Cats sometimes need a little encouragement to use a cat flap, but by teaching them how the flap works, and giving them a reward for trying, your furry friend should master cat flap training pretty quickly. 

For cat owners, cat flaps can make a world of difference to their daily lives. As well as no longer having to be your cat’s 24/7 door operator, a cat flap will give them the freedom to get back indoors whenever they wish.

However, cats don’t always instinctively know how to use a cat flap, which is where a little training comes in. You’ll want your pet to be comfortable using their door, so let’s look at how to train a cat to use a cat flap using some simple tricks.

What is a cat flap?

A cat flap (otherwise known as a cat door or kitty door) offers your pet the chance to get outside, and back in again, without having to wait for a human to open the door. There are several types of cat flaps, including:

  • Manual cat flaps - the simplest and cheapest, but won’t prevent other animals from entering.
  • Magnet cat flaps - only lets in your cat, but your pet will need to wear a special collar.
  • Microchip cat flaps - linked to your cat’s microchip, many are time programmable.

Understanding cat flap training

Most cats want to be outdoors to explore, get exercise and find somewhere private to go to the toilet, so it's in your pet’s interest to learn how to use it! Usually, cats only need a little encouragement before they’re brave enough to try it. Some positive reinforcement with a few cat treats, some play time with cat toys and some extra affection can also help reassure them. Remember to consider why should I give my cat treats, and how many treats should I give my cat to help them stay healthy.

6 months old is an ideal age to teach cats to use cat flaps, as your kitten will have been vaccinated and is often ready to discover the outdoors. However, it’s never too late to teach an older moggy how to use a cat flap. As a result, your cat may feel less stressed, as they can go in and out as they please, and enjoy some fresh air to boost their wellbeing.

How to teach a cat to use a cat flap: Step-by-step guide

All cats are different, and will respond to a cat flap in their own way. The best solution for how to train a cat to use a cat flap is to let them get used to the door being there, encourage them to explore it and reward them when they do.

Step 1 - Preparing your cat and environment: 

After you’ve chosen your catflap, it’s best to get it installed professionally to ensure it’s safe. Your cat may be unnerved by the changes, so give them time to adjust. Keep the flap locked initially, to prevent other curious critters from entering first! Remove any obstacles, and make sure your cat can exit the room whenever they need.

Step 2 - Introduce and teach cat to use cat flap:

Slowly encourage your cat to come near the door. The cat flap will soon become a familiar feature, but before you consider how to teach a cat to use a cat flap it’s essential that your cat feels relaxed before cat flap training starts. Try some fun games to play with your cat nearby, and use toys to encourage them closer - rewarding them with a treat when they do.

Step 3 - Training techniques - how to teach a cat to push a cat flap:

The secret to how to teach a cat to push a cat flap is to repeatedly show them, by holding the door open and posting a toy through, whilst using positive reinforcement to encourage them to try. At this point, some will have mastered how to teach a cat to push a cat flap perfectly, whereas others will need patience and persistence. Never punish your cat for not responding, as it’s important that the door is a safe, positive place.

Cat pushing cat flap with it's paws

Step 4 - Troubleshooting and overcoming challenges: 

Some cats, particularly nervous ones, might be scared of the door, or its noise. Try opening it and holding treats on the other side to encourage them through. Wait until a sunny, dry day. You could also try propping the door open, so they can see and feel the outdoors just inches from their whiskers! If your cat is still fearful, try rubbing their scent on it from their bed or blanket, use a plug-in pheromone diffuser to reduce stress, or try a hooded cat litter tray to practise indoors. Keep the environment calm and quiet whilst they’re exploring their doorway. If they’re really not keen, stop the training and try again another day. Persistence, patience, practice and reward really works!

Benefits of using cat flaps

Cat flaps open up a whole new world of freedom for both you and your pet. Cats love independence, and it gives them control to forage and exercise. It also gives them a safe retreat if something startles them outdoors! For owners, you’ll no longer need to be on-call as your cat’s personal door opener, and you’ll have some control over your cat’s safety.

If you have a picky kitty who prefers the human door, persist with rewarding them when they go near their cat flap. You can also turn it into a game using cat toys. Find out how to choose the best cat toys for your cat to encourage them to use their own entrance!

Why won’t my cat use the cat flap?

Cats may not like the cat flap’s closing mechanism, the risk of entrapment, or they may be nervous outdoors or had a bad past experience. Cats can be sensitive creatures who don’t like change, and they have far superior hearing and sense of smell than we do.

It’s normal for cats to be confused about why this strange contraption has appeared, so the best tip for how to teach a cat to use a cat flap successfully is to give them time to get used to it being there before you start training. Through gradual exposure, demonstration, and positive associations with playtime and affection, your cat will learn.

If they’re still reluctant, you may be able to adjust the flap’s sensitivity, or temporarily remove it. Some owners replace the flap with a cloth, and get a cat to come to you underneath, or by taping the flap open and gradually lowering it. If you have a stubborn cat who still won’t go through, seek guidance from your vet.

Grey cat leaving the house

Mastering cat flap training

Cats are clever creatures, and many quickly learn how to use the cat flap to their own advantage! But with patience, reward, and consistent and calm demonstration, you’ll master how to train a cat to use a cat flap. Most cats will soon give it a go and will love their new-found freedom!

Wondering which are the best cat treats to help encourage your kitty to use their own door? Cats can’t resist DREAMIES™ treats, which are ideal for cat flap training, turning it into a fun playtime activity for your pet.