If you’ve been wondering how to train a cat to use a cat door, then we’ve got all the info you’ll need. Find out how to choose between a static and microchip operated cat door, how to encourage your cat to use her new exit and how to solve any problems.
According to animal welfare charities, cats with free access to outside areas get more exercise and are less likely to get stressed. Whether you have a suitable open area outside your home or a designated outdoor enclosure for your cat, then a cat door could be a great idea.
A microchip cat flap not only gives your pet convenient access to the outdoors and your home, but keeps unwanted guests out - a win win for both of you!
Why use a cat door?
Apart from the obvious advantage that you won’t need to keep getting up in the middle of dinner to let your cat in or out, cat doors can be better for your cat as well. Most cats prefer to be in control of when they enter and exit, and it can help them combat boredom. If you’re away at work all day, a cat door means your kitty can easily let herself in and out to toilet and for exercise.
There are lots of different designs on the market, but they fall into two approximate categories - basic design or microchip operated. Basic doors are cheap to buy but as they’re basically just a hole in the door they will let any other animal in or out as well as your cat!
The best microchip cat doors work on your cat’s individual microchip and will let only registered pets in and out. Do remember that any type of cat door will need some basic DIY skills in order to fit it. If you live in a rented property, you’ll also have to ask your landlord first.
Why won’t my cat use the cat flap?
Cats can be contrary creatures! You might have spent hours researching the best cat flaps and even more time installing it, only for your pampered puss to turn her nose up. She’s not really being naughty, though – it’s more likely she just doesn’t realize that the cat flap is a portal to adventure! For tips on how to accustom your kitty to the new door, see below.
If your cat used to use the cat flap quite happily and has now stopped, then she’s trying to tell you something. The problem could be with the flap itself – has it worn sharp edges? Has your cat put on weight and now finds the door a tight fit? Is she getting arthritic and finds it too high to squeeze through?
The problem could also be that she’s scared to go outside as she’s had a bad experience such as being attacked by another cat. If you can’t find anything wrong with the flap itself, then consider replacing it with one with a transparent panel. This will enable a nervous cat to have a good look round before committing herself! Traumatized cats can take a long time to settle again, so be patient and don’t try to force her.
How to train a cat to use a cat door
You’ve probably heard the saying ‘you can’t train a cat’ – but you can certainly encourage them to use a cat door, particularly when they realize how much freedom it gives them! If you already have an older, experienced kitty as well then you can sit back and relax – the new cat will take her lead from her friend. Otherwise, you’ll have to cheat a little!
Take something with your cat’s scent on, such as a favorite toy, and rub it around the cat flap. Then, hold the flap of the door up with your hand and throw a favorite treat through the hole. Let the flap fall, so that your cat gets used to the noise, and repeat the process until your cat shows interest.
You could also try putting her food on the ‘wrong’ side of the door to encourage her through. You may have to train her to use the flap from both sides, as some cats get the idea that they can go out but then can’t work out how to get in!
How to prop open a cat flap
If your kitty is still nervous, you can also prop open the flap completely until she learns that it’s a door. It’s important to do this safely, as a flap swinging down mid-exit is enough to rattle the most placid of pusses! Depending on the type of flap, you may be able to remove the door completely.
Otherwise, use pegs or robust sticky tape to secure it. Once she’s happy going through the open door, secure a piece of cloth over the gap. This will get her used to going through a door with a barrier, but it won’t be enough to frighten her if she touches it. Once your cat is really confident, put the door back in place.
How long does it take for a cat to get used to a cat flap?
This is a slightly ‘how long is a piece of string’ question, as it depends on your cat’s age, experience and personality. Older, bolder and more curious kitties will learn in a couple of hours.
Younger or more nervous cats could take a week or more. Be patient and let your cat work it out for herself as much as possible. Try and avoid opening the door when she ‘asks’ you to, or you’ll be making a rod for your own back!
How do I get my cat to push the cat flap?
One of the main reasons that cats won’t push against the cat flap is that they’re pretty intelligent! The cat flap looks solid to them, and they’re not planning to waste their energy or risk getting hurt, thank you very much. The solution here is to out-think your cat as follows:
- Secure the door out of the way as above, and then lower it by fractions once your cat is happy to go through.
- Temporarily replace the door with something flimsy such as a piece of cloth which won’t look as solid.
- Bat the door with your hand to make it move, so that your cat can work out that it’s not fixed.
- Eventually, she should get the message and open it of her own accord.
Cat doors can not only save you the trouble of constantly letting your furry friend in and out, they also provide your cat with access to freedom and exercise. It’s well worth looking into installing one in your home. Just remember to take your cat’s size, weight and health into account when choosing the perfect model, and both your lives will be easier!
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Sara is a freelance journalist and copywriter of many years’ experience with a lifelong love of animals. She’s written for a range of magazines and websites on subjects varying from pet care to travel. A horse rider since the age of five, she’s currently a full time pet slave to horse Blue and gorgeous, goofy English Springer Spaniel Olly. Adorable Olly has a huge sense of adventure and no sense of direction, keeping Sara on her toes.