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How to choose the best cat gate for your feline friend

Cat leaning against a metal gate
Cunlea Ju/Unsplash

If you share a household with a tiny human, odds are you’ve heard of a baby gate. But what about pet gates? Is it possible to corral our furry friends into (or out of) regions of the home? Doesn’t a baby gate works just as well? After all, who’s ever heard of cat gates? It turns out they do exist — in a few forms.

Types of cat gates

When choosing to invest in a cat gate, skip the baby-gate aisle. Baby gates have tiny humans in mind — not animals. They lack the sturdy construction and design cats and dogs require. Your best bet is to hit the pet store and source a pet gate.

Pet gates, in general, come in three types:

  • Freestanding: You can move these gates around and set them up in different configurations. You don’t have to use screws or anchors to adhere them to the walls. Some come with walk-through gates, and some don’t.
  • Pressure-mounted: As you might guess, pressure-mounted gates extend between doorways or halls and stay in place with tension. They’re a little more restricted, and you have to step over them.
  • Hardware-mounted: Hopefully, you own the property. These are permanent gates that stay where you place them. You can find walk-through gate options, or you can find some without. Choose your placement carefully before you start drilling.

Why you might need a cat gate

At first, the notion of a cat gate might sound strange. Cats go wherever they want. It isn’t uncommon with their inquisitive nature to find your feline friend on top of bookshelves, exploring the space above the fridge, and even searching the cabinets. Do you always want them in those places, though? Not so much.

Cat gates may not always prevent the most athletic cats from their explorations, but they help define strict borders within the house. As your cat encounters the new obstacle, they’ll pause and consider why the doorway or stairs are blocked. Intelligent kitty minds go to work, and they’ll often wander away. Unless something is exciting on the other side of that cat gate, it’s not worth the energy to jump.

Non-cat uses for cat gates

Of course, if you share a home with cats and dogs, the pet gate takes on a new meaning. Maybe the gate helps your cat instead of hindering them.

Do these situations ring a bell?

  • Your dog thinks the cat’s food tastes better
  • You have a cat who needs to eat small meals throughout the day
  • The dog thinks the litterbox contains “treats”
  • The cat needs a “dog-free” zone to relax in

Your pet gate can solve those problems. Most cats have no problem jumping over pet gates, but dogs? They don’t have the same ability.

A sturdy wooden cat gate, such as the Richell 3-in-1 Convertible Pet Gate, holds up against even a running start from the largest dogs. Better yet, you have the option of converting it into a pen, granting your kitty a zone of respite wherever it’s needed in the house. Pet gates define areas that are cat-friendly and easy for them to reach. Meanwhile, your dog learns to stay out of the “cat zone.”

What about jumpers?

Of course, sometimes you want to keep cats from an area. And most pet gates just aren’t designed with cat anatomy in mind. Athletic breeds view that hurdle as a challenge. The dog may stop short, but cats have no problem launching themselves over the cat gate. If you want to keep cat hair off the new couch or shut your feline out of the kitchen during Thanksgiving prep, what can you do?

To start with, there are extra-tall cat gates on the market that attempt to foil that leaping prowess. The Carlson Extra Tall Pet Gate stands 36 inches high. It may cause most cats to hesitate, especially if you demonstrate the handy cat door in the base (with a nifty lock for when you don’t want kitty passing through). Of course, your champion high-jumper won’t bat an eye at even tall cat gates. Which means you need to get creative. (What’s better than outsmarting a cat?)

Most cats jump gates to figure out what they’re missing on the other side. If you take away the mystery, they lose interest. Here’s what you should do:

  • Create a safe pile of objects on the opposite side of the gate. You’ll block your cat’s view.
  • Set up hurdles in front of the gate. Your cat might get so interested in that game, and they’ll forget the gate entirely.

If distraction doesn’t work, you can always switch to plan B and make the area unsavory to your cat’s senses:

  • Place a sheet of sandpaper on the ground in front of the cat gate. Cats don’t like rough textures on their paws. It won’t hurt them, but they’ll start avoiding the area.
  • Spray a cat deterrent around the gate. Most deterrents don’t affect your sense of smell, but cats despise them and hightail it.

This is your space, and this is not your space

You may need to take some deep breaths and work through some tricks, but you can manage cats and dogs with pet gates. The simple barrier helps your feline kiddo learn where it’s safe (or not) to go.

You just need to remember where you place those gates, so you don’t trip over them!

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