Raccoons Coming in through the Cat Door

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How to let cat go in and out but not raccoons?

Aug 2015

For two nights a raccoon has come in through the cat door (actually, large dog door we inherited with the house) to investigate the laundry room (where cat food is stored). Could we replace the large door with a very small cat door, or can raccoons squeeze down the way cats can? Or install a very bright light as a deterrent right outside the door, low down? Electronic doors are probably out because our cat is jumpy and unlikely to accept it.

All advice gratefully accepted!
cat lover, not raccoon lover

We had a raccoon visitor that repeatedly picked the magnet-activated catch on a cat-sized door to raid our cats' food, so I doubt you'll have much luck down-sizing or moving to the more basic locking mechanisms. Now that the raccoons know your menu. A Solo pet door solved the raccoon problem instantly and permanently (I reckon it's been eight years now...).

There was a learning curve for the cats, however. The cat that could never figure out how to get through a swinging flap was the first to go through the new door. The ''smartest'' of our three cats was terrified by the electronic action for the longest: it took her a solid week to acclimate to the noise. I remember coaxing the first cat through the door with food; I don't remember how the third cat finally acclimated, other than by hearing the noise often enough to get used to it, and, probably, by seeing her sisters go through.

Solo's doors aren't cheap (they start at $400) and the motors wear out (we replaced one at about $100). They're bulky too. They are made in Southern California, if that's any consolation. But boarding up your door (or boarding it up at night) would be a lot cheaper.

Raccoon fancier, so long as they're not mine!

Get a pet door from High Tech Pet. Super high quality pet doors, we have been thrilled with ours. Julia

Wow, I love this question! I've been waiting to share info on a contraption I "invented" a few years ago, for this very purpose! I chuckle about this, because I even was tempted to try to patent this crazy thing I built, and also felt so gratified by how well it worked . But in all seriousness, if you have a set-up for what I'm about to describe, it worked fool-proof for me, and it's actually super simple.

So, here's the constraint: you need a window-mounted cat door (very easy to buy / craft). If the window is low enough for the cat to jump up to, then you create a little shelf off the outside of the window sill, so the cat has somewhere to land before it enters the cat door. If the window is also low enough that a raccoon could pull itself into the cat door and/or shimmy up to the cat door, then that's where this contraption comes into play - you take the little shelf/landing that you made for the cat, and you add an approximately 6-8" "skirt" of moderately stiff metal (i.e. aluminum or something) and attach it to the perimeter of the landing. What this floppy metal "skirt" does is prohibits the raccoons from being able to grip the edge of the landing with their little hands (since they're climbers), but the cat is still able to jump up and land on the landing (since they're jumpers).

When I did this with a window-mounted cat door, the raccoons were permanently foiled. My cat could leap up and land on his landing, and easily enter the cat door... while the raccoons were left frustrated down on the ground unable to climb up and get in. 

The Raccoon-ifier

We've had the same problem. Our pet door is very small, but the raccoons have still been able to squeeze through. I read that raccoons don't like the scent of Irish Spring soap (neither do I), so I put bars on each side of the cat door. It's been working so far, though it may take your cat a bit of time to get used to the new smell.

I've also read that leaving talk radio on near the pet door will also deter raccoons, as it makes them think that someone is home. Good luck! Andy

You could leave food outside for the raccoon and hope it is enough. You could get a dog blanket or collar from a friend and hang it over the cat door. Best solution is to get a smaller cat door activated by a magnetic collar so only your cat comes in. I have had raccoons, other cats, and even a skunk in my house all because the cat food bowl is near the cat door. Remove the food at sundown so there is no reward just inside the cat door. I also got a programmable feeder for the back porch that feeds the outdoor cats 3 times a day and closes down meals at 5 p.m.. Raccoons will clean up any leftovers. Cats live in houses in the yard where there is no food. I did have a raccoon try to break into one of the electric cat doors and snap the door in half when food was inside. If they are hungry and smell food they will try to get it!!! cat and coon lover

I admire the calm time of your post. My knees were shaking just reading it. I think I would seal up that door and only let my cat out during the day for the time being. I hope you get good advice. Raccoons, *shudder*

We had racoons lift up the magnetic cat door (it didn't block exit, only entrance into the house so their little claws could open it from the outside) and found them in our office banging the cat food dish against the wall early one morning a few years ago. We used the Cat Mate Elite Super Selective Cat Flap (http://www.petsmart.com/cat/crates-gates-containment/cat-mate-elite-super-selective-cat-flap-zid36-5375/cat-36-catid-200012?var_id=36-5375&_t=pfm%3Dcategory) after that for a couple years until we remodeled and were able to put in a PX-1 power pet door medium from Hi Tech Pet (http://www.hitecpet.com/petdoors.html#power-pet-doors3). We didn't have any more issues with racoons with either of those doors. It looks like the Pet Mate/Cat Mate people have a microchip cat flap that uses your cat's microchip to know if it can come in/out.

The Pet Mate door was really loud and we had to leave it propped open until our cat would ignore the noise of the prongs dropping to allow the door to open. The HTP door still makes a noise, but it's not near as loud as the PM door and our cat figured it out without any trouble. Jennifer

Just a few weeks ago we replaced a large dog door (''inherited'' like yours) with a small cat door in an effort to keep raccoons out of our laundry room and away from the cat food. Last night I went to put laundry in the dryer, and heard a critter exit as I came down the stairs. As I was putting the laundry in the dryer, the raccoon came back in, looked right at me, then sauntered over to the cat food and started eating. I stomped and yelled, so it left... then came back in 30 seconds later and kept eating. I yelled again and threw stuff, but the raccoon clearly didn't think much of my aim... it ducked out through the door, then came right back in and kept eating. So a cat door might keep out the larger raccoons, but small to medium raccoons will have no trouble with it. You can get a pet door that latches, and there are some pet doors where the pet wears a magnetic ''key'' on its collar. Maybe that will be my next step, but honestly the raccoons are so smart and so determined that they would probably find a way to jimmy the lock. Losing the Battle

Raccoons are thwarting cat door lock by pulling flap outwards

Jan 2008

Raccoons have been invading our basement, coming through our simple cat door w/ flap and eating all their food. We decided to take action. After some online research, we installed a magnetic cat door by Cat Mate and our cats wear magnetic key collars which ''unlock'' the door. Problem is these pesky (and very smart) raccoons have a lot of dexterity with those little hands and have figured out how to lift the door toward them and go in rather than pushing it in. Has anyone else had this problem and/or know of a solution? They come every night, it's disgusting and dirty and they clear out all the food and water. If we lock our cats in at night they get very upset and go #2 on the floor instead of box. alexandra

I have absolutely had that problem, and not only can they lift the door to get in, they can't just run right back out again when they're caught, so they freak out and run into different parts of the house. Once I had one sit on my pillow ON MY BED and hiss at me, while drooling.

Try putting a radio, tuned to talk radio right next to the door. They'll think somebody is in there and not want to come in. This may or may not work, we started doing it this summer but then suddenly they all disappeared from the neighborhood, so I can't be 100% sure that it was our fix. Otherwise, get a dog. Seriously. With a dog on the other side of that door, no raccoon will want to come through it. Unfortunately those are your only options. We've been dealing with this for the 7+ years we've lived in this house and I've never found a solution that I know works. Sorry.... Jill

Racoons are aggressive and territorial and carry rabies. Even ones that do not could injure your cats. You should either put up with the whining cats at night, locked inside, or lock down the cat door at night, and put your own cats outside. I suspect that the outside of your cats and house will seem much less interesting to the racoons if no food is available.

Unless you get the racoons out of your house, by any means necessary, you will end up with a horrible emergency vet appointment sometime soon. I had this problem and my vet told me in no unclear terms to take this as a very serious danger to my cats. Anon

After having many racoon ''break ins'' over the years with my family and my clients, I have devised a way to keep those guys out of the building: Racoons cannot leap, they can only climb. Cats, on the other hand can leap quite high. By placing the cat door above the reach of the racoons and giving your cats a platform to land on in front of the raised cat door, you have solved the problem! It also keeps skunks at bay. It takes a bit of time for the cats to figure out the new set up but most of the time they get it pretty quickly. I have installed this arrangement several times with great success. If you're interested in more details, let me know. Erich Hayner handyworks [at] pacbell.net

How about locking the cats outside with a safe box of some kind to sleep in? OR not leaving any food out for them during the night inside (wherever the raccoons are coming in). They certainly won't starve from 8 hours without food. I know how awful this is, raccoons are scary and WAY too smart. Not a fan of raccoons

My magnetic cat door worked like a charm for years, but all of a sudden, I'm in the same boat you are. Some day, I'll get around to buying the really expensive ($350?), truly raccoon- proof door previously recommended by many parents in this newsletter. Until I do, though, I've found an easy way to keep the raccoons out -- just take the cat food and water bowls away at night. I put them in another room right before I go to bed. Once the raccoons figured out that there's no food there at night, they stopped coming in. Our cat somehow survives without food until dawn. When I wake up, I present the food and water to a very appreciative cat. Janet

We used to have the same problem. We had to close the cat door and let the cats in thru the doorway for a while. We had a baby possum living in the garage for a little while before I discovered a really wierd looking poop (and discovered where the smell was coming from)

Now we have 3 dogs...I never see raccoons, possums, skunks, etc...so far. I say, close the kitty door for a while. anon

We had a similar problem in the Thousand Oaks area. The raccoons just busted through the magnetic cat door. After many nights screaming down the hall after them with a broom (they actually started coming up into our bedroom area where the kids were...eek!), I set up a Hava Heart trap baited with peanut butter. The first night they pulled out the peanut butter without setting off the trap, but the next night I got one and that was the last they came back. Now, the question becomes ''what to do with a very angry, growling, stinking raccoon. Animal Control would not take it and said that law prohibits release farther than 1 mile from the capture site. (So of course, it will find its way back). I couldn't bear to ''off'' it, didn't want it to come back, and did the no- no....released it in Tilden. That's why I am signed as... Anon.

We have had the same problem with several raccoons. The link to the BPN website section on this issue has a ton of really good suggestions. Here's an additional one that wasn't mentioned: Consider setting your cat door to out-only at night, if your door has such a setting. Ours does and basically our cat has learned that if she wants to take off in the middle of the night, she's not getting back in until we wake up. On our magnetic lock cat door the out-only setting raises a tall, immobile latch up on the inner part of the door. It's not possible for the racoons to pick the magnetic lock with this additional ''deadbolt'' in place. Another technique is to humane trap and relocate the raccoon. We've done this twice. More come to take their place, but it gives you some relief. Raccoon Catcher

We had this exact problem a few years back and found a solution that the raccoons did not defeat. (We had some clever raccoons, too - they defeated the magnetic cat door on the first night!) We put the cat door about four feet off the ground and put a small shelf on either side. Our cat could jump up to the platform, go through the cat door to the other platform, then jump down. Apparently raccoons don't like to jump. Pamela

Years, ago had the same problem of raccoons coming in through our dog door in the evening (having dogs doesn't get rid of raccoon invasions). After doing an on-line search and posting on BPN, we decided to try the advice one BPN member suggested, which was to install a radio by the dog door and tune it to a talk radio station. We were a bit skeptical, but it works great! The only times we've had raccoon invasions is when we have forgotten to turn on the clock-radio for an extended period of time.

We also replaced our dog door with one that can lock when we're out of town. This has also been a great raccoon deterrant. We tried the magnetic locking dog door, but our dogs kept losing the ''key.''

Good luck! jewelzie

Raccoons are coming in to eat the cat's food

Was awakened at 5:00 this morning by those pretty little gurgling sounds that raccoons make except that one of two raccoons was in the kitchen eating the cat food - had gotten in through the cat door - another one was waiting (to come in?) outside the kitchen door. I don't want to close off the cat door at night. Would it be enough to lock up the cat food at night or are they now going to be coming in and trying to get into the cabinets? Help! I'm sure there are plenty of folks who have dealt with this around here so would appreciate any suggestions. Joan

Lock your cat door! we have had this problem in SF and Oakland. They will keep coming inside even if you put the cat food away. Sometimes they're looking for water. Sometimes, who knows what they're looking for. If you lock you cat door at night for a few months, they'll give up and move on...but another family might come so I would recommend locking it every night. It has worked for us. Hope that helps. Molly

We would get raccoons coming in our kitty door into the garage/office to eat the cat food. They're very brazen. We started keeping our cat in at night and closing off the cat door. It worked. The cat quickly learned he couldn't go out at night. There were never any accidents. We now have 2, 8 month old kittens and when we started letting them out and took away the cat box we did the same thing because the raccoon started coming in again if we left the kitty door open. Unfortunately I don't think putting the food away will do the trick. Also if your cat/s get into a tussle with the raccoons it's a pretty sure bet the raccoon will win. You might reconsider your wanting to keep the kitty door open all night. Good luck. June

Raccoons appear cute but the reality is they can harbor some pretty bad diseases and can tear a pet to shreds or bite you or your child very badly. Raccoons rely on garbage and pet food much as rats do. We have had awful problems in my area for years because people don't control garbage well. Raccoons will rip apart a garden, cracking branches and tearing up and breaking everything while looking for grubs, also.

If I were you, I would for sure close the pet door (get your cats an indoor litter box for a while) until the raccoons lose interest and you are rid of them. And then don't leave pet food, or any food, out overnight, even inside. If the problems persists you may be able to get help from the city vector control. Christine

We have had really bad experiences with Raccoons in our house. They started coming in the dog door and ended up tearing the shingles off of the sides of our house in several places and nesting and having babies in our attic. We eventually had to pay to have someone get rid of them and hire a carpenter to repair the house. So... my advice to you is lock up the kitchen and leave the cats in for a while until the Raccoons find somewhere else to get their dinner. They are incredibly clever, strong and can be aggressive. Don't encourage them. Unfortunately, urban life has robbed them of their native habitat. Ellen

This is a reply to the writer with raccoons in the kitchen. We also had raccoons who came in through the cat door. Not only did they eat the cats' food, but they played with our son's stuffed animals. We didn't know why the stuffed animals started losing noses and ears until the middle of one night when we were awakened to the sound of Tickle Me Elmo laughing his little head off. Upon investigating we found Elmo stuck in the cat door unable to stop laughing and vibrating. The raccoons had abandoned him when they couldn't squeeze him through the door. Elmo's mishap started explaining a lot of strange toy problems in our house. The only thing that worked for us was to get a locking cat door, and lock it at night. Locking up the food, or moving it away from the door just encouraged the raccoons to explore further into the house.

At another house where neighborhood cats made unwelcome forays through our cat door, we installed a cat door that responded to electronic sensors on the cats' collars. This was a great solution in that it let in wanted pets and kept out unwelcome critters, except that one of our three cats could not adjust to using the high tech approach. If your cats are young, I'd recommend trying it. Good luck. Claudia

Regarding the problem with racoons - my parents had this problem and tried everything, including the electronic cat door that opened with a signal from the cats' collars. Unfortunately, their racoons were able to push through the door! What they finally did was to put a small battery-operated radio near the cat door, tuned to an all-talk station. The racoons hear the voices and think there are people around. It worked! Kathy

We have occasional raccoon visits too. A friend with a perennial problem of the raccoons getting in the cat door even during the day said it helped to put a radio tuned to a talk station near the cat door -- the raccoons thought people were in the house and didn't come in. I have the kind of cat door that opens with magnets the cats wear on their collars. Really aggressive raccoons can still pick the door open with their claws, but it does deter them, and when they occasionally try to come in at night, they make such a racket I can get up and shine flashlights at them (not to mention shouting and throwing things!).

I'm writing to reinforce the comments of some other responses to this question. Do not allow wild animals to get into your house. They are destructive, they carry diseases and (especially raccoons) can injure and even kill small pets (like your cats). Also, they can be incredibly nasty if you have to confront one to get it out of your house. Raccoons are awfully cute at a distance, and vicious close up. Imagine trying to get an enormous, angry, feral cat out of your house--that's almost how scary a raccoon would be. Keep your pets in at night if raccoons are in your neighborhood and lock that cat door. Louise

We have struggled with generations of raccoons coming in our cat door. Our house is along side a creek and our raccoons are very, very smart. They have figured out everything from how to open a smart pet door (with magnetic lock) to opening the refrigerator and taking out a ten pound sack of potatoes and then proceeding to open the bag and take the potatoes out the cat door one at a time.

Having tried many different deterrents over the years to no avail, I have recently discovered a miracle (for me.) -- Citrus orange spray -- I spray around the cat door and on the doorway and steps leading to the cat door. The raccoons hate the smell of it, but the cats don't mind it at all. It is also just natural orange oils and non-toxic. I haven't had one raccoon come inside since I started doing this (spraying about every three or four days seems to work.)

Hope this might help someone. Wish I'd figured it out thirty years ago. Bree

Raccoons figured out how to open magnetic latch

Oct 2001

Since there seems to be a lot of raccoon postings of late, I have a query of my own. As an alternative to Ferberizing our cat, we got one of those magnetic collar cat doors -- kitty wears a collar with a magnet, which activates the latch on the cat door, so that only he can go in or out through the door. Unfortunately the raccoons, crafty little buggers, have figured out how to get in anyway, just by reaching their claws through the weatherproofing and depressing the latch. After many exciting nightime raccoon visits, we're locking the cat door at night and once again being woken up by kitty at night. My question -- is there any solution? Any cat door that is raccoon proof? Help! DS

I can't offer any long term solutions since those raccoons seem to be able to figure it all out. One thing that did work for us for several months though was to put a radio near the pet door (on the inside) that played talk radio. We also have a motion-activated light near the door. These two things together worked for several months and then the raccoons figured it out again :-( Im hoping someone has a good sol'n! Lisa

We had this problem periodically and have one of those clear soft plastic cat doors. We solved the problem by putting away the cat food at night and making sure that there was nothing out in the kitchen that the raccoons could smell. We keep the cat food bags far away from the kitchen where they can't smell them either. Their olfactory sense is amazing!!! The few times we forgot to put the food away, they were right back in there. Otherwise, if they don't smell anything, they don't bother to come in, even though I know they've been visiting the backyard as evidenced by digging and dirty water dishes. Putting away all food was a very simple and effective solution for us.

Our solution was to put kitty out at night and lock the kitty door. One kitty likes to sleep inside and doesn't bug us to go out at 2 AM. The other one always wants to go out at some unGodly hour so we just put him out when we go to bed... like it or not!! Those raccoons are very crafty and clever. They have to be to live in a world with humans. Good luck. June

To give the kitty in/out access and keep the raccoons out, put the cat door at a higher level. I used a ramp (wide enough for kitty but too narrow for the coons) to a back hall window which was 4 to 5 feet above the ground. The kitty came and went freely and no more raccoons! Ana

I just want to add to the racoon discussion. We live in Menlo Park and have racoon problems like you Berkeley people do.

First, thanks for the info about how to deter racoons from tearing up sod. Your discussion has saved me a lot of work. I searched with Google for nightime sod digging and came right to your discussion. Mystery solved - it must be racoon(s) and now we have a few options.

Second, another reason to lock the cat door at night to discourage racoons from entering your house is to give your cat peace of mind. Our cat is a calico who is easily startled. When we started locking the cat door the cat became more much more relaxed. I had no idea of the psychological damage the invading racoons were doing to the cat. We let the cat out in the daytime and she usually comes in when we call around 9pm. It seems better for her, too because she would get into fights at night, and that has stopped. Thanks again! Ann (Sept 2004)