Some cats will approach a cat flap with curiosity, while others may be a bit more wary. Here, Petplan behaviourist Nick Jones explains how to teach a cat to use a cat flap with confidence – in five easy steps.
Cats have a natural desire to be outside, so don’t worry if your cat won’t use the cat flap at first – this is usually only a minor obstacle. Providing your pet with a cat flap will give her regular and easy access to the outdoors for exercise, mental stimulation and toilet trips, without relying on you to let her in and out every time.
If you got your cat as a kitten, six months is the perfect age to train her to use a cat flap. At this stage, cats should be vaccinated, and mature enough to go outside on their own . But you can follow these tips with a cat of any age; just be prepared to be a bit more patient with older cats who may not have used a cat flap before. These five steps should soon help your pet overcome any initial feline nerves and get her using the cat flap with confidence.
1. Introduce the cat flap
Initially, keep the cat flap locked, and begin by simply feeding and playing with your cat nearby. Anything you can do to create positive associations with the cat flap, such as leaving food treats in front of it, is helpful.
2. Open the cat flap
Prop the cat flap open with heavy-duty tape to make an inviting opening for your cat to move through. Timid cats, especially, will appreciate being able to look out and see what awaits them on the other side.
3. Use rewards
With a person on either side of the open cat flap, use high-value food treats (perhaps some chicken or fish, or other favourite snack) to entice your cat in or out. Alternatively, you could use a toy to tempt her through the opening.
4. Take it slowly
Repeat the above a few times a day, for a week or so. Some cats will quickly become confident moving through the cat flap, while others may take longer to get used to the idea. Never force your cat through the opening, especially if you sense resistance from her. As with all training , practice makes perfect. This is really about creating natural confidence in your cat.
5. Drop the cat flap door
As your cat becomes more familiar with the opening, you can then drop the flap, so that she has to push lightly to open it. Once she’s comfortable doing this, she should be able to come and go as she pleases whenever you leave the cat flap unlocked.
Which cat flap is best?
There are various types of cat flap to choose from. The simplest are manually operated cat flaps, which open when your cat pushes against the flap. The downside of these cheaper, basic cat flaps is that any cat could use one to get into your home. And as we all know, some cats love to visit their neighbours !
If you have any tried-and-tested tips for training a cat to use a cat flap, why not share them with us on social media, using the tag #PethoodStories?