The majority of cats are smart enough to notice a way out of the house and figure out how to use it themselves.
However, it can be beneficial to make sure your cat knows where the flap is and how to use it to make life easier for both of you.
Just like humans, cats are unique. This means each cat will approach things differently – including a cat flap.
Some will poke their head out and jump through with minimal coaching whilst others will take a little more encouragement.
Either way, as cat lovers who have trained numerous cats in our time, we’ve learned a thing or two about training a cat to use a cat flap successfully!
Here are some top tips on how to approach training.
Never be in a rush to get your cat outside or through the flap. Yes, it’s tempting to get them in the garden so you can get rid of the litter tray (and the smell!), but rushing them is a good way to put them off.
Introduce the cat slowly. Show them where the flap is, push the flap while you have their attention and then leave it.
Return the next day or another time and repeat. This could be enough to get them through or it might not.
The main thing is that this slowly, slowly approach won’t put them off, which is the aim of the game.
Show don’t tell
Cats watch the world around them to figure out how everything works. And it’s the same when it comes to cat flaps.
That means showing your cat how the cat flap works and demonstrating it to them while they watch can be very beneficial.
You don’t have to push them out, you can use a soft toy or just push the flap so your cat sees that it opens.
Don’t mistake not wanting to use it with being unable to use it
Some cats just can’t be bothered to go outside. They are happy in the warm, safe house and have everything they need on tap. Why would they go out into the cold or wet?
If you introduce your catto the cat flap but they don’t use it, don’t worry. Once you’re sure they know what it is and know how it works, the rest is up to them.
It may mean using the litter tray a little longer, but you probably already know how difficult it is to get a cat to do something they don’t want to do!
If your cat seems hesitant during their cat flap training, liberal use of treats can help.
We would suggest using aromatic treats as much as possible. Many cat treats don’t smell very much, so use a fishy treat or even fresh prawns or fish to entice them out.
Leave the cat on one side of the flap while you go to the other. Hold a yummy treat in your hand and call your cat’s name.
Keep your voice calm and reassuring and wave the treat in front of the flap so they can smell it.
Give your cat time to assess the situation and they should poke their head out of the flap.
Pull the treat away slightly so they have to come all the way through to reach it. Use positive reinforcement, a happy voice, praise and give them the treat the instant they come through the flap as a reward.
Repeat this a couple of times and again over subsequent days and you’ll reinforce that positive behaviour. That should be enough to train your cat to use the flap.
Use a role model
If you have more than one cat, get one to use the cat flap and then use it to influence the other.
Cats are pack animals, so where one goes, the other is likely to follow. Find out which cat is the dominant one and teach them to use the cat flap first to act as a role model.
Once they are happy using it, get them to go through while showing the other cat(s) what’s going on.
As one cat jumps through the flap, the other cat will see it’s safe and okay and will likely follow.
Once they do, use praise and positive reinforcement to establish the behaviour.
Use your cat’s scent to overcome fear
If you have just installed a brand new cat flap, it will smell strange and unfamiliar to your cat. . You can overcome this by putting your cat’s own smell on it.
You can either wipe your cat’s face with your fingers or a cloth and wipe it around the flap frame or the flap itself, or pet your cat for a little while and then wipe your hand around the flap.
Both will work but the scent from the mouth should work faster.
Either way, it may take a few wipes to effectively ‘mark’ the cat flap with your cat’s scent to help them overcome nervousness.
Don’t force it
If your cat isn’t responding to cat flap training, don’t force it. Stay as patient as possible, use a calm manner and do everything you can to create a positive experience.
If your cat just doesn’t want to use the flap, try to figure out why. Is it too high? Is it large enough? Is there a drop on the other side? Is the flap loud?
Try to overcome any of these challenges if possible and follow as many of these tips as you can.
If, after all that, your cat doesn’t use the cat flap, they may just prefer to stay indoors and use the litter tray.
Preferring to stay indoors is more common than you might think!