How to Cat Proof Air Vents (in a Few Simple Steps)

Cat Proof Air Vent

If you’ve ever had to coax a cat out of a heating duct, pull them out of an air vent, or rescue them from a floor register. You’ll know how frustrating and potentially dangerous this problem is.

Whether this has happened to you and your cat yet, or you’re just taking preventative measures. Here are some tips to help you cat proof air vents and HVAC duct systems in your home.

Two Ways to Easily Cat Proof Your Air Vents

1. Secure Your Vents and Registers

This sounds obvious, and it is, but when I hear someone tell me their cat is lifting or getting into an air vent in their home I always scratch my head and wonder why it’s not securely fixed in place.

Yes, you are probably going to have to get some screws or nails, a power tool, roll up your sleeves and do some DIY. But it’s worth it to ensure your cat can’t get in those air vents.

If you’re not comfortable drilling or making holes with screws, there are some other options. Some industrial strength tape or glue should also do the trick. It will not look as tidy if you’re using tape, and glue makes it difficult to get the vent off in future. But it’s something to consider.

Related: How to cat proof a box spring in a few simple steps.

2. Add a Mesh Screen

If your cat keeps messing around with your vents and sticking their paw in or pushing toys and things through (kids are more guilty of this), you can use a mesh screen to put a stop to this.

Just buy some meshing (like this stainless steel wire mesh on Amazon), cut a piece to size, and fit it underneath the vent so it’s held in place.

It’s good practice to do this anyway in my opinion. It’s quick and simple and will ensure nothing can fall through. It should be enough to stop curious cats poking their claws through.

Two Ways to Stop Cats Getting into Your Air Ducts

Two Ways to Stop Cats Getting into Your Air Ducts
I wonder what’s in there, it does look like a good idea to climb in ….

Air vents and floor registers are one thing, air ducts are another. Air ducts are generally the perfect size for a cat, or another small animal to climb into – only to find themselves stuck or too scared and confused to get back out.

It’s pretty stressful having a cat stuck in a duct. It can be difficult to get them out, although I explain how to do so later on, and often you’ll have to damage some of your duct system to do so if they haven’t damaged it themselves.

There are two main ways to stop cats getting into your ducts, these are;

1. Making Any Entry Points Unobtainable

Cats need an opening to get in to a duct. If it happens once, that’s a lesson learned. If it happens twice the same way, you’ve dropped the ball.

Make it impossible for a cat to get in via any entry points. It’s as simple as that.

Sometimes you have to have an open duct, usually in the basement or garage. Air will still flow through a mesh or thin metal bars though. So put something like that across the hole to make it so cats, and mice while you’re at it, can’t fit through.

If you don’t want to do that for any reason, can you make sure there are no ledges or ways a cat can physically get to that entry point on the duct?

It shouldn’t be too hard to do one or both of these things.

2. Make the General Area Less Desirable for Cats

Cats are persistent and stubborn animals. Sometimes the specific problem can be difficult to solve, or it can be hard to change a certain behavior. When this is the case you have to think about the bigger picture.

If you want your cat to stay away from your ductwork you can take some steps to make the whole area either a lot harder to get too. Or at the very least a lot less enjoyable to be in.

Textures and smells are two things that always work when it comes to keeping cats out of an area or away from something.

My advice is to either use a smell your cat doesn’t like (you can read about scents most cats hate in this post), by spraying or placing it near your ducts. Or, lay something like foil or paper on the floor or ducts if they hate walking on these textures.

It can look a little messy, but ductwork is usually out of sight for the most part anyway. Plus, it’s worth it if it means your cat isn’t going to climb into the duct or cause damage by climbing on it. It doesn’t need to be a permanent fixture, you can remove or stop doing this down the road when your cat gets the idea.

How to Get a Cat out of an Air Duct:

How to Get a Cat out of an Air Duct
You don’t want your cat coming out of the wall like this, honestly.

If you’re faced with the problem of getting a cat out of your ductwork and don’t want to start pulling your system apart. Try one or more of the following to see if you can persuade them to come out:

Lure Them out with Food

We all know food is a huge motivator for cats. So, while I don’t recommend leaving them in duct work for several hours, it’s worth putting some food out and being patient.

Either the familiar sound of dry food being shaken in their food container or placing some wet food at the exit where they will catch a whiff should do the trick and get their tummies rumbling.

Take Some Time to Call Them

The frustrating thing about cats in air ducts is that is often seems like they let themselves out when they feel like it.

Just take a moment to think about how scared and confused they are. Cats can get very anxious when they are in enclosed spaces, so they need to feel confident enough to make a break mentally and get out.

If you can get comfortable near where they are in the duct system just sit there and calmly talk to them. This has helped a few people I know to get their cats to climb out of the duct.

What you should not do is shout or sound anything other than calm and patient. This will just scare your cat even more and reduce the chance of persuading them to come out.

Gently Tap the Duct near Them

I’ve known for this to work too. Just gently tap the duct behind where the cat is hiding out and there is a chance it will force them to move forward.

Cats get suspicious when something is behind them that they can’t see. Your cat might hear the noise and think something is approaching and take off.

Use Their Toys near the Exit

This is a lot more effective with kittens and younger cats. Try flicking their favorite toy around near the exit to encourage them to chase it.

Even better, if you have a laser pointer you can make a dot move from right in front of them to the exit of the duct and snatch them up when close enough.


It’s all about appealing to the hunting/playful side of their brain and helping them to forget them are scared and confused for a moment.

By using a combination of gently calling them, using their toys, and appealing to their hunger, unless they are physically stuck there is a very good chance your cat will get out of the duct before you have to start dismantling it.

Cats terrorizing you and your home? Here are some other useful cat-proofing resources:

How to cat proof your waste bins and trash cans.

How to cat proof your paper towel and toilet paper holders.

The best cat proof blinds.

If you have useful tips on how to cat proof things around the home I’d love to hear about it. Just drop me a note below, thanks.

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