinarians
make more than M.D.s in France.)
If cats were adaptable and reasonable, the story would be over. The new door was only a centimeter
different in size from the old one, so we didn't figure that would make an impact. Wrong. Happily, the
door came with precise instructions for "reluctant" cats, so the company obviously knew "persuasion"
would be necessary. First, we installed the door (the cats hated it and backed up) and then we taped the
flap open, so in principle the cats could come and go with no effort. They hated that too, but the lure of
food and our bed worked some magic. After a week, we untaped the flap, so the cats had to push their
way in (as they had been doing for years); we did not turn on the electronic function. The cats still hated
the door, but they reluctantly pushed their way in when they couldn't beg anyone to open the door. This
stage lasted three weeks. (We continued to feel guilty.)
Then we decided to take a little trip. Time for electronics. We set the door in memory mode and waited
for the cats to pass through so their chips would be memorized. Strangely, the formerly feral cat,
Garance, adapted quickly, despite the small "click" that sounds as the chip is recognized and the door is
unblocked (a little plastic stop goes down). Haley, the grown-up baby of the family, made valiant efforts
to avoid the door. All day she sat on the terrace, looking plaintively from varying distances at the Evil
Door. A couple of times she managed to put her head into the opening only to hear the click and spring
backward as if she'd received a shock. Finally, as it got dark, she came in--as if pursued by a werewolf.
By week's end both cats were using the door, but they made it clear that they held us responsible for
this vile trick.
We took our little trip. The cats used the door. No neighbor cat came in to leave "deposits." We were
greeted cheerfully on our return. That was perhaps the most surprising effect: no hard feelings! We had
expected the "wild" cat to be terrified of us after the eventful trip to the vet, but in fact she crawled into
my lap right away and purred; that night she slept next to me all night (not her usual M.O.).
Since we've been back in Santa Barbara our house sitter reports that the cats seem content and the
house is unsullied. All's well that ends well...but we keep our fingers crossed.
Haley & Garance, boycotting the door
Garance, the "wild" cat
Pitiful Haley at the door
Ray, the Intruder
29 comments on this article. Read/Add
# # # #