Cats are famous for their lovable but exasperating habits – batting things off counter tops, meowing in the early hours of the morning, and complaining loudly to be let out, only to come straight back inside once we open the door. Some of these habits are harder to correct than others, but when it comes to letting cats in and out of the house, training your cat to use a cat flap can be incredibly useful. Not only will your cat be able to come and go as they please, but you’ll likely have more peace and quiet. In this article, WHISKAS offers advice on how to train a cat to use a cat flap.

Why use a cat flap?

Cats love being outdoors, getting some exercise, exploring their environment and patrolling their territory. Installing a cat flap will give your cat easy access to this outside world, especially if you are out of the house during the day. You may also prefer your cat to do their business outside, rather than an indoor litter tray

When can my cat use a cat flap?

Kittens should not be allowed outside until they are at least six months old and have had all the necessary vaccinations. It is also good idea to microchip your cat before you give them outdoor access.

Types of cat flap

There are lots of different cat flap options on the market these days, ranging from simple and traditional to high-tech. The type you pick will depend on you and your house, but here are a few popular examples:

Manual cat flap: A basic model that opens when your cat pushes against it
Magnetic cat flap: Opens via a magnet in your cat’s collar
Infrared cat flap: Opens via an infrared device on your cat’s collar
Microchip cat flap: Opens via your cat’s own unique microchip
If you live in an area with lots of cats, you may find that sometimes you receive an unexpected visitor! A microchip cat flap is the only option that will completely prevent unwanted guests – plus they can be used with multiple microchips if you have more than one cat.

Preparing the cat flap

Before you install your cat flap, you may need to measure your cat to determine what size you need, and where you need to place the cat flap in the door or wall. The correct height to place it should be the distance between your cat’s tummy and the floor. Once you have purchased the cat flap, leave it somewhere in the house so your cat can discover it by themselves and become accustomed to it. If you choose a special microchip cat flap, this is a good time to program your cat’s microchip to it. A top tip for helping your cat acclimatise to new objects more quickly is to rub something with their scent on it, such as a blanket or a cloth, over the foreign object.

How to train a cat to use a cat flap

Cats are intelligent, and most will cotton on quickly when it comes to using a cat flap. However, you could also use incentives to coax them through the first few times, using a cat treat placed first in front of the cat flap, then gradually, on the other side of the door. Be patient throughout the training process and let your pet learn at their own pace.

If your cat seems to be having difficulties, you could prop the cat flap open using tape or a peg to start off with. You could also sit on the other side of the cat flap and call them to you, then reward them with a treat once they are safely through. Even playing with your cat or feeding them next to the cat flap may encourage them to investigate.

Cats are typically contrary by nature, so often standing over your cat waiting for them to do something has little success. Instead, if you leave your cat alone, you may see that they start using the cat flap with no bother. However, you should never force your cat through the cat flap, or shout or scold them. This will cause them to view the cat flap as scary and something they won't want to use.

When to lock your cat flap

Depending on whether your cat prefers being outside during the daytime or at night, you will need to decide whether to lock your cat flap of an evening. Letting your cat be outside at all times is useful when they need the bathroom and may make your pet happier. However, the decision is up to you. If you are unsure, always ask a vet for advice.