How to Train Your Cat to Use a Cat Flap

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Teach your cat to use a cat door.

Cats are naturally curious animals, and many will learn to use a cat flap without difficulty. But cats can also be very cautious when it comes to changes in their environment, and some need a little encouragement before they become comfortable using their cat flap.

Cats often enjoy being outside, and, as independent creatures, will want to come and go as they please. With help, your cat can learn to overcome their natural caution and enjoy the benefits a cat flap can provide.

How Do I Teach My Cat to Use the Cat Flap?

If your cat is reluctant to use the cat flap, you will need to patiently teach them how to use it. It’s important to never push your cat through the cat flap; the last thing you want to do is to have them associate the cat flap with stress by forcing them through it.

Your cat will need to learn two facts:

  1. They can enter and exit the house via the cat flap.
  2. They need to push open the cat flap to use it.

The best way to encourage reluctant cats is to take these steps one at a time.

1. Teach Your Cat They Can Enter and Exit the House via the Cat Flap

Start by keeping the flap fully open with tape or a piece of string so your cat can clearly see through to the outdoors; this alone may be enough to prompt them through. If not, go outside and call them through the open flap, encouraging them to come to you with their favorite treats. If they’re still reluctant, it’s time to recruit another human — preferably one your cat knows and trusts — to help. Remember, never push your cat through.

Your training partner should gently hold your cat in front of the open flap while you sit on the other side. Reach through the flap and give your cat a treat so they learn to associate the cat flap with good things. Slowly but surely, your cat will start to come to the flap to get treats, and eventually you will be able to entice them through. Remember to reward all successful passes through the cat flap, and to practice in both directions, in and out.

2. Teach Your Cat to Push Open the Cat Flap

Now it’s time to teach your cat to open the flap on their own. Start by attaching a clothespin or binder clip to the flap so it doesn’t shut all the way and your cat can still see you on the other side. When you offer treats and call them through, your cat will learn to push the flap with their head or paw to pass through.

Once they have mastered this, remove the peg or clip so the flap falls completely shut so they can practice entering and exiting the house — again being sure to reward and praise every success.

If you have a microchip-activated cat flap designed to only unlock when it detects your cat’s microchip, you might find that the whole process takes a bit longer, as your cat may be startled by the sound of the cat flap unlocking at first.

Similarly, if your cat is particularly shy, the process might be a long one, but in the end it will be worth it. Your cat will gain independence, and you’ll get a break from running to the door every time you hear a wistful meow.

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