I didn't come up with this idea on my own, but someone had sparked it when they were so annoyed that when they let their cat out, it just sat in the doorway. "My cat doesn't understand doors!" she screamed. That's when I wondered, does any cat? And can you blame them?
Think about the wild. Does a door, or a door-like concept happen in the wild? Generally, if a path is blocked, it stays blocked for a very long time (fallen tree, for example) and the cat adapts. But what in the wild blocks the path randomly throughout the day, preventing the cat from even seeing what's on the other side? I can't think of anything.
I think cats have a general idea that the path is accessed by calling out a social cry to the other cats (i.e., you), which magically opens the path. It's kind of a learned trait, but one which probably baffles them. They don't understand doors open and close for a reason, so when the door opens, often they just sit there, or they ... go ... through ... slow...ly...
Cat doors are not really doors at all, because they are really openings that the cat can go through at any time. Now if you kept your cat door locked sometimes, this would confuse the cat, and they may not use it as much. I have never had a cat door (I don't want wild animals to get in either), so I am not sure what the "random lock ratio" would be to confuse the puss.
Dogs? I think they are used to them by now, being domesticated for that length of time. You open the door and ZOOM! Also, I have this half-assed theory that since canines used to dig through burroughs for prey or sleep in ones they made themselves, the concept of making an enclosed space with a sealed entrance makes slightly more sense. I say "half-assed" because I have really thought this one through yet, and I am sure the argument of cats not having this is full of holes.
Cats also REALLY don't understand pointing at all. "What's this hand doing up there? Why is he shouting?" I have been told only a few breeds of dogs understand pointing, called, oddly enough, "pointers." The concept of pointing is so abstract, that it's not immediately apparent. Pointing means you are conveying your thoughts to another person, which means the receiver has to actually have a concept that others outside themselves think differently than they do. Some dogs can me trained to look in the diurection you are pointing because, and I was told this by a duck hunter, they respond to the throwing action of the point, like you just tossed a toy. If you pointed at them, for instance, they look behind them, turn in circles, and act confused.
So don't feel bad if your cat doesn't understand doors. I have one cat I think has an idea that doorknob = open door, but sadly, he has no opposable thumbs, so he grabs the doorknob and hangs there for a few moments. I have heard of cats that do open doors, usually door handles, but some actually use loose doorknobs.
I'm not sure where my theory fits there.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000567.html