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Have you ever been interrupted by the sound of your cat continuously pawing at the door?
Maybe she’s done playing outside and wants you to let her in or she’s recharged and ready to go out.
Whatever her reasons may be, your actions are always the same – you have to suspend whatever you were doing and open the door for her.
Imagine if you weren’t the one constantly ushering her in or out, she just hopped through the cat flap when she pleases – without distracting you.
Well, she can learn to use the cat flap – below I’ll show you how you can get your cat hopping through the cat flap in 9 simple steps so you can finally quit being a doorman.
Let’s start by looking at the main purpose of a cat flap.
What’s the purpose of a cat flap?
If you were adopted by a cat that loves to spend time outdoors, then you have no choice but to install cat flaps. Especially if you’ve had enough and want to stop your cat from waking you in the middle of the night.
Cat flaps are a great way to allow your cat to enter and leave the house as she pleases. Think of them as a backdoor or private access to the club.
However, you can choose to lock the flap and keep her in the house if necessary – for a pending vet visit, post-surgical recovery, or upcoming storm.
But, is it really necessary?
Well, it depends. If your cat is an indoor cat, then you don’t need one. However, if your cat is indoor-outdoor, you can just open a low window or doorway to let her out.
The problem with a low window or doorway is that you run the risk of trapping them inside or locking them outside the house. If you’re doing this, you might as well learn how to find a missing pet – you might need it.
If you’re a busy owner and cannot commit to always being available to usher your cat in and out of the house, then a cat flap is for you.
Unfortunately, cats are creatures of habit. You cannot just install a cat flap first thing tomorrow morning and expect your cat to waltz through it by sundown.
It doesn’t work that way! To stand any chance of success with your cat, here’s what you have to do.
Simple steps to make your cat eagerly use the cat flap.
1. Choose the right product.
This is the first and most important step, get this wrong and you will have difficulty getting your cat to hop through the cat flap. So what’s the best cat flap and what should you look out for?
Which cat flap is the best?
The main difference between the numerous cat flaps available is in how they’re activated. Here’s a brief overview of the different systems
Standard or Mechanical locking system.
The Depets Large Cat Door is as basic as a cat flap can get. The standard cat flap opens to just about any cat that cares to stick their head in. The issue with this is that they’ll allow the neighbor’s cat in, which can be quite stressful for your cat.
Magnetic locking system.
This type of cat flap only allows cats wearing a magnetic collar through. While this might seem ‘okay’, remember, your cat isn’t the only one wearing a magnetic collar. A good product in this category is the Deluxe Pet Door.
Electromagnetic locking system – coded or uncoded.
These cat flaps use electromagnetism to activate the system. It’s similar to the magnetic locking option, but it runs on battery and can be programmed with different activation options.
Infrared locking system.
Just as a TV remote doesn’t turn on the air conditioner, infrared locking cat flaps use special transmitters in the collar to grant passage. A quick note about infrared, from the TV and Ac example above, if your neighbor has the same TV, their remote will operate your TV.
Microchip locking system.
Cat flaps that use this technology are the best of the bunch. That’s because they will not allow any other cat into the house if their chip number doesn’t match what’s programmed in the system. This is perfect because your cat can still get inside the house even if she loses her collar.
Okay, now you know what’s available, what should you look out for?
Look out for these features
Low background noise.
When choosing a cat flap, always the one that makes as little noise as possible. Trust me, when your cat falls in love with the cat flap and begins to use it 317 times a night, the last thing you want is a notification for each passage.
A cat flap that makes low background noise won’t interrupt your precious sleep much. Plus, the cat can go out or come in whenever she pleases. Win-win!
Cats vary and so do cat flaps. There are small cats, fat ones, big cats, and thin cats. Always choose a cat flap that’s at least 10 cm larger than your cat’s dimension. This way your cat doesn’t get stuck or scratch herself against the cat flap wall.
How do you know if a particular dimension is okay for your cat?
Most cat flaps provide an approximate weight of the cat that can go through them. If you are unsure, simply measure out the exact dimensions of your preferred cat flap on a hard paper.
With this, you’ll have a precise idea of the cat flap’s size which you can hold up against your cat. Heck, if you use the dimension to cut out a hole on the paper, you can even tempt your cat to go through it.
Closes very tight.
Pollen, wind, dust, heat, or leaves will force their way into your house if the cat flap doesn’t close tightly.
It doesn’t matter where you install the cat flap. If you don’t want nature to pay you an unfriendly visit, then you have to purchase a cat flap that seals properly.
You’ll save money on heating and cooling, plus you’ll stay healthier without all the pollen clogging up your system.
This is one very simple, yet effective tip for getting your cat to hop through the cat flap. Cat flaps come in many designs and are available in safety glass or plexiglass. Both are weather-resistant and robust, however, always choose one with a clear, transparent flap.
The reason most cats hesitate to use a cat flap is fear of the unknown. But, with a transparent flap, your cat can see what’s on the other side before she even goes through it.
Other things to consider.
Having a cat flap installed is a good idea. But, you have to ensure that the installation location (window, door, wall), doesn’t make a burglar’s job easier. Likely, any losses will not be covered by insurance.
If you are a landlord, then this advice doesn’t apply to you, obviously.
For those living in rented homes, then you have to get the landlord’s permission before installing a cat flap. Because technically and from a legal perspective, the house belongs to them. And installing a cat flap involves structural changes.
If you get permission to install a cat flap, remember that you have to return the house to its previous state when moving – or at least pay for it to be done.
Don’t be the jerk who left a bitter taste that makes the landlord deny subsequent tenants permission.
2. Make a good first impression.
They say “Curiosity killed the cat”, but “satisfaction brought it back to life.”
Cats are curious animals that quickly form a mental impression about an object or situation. If they don’t like something at first, chances are they might never like it. However, that important first impression of an object can be controlled and made pleasant. Here’s how:
Mark the cat flap with familiar scents.
Unlike humans that trust their eyes more than their noses, cats trust their noses more. They have a stronger sense of smell so why won’t they?
Even though you might not perceive it, a new cat flap is likely to have that ‘brand new’ smell we’re used to. This might smell alien to a cat.
To get around this, you can spray some Feliway onto the cat flap to calm your cat when she approaches. You can also dab a wet cloth on her chin (close to the mouth) and rub it on the cat flap.
Is there a certain sweet-smelling plant that your cat loves? This could be thyme, valerian, clary sage, or catmint.
Try to get the scent on the cat flap. When she approaches the cat flap, she’ll perceive a scent that she’s familiar with.
Now that the cat flap is marked with her pheromones, sweet scents, or FeliWay, it’s time for both to meet.
Let the cat meet the cat flap before installing it.
It would be frustrating if you went through all that work to install a cat flap and your cat refuses to use it.
How do you avoid this fate?
Before installing the cat flap, before even cutting a hole in the door for it, allow your cat to inspect the cat flap.
This will give you an idea of whether to cut your loss and return it or proceed with the installation. Given that the cat flap is marked with your cat’s scent and feliway, you have a higher chance of success.
Install the cat flap.
If you followed the steps above and your cat seems to love it. Or she places a paw on the cat flap, you’re free to pause and grin for 5 seconds only.
Next, you have to measure the distance from the floor to your cat’s underbelly. This is the ideal height for the cat flap.
Your cat needs to feel safe about going in and coming out, so do what you can to ensure the flap opens out to a sheltered spot.
If this isn’t possible and the location is more open, position pots, benches, or plants around the cat flap to shelter your cat when she comes out.
Train them during the warmer season.
The best time to train cats to use the cat flap is during the warmer months of the year – summer and spring.
This works because cats love it cozy and warm. Who would willingly step out of a warm house into the cold?
Not me, or your cat!
Besides, you will run into problems when you try to train them during Winter or autumn. A lot of cold air will blow into the living space when you open the flap. Even if you succeed and get her out, she’ll likely return messier than she would during summer.
And who do you think will clean her up?
Make it easier for yourself.
3. Remove all resistance.
Look, not all cats have the resilience to keep pushing a cat flap that refuses to open.
They’ll just assume it is locked.
If magnets are holding the flap, get rid of them. You can temporarily disable the electromagnetic locking system and keep the flap open until your cat is familiar with it.
You can replace or reactivate the magnets after a couple of days when they’re used to the cat flap.
4. Muff any distracting sound.
Most cat flaps, especially the electromagnetic ones, make a ‘click’ sound when opening and closing. This can be irritating for some cats who have a habit of slipping slowly through the cat flap.
Besides, this clicking sound will also irritate you after some time. So do everyone a favor and muff the sound. A little foam or black tape will help reduce the sound made by the back and forth swinging of the flap after the cat has passed through.
5. Create a temptation.
When the installation is complete, it’s time to start training your cat to use the flap. And what better way to do that than to lure them with things that they love.
Since they love treats and toys, use that to entice her to go through the cat flap. Make sure that your cat can see you clearly on the other side of the door with a tempting object.
Another technique you can use is to attach her toy (preferably a small one) to a string. Pass the string through the cat flap and pull the string when she approaches the toy.
The goal is to get her to follow the object through the cat flap.
Enter the cat secret weapon – laser pointer.
Most cats are awed by a laser pointer. You can use one to tempt her to go through the cat flap – it works just like the string trick. But, be careful not to point it in her eyes, the light can cause serious damage.
6. Set a good example.
If only you could just fit your head. You would have set a good example and showed your cat how it is done.
But, you don’t need to fit your head – not like you wanted to anyway.
What you will do is open the flap so your cat can see that it is the same outside behind the door. Beckon her to approach and when she does, put your arm through the cat flap and stroke her chin.
Do this a couple of times then pull your hand away and show her a favorite toy. Keep beckoning on her and she should make the jump.
7. Don’t shove or coerce.
While stroking your cat through the cat flap, resist the temptation to pull her through the flap.
Shoving or coercing your cat through the cat flap forms the impression in her mind that this thing isn’t fun!
Trust me, no one wants to go through with an activity that is not fun or interesting?
We sometimes do it because we have no choice. But you see cats, they’ll do everything possible to avoid the cat flap if you try to force them through it – that includes soiling the house.
8. Patience is the key.
Feeling frustrated when something doesn’t go the way we planned is what makes us humans.
However, with your cat you need to exercise a lot of patience – she’s also processing a lot of emotions.
Keep marking the cat flap with familiar and calming scents to make her feel at ease. Most cats will go through the cat flap after some time. The last and most important point is that you have to be firm!
9. Be firm!
I know you want your cat to roam freely; you want her to be happy. However, training her to use the cat flap is very important so you too can be happy.
While this is going on, you have to stand your ground despite her entreaties.
DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR for her!
I know she’s your boss and all. But if you do open the door for her to go outside, then you might as well seal the cat flap because that’s what you will always be doing!
By standing firm, you make it clear to her that if she wants to go outside, then she has to use the cat flap.
Your cat will learn to use the cat flap soon enough – it’s inevitable!