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Cat Flap Training

Training your cat or kitten to use their cat flap

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If you have decided to let your cat outside, you may have decided to install a cat flap.

Most cats and kittens take readily to a cat flap, but some may be more cautious. Here are some hints and tips to get even the most timid of cats out and about in no time.

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Should I have a cat flap?

Cat flaps are a great way to allow your cat to come and go as they please, and as most are lockable you can still choose to keep them inside if you need to – for a pending vet visit, for example!

While you can choose not to have one and just let your cat out through a doorway or low window, you do then run the risk of your cat ending up locked outside, or being trapped in. 

Cat flaps are great if you have a busy lifestyle and can’t commit to always being around to see to your cat’s indoor/outdoor desires.

What type of cat flap should I buy?

There are a range of cat flaps available, the main difference usually being how they are activated.

Standard cat flaps open for any cat and, while the cheapest option, they will allow neighbourhood cats in to have a look around! This can be very stressful for your cat.

Magnet cat flaps will open if the cat trying to enter has a magnet on their collar. This does restrict entry only to cats that have a magnet, but isn’t exclusive to your cat.

Infra-red cat flaps are similar but are programmed to a specific coloured infra-red tag.

Microchip cat flaps are the best available as will only let in cats whose microchip numbers have been programmed in. This means no other cats can enter, no matter what is on their collar! It also means your cat will never be able to ‘lose their key’, as the microchip is always with them. 

Read more about microchipping

When can I get my cat to use a cat flap?

Kittens shouldn’t go outside until they are six months old and have been microchipped, vaccinated and neutered. 

If you have adopted an older cat, keep them inside for a few weeks before letting them out. 

If you have moved house our house moving guide for cats can give you advice on getting settled in before your cat goes outside.

Read about moving house with your cat

How can I get my cat to use a cat flap?

The main thing here is patience. Cat’s don’t like to be forced into anything, and can be very stubborn if they decide something isn’t for them! Taking a soft and slow approach will work much better and be less stressful for you both.

Your cat has to learn that they can use the cat flap to get in and out, and how to make it work. 

How to train them

It’s best to train this in two steps:

  1. Teach them they can get in and out. Hold the door open and use treats to entice them near. Give treats as they get closer, and then start holding treats on the opposite side of the flap to encourage them to pass through. Reward your cat or kitten as they pass through, and remember to show them the cat flap goes both ways!
  2. Teach them to push! Once your cat has mastered going back and forth through the open cat flap you may want to prop the flap open just a little. That way your cat can see the other side but has to push to get through. That way they will learn how to use the door. Once your cat has mastered that, it’s time to remove the prop!

You may find with cat flaps that need to be activated, such as microchip or magnet cat flaps, that the ‘click’ as the cat flap unlocks startles timid cats. Keep persevering with treats and they’ll soon get the hang of it; just be aware it may take a little longer.