“How can I train Fluffy to use the cat flap?”
is a question I’m asked again and again.
Some cats take to using their cat flap straightaway and require no training whatsoever. These are in the minority, so be grateful if you have one of these! For the majority of households it is not all that easy. Some cat flaps are noisy, some have very strong magnets that cats find difficult to push open, some open too freely, i.e. they flap back and hit Fluffy when she is going through, and the microchip-activated cat flaps make a loud click when unlocked by Fluffy’s microchip. It can be quite difficult to encourage Fluffy to go through these flaps in particular. Many cat flaps also have lock catches which your cat might like to fiddle with and this can cause a problem, particularly if Fluffy locks herself in or out by mistake! Of course we all know that Fluffy would actually prefer to have her human stand by and open and close the front or back door (or window) at her whim so that she will never have the need to use a flap! This is not always possible. What we really want is for Fluffy to want to use the flap.
How to start
A good way to start is to put Kitty’s favourite food or toy one side of the flap and then gently push her through from the other side. This is easier when you have two people. If there is a lot of resistance to this it is best not to persist as you may only end up putting her off altogether. If encouraging her through fails initially the next thing to try is to tie up the flap (or better still remove the flap altogether) for a few days so that Kitty can go through the door without having to push the flap. Once she is confident jumping through the hole in your door in both directions (which may not be practical to leave open 24/7), you could put the flap back in place and try again to put the food on one side of the flap and Kitty on the other and gently encourage her to go through. Then go the other side and hold the flap slightly open so that Kitty won’t have to push quite so hard for the flap to open. Do this several times in and out. Quite often at this point you may consider your cat trained!
My cat is refusing to go through the cat flap, having previously used it no problem. Why is this and what can I do?
Some cats will never use a flap and others will suddenly stop using it for no apparent reason. If your cat refuses to use a flap or suddenly stops using it, there’s always a reason (in Kitty’s mind anyway!) It can mean your cat has been ambushed or frightened by someone or something after going out or in the flap. In a multi-cat household there will often be “Top Cat”. Top Cat likes to be in charge of everything, including the cat flap, and decides whether he wants to allow Kitty to go through it – or not! This can be quite a big issue for Kitty. One way around this problem can be to build a cat-sized see-through porch around the flap (inside or outside depending on which side causes the problem) so that Kitty can see through the flap and be able to see what’s happening the other side and have a secure area after going in or out without being ambushed. Our Ted used to sit with his head half way out the flap for quite a while before going out through it. I think there was a cat hanging around the garden at the time and Ted wanted to be sure he could get out without being intercepted by “Mr. Interloper”. Another issue could be if there is something directly outside the flap that another cat can hide behind and jump out when Kitty is using the flap, e.g. a dustbin, flower pot, etc. It may help to remove any objects so that Kitty has a clear view of the area outside the flap.
The aim of the exercise is to make Kitty feel confident going through her cat flap. We want her to want to use it after all! Regarding the noise of a flap, most cats will get used to that in time… but it may take quite some time. Be patient and good luck! Feel free to post any particular difficulties you may be having and I’ll do my best to address them.