Don’t get in a flap over cat flap training
Cats are naturally curious animals, and many will learn to use a cat flap immediately and without any 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. Learn how to help your cat overcome their natural caution and enjoy the benefits that a cat flap can bring.
The big outdoors
When you get a new cat or kitten, they first need to become accustomed to their new home, which can take several weeks. Once they are ready – and have the right vaccinations – it’s time to go outside, a huge step for a kitten, or a cat that has previously only lived indoors. Cats often enjoy being outside, and, as independent creatures, will want to come and go as they please. Unless you want to act as their doorperson, opening and closing the door throughout the day at their whim, you might consider installing a cat flap.
Don’t get in a flap!
For many cats, their natural curiosity and desire to be outside will see them master the cat flap immediately. For others, it’s not so simple. Cats can be very cautious around new objects in their environment, and also very stubborn when it comes to doing things they don’t want to do!
If your cat is reluctant to use the cat flap, then you will need to be very patient with them. The last thing you want to do is associate the cat flap with stress by forcing them through it.
A two-step approach
Your cat needs to learn two things – firstly that they can enter and exit the house via the cat flap, and then that they need to push it open to use it. The best way to encourage reluctant cats is to take these steps one at a time.
Start by keeping the flap fully open with tape or a piece of string. Now your cat can clearly see the great outdoors beyond, and this alone may be enough to prompt them through. If not, take yourself outside and call them through the open flap, encouraging them to come to you with their favourite treats. If they’re still reluctant, it’s time to rope in another human – preferably one your cat knows and trusts.
One of you should gently hold your cat in front of the open flap, while the other one sits 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, they will start to come to the flap to get their 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.
Now it’s time to teach your cat to open the flap for themself. Start by attaching a clothes peg or bulldog clip to the flap so it doesn’t shut all the way, and your cat can still see you on the other side. By offering treats and calling them through, they will learn to push the flap with their head or paw in order to pass through. Once they have has mastered this, remove the peg so the flap falls completely shut, and 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. Similarly, if your cat is particularly timid, the process might be a long one, but in the end it will be worth it – giving your cat independence and you a break from running to the door every time you hear a plaintive meow!
Ensure your kitten is fully house trained with our guide to litter training your cat.