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How to teach a cat to use a cat flap

Grey cat using a cat flap advice

Here is how you can teach your cat to use a cat flap

© Shutterstock

Installing a cat flap is a great way to enable your cat to come and go as they please, but teaching them how to use it takes time and patience!

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the 26/01/2021, 14:39

It's natural for cats to want to be outside. A cat flap provides them with a convenient way to visit the outdoors, and come in when they wish, without needing you to constantly open and shut the door.

While some cats may be curious about the new cat flap and be keen to test it out, others may be timid and nervous and refuse to initially use the cat flap. This is usually a minor obstacle and with some cat flap training, they can soon learn to use the cat flap with confidence. Here’s how.

What type of cat flap should I get? 

While there are a variety of different cat flaps available, you’ll find that the main difference is how the cat flap is activated.

Traditional cat flaps which are open all the time are often the cheapest option. However, they allow any cat in the neighbourhood to wander into your home. They can also allow draights to enter the home, so you really need one that has a magnet to hold it lightly shut.

Cat using a cat flap
Clever boy using a cat flap! © Shutterstock

Some magnet cat flaps will only open if the cat wanting to enter has a corresponding magnet on their collar. While this will stop some cats being able to get in, any cat that has a matching magnet on their collar will be able to use the cat flap. The chances of this are low, but it is possible!

Microchip cat flaps only allow a cat to use the cat flap if their microchip numbers have been programmed into the cat flap. This means that no other cats can get in via the cat flap. As long as your cat is wearing their collar, they will always be able to gain entry to your home.

How to get my cat to use the cat flap?

Even if they’ve never used one before, with some careful cat flap training, your feline friend can start using their cat flap in no time. Let’s explore how to teach it safely and effectively.

Cat flap training should start by introducing your cat to their new personal doorway. Give them the chance to inspect it and smell it so they can get used to it. Once you have installed the cat flap, keep it locked and start by playing with your cat near it and feeding them close by, so they can develop a positive association with the cat flap.

The cat flap will likely smell unusual and unfamiliar to them, but with their scent on it, they will hopefully realise they can trust it. You can do this quite easily by wiping a soft cloth on your cat’s face and then wipe the cloth around the cat flap.

Encourage your cat with treats

Once your cat has got used to the cat flap just being there, it’s time to start with their cat flap training. Cats love treats, so you can use their favourite treat to encourage them to use the cat flap. Hold the flap wide open and put some of your cat’s favourite treats on the opposite side of the cat flap to help tempt them to go through the cat flap. If they seem reluctant then use treats to entice your cat nearer to it. Give treats as they get closer.

Reward your cat as they pass through the flap and remember to show that the cat flap goes both ways.

You must take a long time over this teaching. Several days at least, before you move to the next stages. It only takes one ‘scare’, and your cat will most likely never want to go near the flap again, so be patient.

Prop the cat flap open

Once your cat has mastered going back and forth through the held open cat flap you may want to prop the flap open a little less widely. Propping the cat flap open with a piece of tape or even just a peg will make it seem a more inviting hole for your cat to go through. They will be able to see the other side but has to push lightly to get through. This will help them to learn how to use the door. Give your cat plenty of time to get used to going in and out before removing the temporary prop.

Norvegian cat in front of a cat flap
Here's how to get your cat to use a cat flap © Shutterstock

Be patient with your cat

An important part of cat flap training is patience. Whether your kitten or cat takes just a few hours, days or even weeks to get used to the new cat flap, you need to be patient with them. Never force your cat through the cat flap. Never force your cat through the cat flap.

How to to train a kitten to use a cat flap

Be patient with your kitten! They may simply not realise the whole idea of the flap is to help them come and go. They may be too small, so give them a cat flap step to help them reach it.

How to train a cat to use a microchip cat flap?

Cat flaps that need activating such as microchip or magnet cat flaps, make a click sound when the cat flap unlocks. This can startle some more nervous cats. But keep persevering. Your cat will soon realise that the goal of reaching the outside, or coming in to their dinner, is worth it.

How to train an older cat to use a cat flap?

Not every cat will immediately take to using a cat flap, especially older cats. Most don’t like to be forced into anything and can be very nervous and fearful (this may look like stubbornness, but it needs your sympathy and understanding rather than impatience). Over time most cats eventually get the hang of using one. It’s important to persevere and not simply give in and open the door for them. Your cat must learn that to get in and out they have to use the cat flap.

Training your cat to use a cat flap

Regardless of their age or previous cat flap experience, most cats can be successfully trained to use a cat flap. It may take a little time and a lot of patience on your part. But with positive encouragement and using some of their favourite treats, you can soon learn how to use their new cat flap and be able to come and go as and when they please.

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