Cat flap training
Q: I’ve just got a rescue cat and want to get them used to using the cat flap — what’s the best way to train a cat to use it?
A: Congratulations on your new addition! In theory, cat flaps can be a great idea. They give cats the freedom to come and go as they please, which provides them with a sense of control over their environment and levels of activity. Many cats teach themselves to use a cat flap through trial and error.
However, for kittens and timid cats, a cat flap can be a frightening experience and it is important to train these cats so that they know that the cat flap is nothing to fear. Try these simple steps:
1. Your cat must learn that the cat flap is an entrance and exit to the home. Start by leaving the cat flap fully open and praise and reward any advances towards the opening.
2. It is less frightening for your cat if you entice him to enter his place of safety, rather than leave it. Ask a family member or friend to hold him outside the door, then tempt him through the flap from the inside with an extra special treat. If he steps through, reward and praise.
3. Once you have mastered step two, try encouraging him to exit using a similar method from outside the cat flap. Repeat this exercise several times, all at your cat’s pace.
4. Gradually lower the cat flap over several days. Although he will still be able to fit through the gap, he will have to learn to push it with his head or paws in order to pass through.
5. Lower the flap a bit more, so he has to push with a little force. If he struggles with this stage, go back a few steps.
6. Finally, practise with the flap completely closed. Initially, you might have to show him lots of encouragement, but he should soon learn that going through the flap is easy and leads to a lot of outside fun and adventures.