Independent Cat

When Mrs. Cog and daughter joined me in life several years ago they brought along a third member of the gang: Tramp, a 18-20 lb 'personality plus' Maine Coon Cat who was King of the Castle. Tramp was always an indoor cat, had been since birth, which of course meant a litter box always needed tending too. That was not my area.   :-)

I always told Mrs. Cog that Tramp would be happier if he had access to the outdoors. About 20 years ago I also had a cat that was originally an indoor cat, and which I transitioned to outdoors. He seemed happier after I had done so. However I suspect Mrs. Cog just thought I was running propaganda on her in order to 'lose' the cat accidentally on purpose. "I love you honey, but don't mess with my cat."

One day the cat got loose (nope, not me) and Mrs. Cog was beside herself with worry, concerned that all manner of horror would befall 'our' cat. I tried to reassure her, carefully explaining that Tramp was no fool and knew where his supper dish was. Not sufficiently consoled, Mrs. Cog and child unit scoured the neighborhood looking for Tramp sign to no avail.

Two hours later both Mrs. Cog and child, tired and exhausted from the fruitless search,  sat in the family room with me as we discussed how Tramp would eventually show up. Seemingly as if he had just heard his name, or more likely feeling hunger pains, Tramp suddenly appeared at the sliding glass door none the worse for wear and hungry, demanding he be fed after his long journey.

Soon enough Tramp began his metamorphosis from indoor feline to outdoor killer. I immediately began a cat training regime after promising Mrs. Cog that I would be rigorous in my duties and would never let Tramp out of my sight. And for months on end I faithfully fulfilled my duties, staying camped at the sliding glass door, either inside or out, while Tramp explored his new universe, a fenced in area that measured 22 x 25 feet. Unfortunately the litter box remained inside.

Of course the cat was not whom I was actually training. It was Mrs. Cog that was being conditioned to the idea that her admittedly cute cat might just survive, and thrive, outdoors. Of course several times over those months Tramp would 'escape", only to faithfully return to his food dish. I love it when a plan comes together.

It was about this time that the decision was made to move family and possessions to our new log cabin in the mountains. Since we would be living off a dirt road off a dirt road off a back road in the middle of nowhere, Mrs. Cog wasn't worried about cars hitting Tramp or nasty neighbors scooping him up to be eaten. I didn't initially tell her that the lions, tigers and bears......well, the bobcats, possums and bears might just be a greater hazard to Tramp. Baby steps.

One thing we all agreed upon was to remove the littler box once we moved to the mountains and let Tramp do his do-do with the bears and bobcats. Needless to say Tramp has taken to the mountain with joy in his heart and lots of dead prey plopped on our front door step. One must now look carefully when we first open the front door to step out.

Tramp sprawled- CleanThat is one fat cat.

Since moving here I have wanted to install a cat door to allow Tramp independence when coming and going. But the front door has a screen door, preventing the installation of a cat door in the main door unless we want to cut a huge hole in the screen door, rendering the screen door useless as a 'screen'.

And both rear doors are sliding glass doors, which eliminates a traditional cat door installation. I have seen those special cat door units that fit into the sliding glass door and I don't like them at all. They prevent the slider from being properly locked.

So for the last 9 months we have been opening doors to let the cat come and go as he needed. We quickly settled into a routine where Mrs. Cog, a sound sleeper by nature, would not be disturbed when Tramp insisted on answering nature's call at 4 AM. I on the other hand, being a light sleeper by habit, would of course  awaken when Tramp bitterly complained and let him out, thus cementing my own personal cat conditioning.

While dogs may have owners, cats have staff. And I was his number one staff member. I really hate the fact that I have bonded so tightly with Tramp that he now has me wrapped around his finger.

It was Mrs. Cog who actually saved me from myself when she suggested I install a cat door in the office window, which looks out upon natures beauty and the back deck. Recognizing brilliance when I see and hear it, I immediately scoured the Interwebby thingy for cat doors.

I needed a large door for our very large Tramp, but I also needed some kind of locking mechanism to prevent unwanted critters from helping themselves to our cat door. I told Mrs. Cog I did not wish to wake up at 3 AM and find myself nose to nose with the local wildlife who had entered via the cat door. She enthusiastically agreed after a mental image of waking up to a possum on her bed sent chills through her spine.

I settled on a magnet triggered cat door that quickly responds to Tramp approaching the door from the outside. The magnet hangs from his collar and unlocks the door when Tramp pushes his head against the door from the outside. Let's just hope the local wildlife don't have magnetic personalities or we are all in trouble.

Installation consisted of cutting a piece of plywood to fit the window opening, then cutting an opening for the cat door itself. After priming and painting the outside I installed the door, then placed the entire mechanism in the window opening.

I jammed a piece of wood between the raised window and the header to prevent someone from simply lifting the window some more, removing the plywood and waltzing in. It's not perfect, but when you think about it, locks just keep the honest people honest. The crooks are going to find a way in regardless of what home security you and I have.

Cat Door Inside Clean

I screwed down a small piece of left over plywood to give Tramp a perch to exit from and a landing when entering. The picture doesn't show the slight modification I made. Basically I turned the plywood around and the long side is now hanging off the window sill. Essentially Tramp now has a diving board and a place to sit that he can call his own where he can look out the cat door and watch the world go by.

This still left the problem of the large drop off between the cat door and the deck outside. Tramp needed a place to jump up on, then attempt to enter. I wracked my brain for a day thinking about stools, steps and so on until it occurred to me while feeding the Heatmaster 5000 water wood stove that a few logs placed on end as a landing would blend perfectly with the log home. Sometimes the answer is obvious and we just need to find our way there.

Cat Door Exterior Clean

The only remaining hurdle left was Tramp training. I figured it would be about 5 or 6 days until Tramp felt at home using the new door when when Mother Nature called and he wanted to exit stage right.

For the first few days, whenever Tramp indicated to me that he wanted to leave, usually signaled by his location near the front door as he screamed at anyone within ear shot. I would grab him up, place him on the perch, then gently push his head against the cat door to push it open.

When he would show up at the front door or rear slider demanding entry I would sneak outside, grab him, place him on the logs and then gently push his head against the door to open it. Obviously I absorbed the training quicker than Tramp did.

The first time Tramp used the door to enter the house on his own we were both in the office and loudly praised Tramp for a job well done. It was almost as if we were potty training a very young child. Actually we were.

Tramp now comes and goes as he sees fit. And the last few days have been a blessing since I have not been woken by Tramp's demanding cries to be let out. Of course I still wake up around 4 AM. I suspect it will take me several months to break my own conditioning.  :)

11 thoughts on “Independent Cat”

  1. You are really nice people, and I don’t enjoy raining on anybody’s parade…BUT!
    a word of warning…I have been preforming as “Staff-for-Cats” for almost 60 years…all have been the indoor-outdoor type.
    After getting married to an “only-outside-dog” type person, I had 2 cats and a wife not properly trained in the “Open-the-Door” mode of operation…I put in a pet-door…beautiful job…in the wall…would show picture but used 35mm back then.
    Do you remember the part about “Look before you step out the front door”? Well it seems that Egyptian Gods (cats) figure out that it is better to bring their “Gifts-to-Staff” thru the “New-Anytime-Door”…after all, you did provide it!
    I have never had a Maine Coon Cat…but several Tabby Types with similar markings…Maine Coon Cats hopefully have a more “Killer” instinct…my cats at the time felt that “gifts” would bring me more pleasure if still alive! When the “live” snake was presented to me…it went right under the book case (yes, the one with 800lbs of books on it!)
    It is a good thing that I start my day between 4am and 5am…it pleases the “Egyptian Gods”LOL
    Your website is addicting…it is past my bedtime…in 7 hours, I have to let the cat out!

    1. I think Mrs. Cog would divorce me if Tramp left a live ‘gift’ on the bed for us to wake to. Last summer he left only (recently) dead items at the front door step. I expect we may have to rethink the door thingy if gifts do appear at 4 AM. Lock the door overnight or whatever.

      My biggest concern was the local bobcats letting themselves in while we slept or were out of the house…..or even when we were in. The cat door is activated by a magnet on Tramps collar from the outside. No other animal can get in unless they have the magnet or they bust through the door.

      I shall keep everyone informed as things develop.

      Cognitive Dissonance

  2. I used to think of dogs as property(“dogs may have owners”), but now I see them as loyal companions on a mutual journey. My only complaint is that their life span is much too short.

    Just my .02

    1. When I was younger and had no experience with animals I was always perplexed by how attached people became to their cats and dogs. Then I became a cat owner…..or actually I became owned by a cat. I was astonished by how large a part of my life he quickly became. Once he had be hooked he took pity on me and wasn’t too demanding.

      Cognitive Dissonance

  3. RE: the cat bringing in “live” gifts — my mother had same problem after installing her cat door. Field mice and birds generally. She did take the precaution of locking the cat door when she went to sleep and unlocking it when she woke up so as to guard against being startled awake be a wounded mouse “gift.” We have primarily-indoor cats that we let out on our schedule, but fortunately they don’t cry to be let out at 4AM. You have to take the good with the bad, I guess!

  4. The downside to locking the critter out is that they have learned about the door and if something is “after-them”, dog…bobcat…coyote, they are liable to head for “Home” Hitting a locked door at full speed is not a good thing., especially if the “Grim Reaper ” is right behind you.
    I don’t know about the magnetic thingy and how fast they work…you may want to scratch ol’ Tramp behind the ears and push him thru at various speeds to establish reaction times…could be a good “science project” if there are any kids on the mountain!
    Have had close to 2 dozen cats in my life…everyone unique…but none were ever thoughtful enough to “serve-me-breakfast-in-bed”
    Usually just drop things off on the floor and head for the processed food bowl {wonder what they put in that stuff}
    I hope that when you said,”Mrs. Cog would divorce me…” that it was just a figure of speech. Ya’ll strike me as a couple that has a relationship that could withstand a dead rodent or two. But I have seen some strange and fickle things in my time…
    {Psstt…Hey Mr. Cog…if that were to happen, I really think you could win her back with a couple of goats} LOL! :-)

    1. The magnet thingy works very fast. He would have to be running full speed at the door for it not to activate. Because he has to make a right or left turn after jumping onto the logs outside and below the door (see the pictures) he has to slow down. There is no route he could take that is directly towards the cat door. The walkway part connecting the two main decks is only 3 feet wide here where the cat door is.

      If he has the grim reaper after him I wish him luck. But he seems to be physically bigger than the local bobcats so I wonder who would freak out whom. The previous owner had a bear on the back deck who tried to get in the same window the cat door is now inserted into. I wonder if bears eat cats?

      Tramp likes to play with his food first. It’s only when it stops moving that he loses interest, so I don’t really expect anything alive to be brought in. But who knows?

      It would take more than a live critter thingy in her bed to force a divorce. At least I hope so. :)

      BTW I have no real problem with goats. I have a problem with people here in the house who think of them as pets and not livestock that need medical care, fences, shelter, room to roam, fences, attention, fences and when the time comes, to be put down. It is a responsibility neither mother nor daughter have fully thought through, especially daughter. The other day the daughter asked if we could get a few cows in the same voice she uses when she asks for more cats. I can just see the child unit shoveling cow manure. Riiiiiiight………….

      Cognitive Dissonance

  5. Thanks for the details…I feel better:-)
    All though I believe your Tramp was originally bred to deal with very large & vicious “wharf rats”, just like people, they do tend to slow down with age…Hickory, my current furry four footed friend has retired from “varmint duty”. She will be turning 15 years old in a few days, but earned her keep in her first year. We had a mole problem that actually made it tricky and dangerous to walk in the back yard, and had tried everything for 4 years only to see the situation get worse! Although we had 2 cats at the time that did a lot of gaming, neither seemed to have a taste for moles. In one summer Hickory totally eradicated the moles! have not seen one in 14 years. Part of her retirement plan is a perpetual door opening staff :-)

    Learning to be “responsible” for pets &/or livestock is a big thing and a tuff lesson to learn. One of the the most potent & endearing life lessons that I ever had came from “Inheriting” a salt water aquarium. You talk about being put in the “god” roll! Talk about upkeep and how sensitive everything was to everything…I became extremely environmentally aware from it.

    I myself believe that livestock can be pets and pets can be live stock but we need to take as much care as we would with another human, a look around the planet will show you that this is a weak point in both cases.

    Don’t know what your resource materials are …3 good {my opinion}magazines are: “Countryside & Small Stock Journal”, Mother Earth News” the first leans more to livestock, name says it all but they do have a lot of non-livestock articles. “Mother” is more “Urban” these days but have some great archives! But if I could only pick one…it would be,”Backwoods Home Magazine”…You and Mrs. Cog can “Ask Jackie” any damn thing and get a down home straight answer! Life Lesson Alert here!! Write a letter[Snail Mail] and read answer 1 to 2 months later in mag! I think I hear “Slow down, you move too fast” on the radio in the background :-) You can get their entire archive I think on disk…and no home Library would be complete without a complete set of the “Fox Fire” Books {North Georgia Education at its Finest!}

    If your carbon based child unit would like a carbon based cow unit, might see if there is a local 4-H club around to make it happen in a good way.

    FYI: the other day day I went by to see my client “THE VET” on my monthly rounds, but was not there because she had to go home to take care of a sick goat! on the other hand, I live off the Eggs that I get from her!!

  6. Main Coons are THE BEST! I’ve had many, many felines in my life, but ‘Mika’ the Maine Coon was the most memorable. WHAT a personality – and I’m sure your guy is the same. Mika weighed in at over 22+ lbs and was a heave to pick up. He had feet like snowshoes, loved frolicking thru drifts in the midst of snowstorms, was Mr. Mellow in temperament and a lethal hunter. He lived to 22 years young, was beloved to the end, and still holds main sway in my pet memories. The current fur-bags are also exceptional . . . but not the lumpulous arm-ful that he was. Current cats: Tin, the imported African spotted wild cat/siamese cross from Cape Town, RSA, now joined by CleoCatra, the huge, wild feral cat-turned-lap-hugger we rescued from furtive foraging 7 months ago when we moved to our current domicile/rural retreat – the one with the deer fencing, etc. The import is an insider; the lap hugger is the outsider/hunter/free spirit . . . so far. But she’s casting longing glances at the kitchen door, so who knows what will transpire – perhaps even our very own magnet-driven cat contraption. It’s great that your furry guy has the best of both worlds. Give him a pet from me!

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