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We have 4 cats and have recently moved from an apartment with no cat flap to a house with one. 3 of the cats started using it within a week, but 1 is very stubborn and just won't use it and it's now been several months. She's about 10. We've tried putting treats on the other side, encouraging her, taping the flap open, even putting the litter boxes outside to encourage her to go through, but she always keeps waiting and meowing until we open the door for her, and she has a tendency to wake us up with her meowing outside the bedroom window early in the morning when she wants to come in.

What can we do to make her use it?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – lila Aug 26 at 11:51

11 Answers 11

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We had a cat that wasn't too bright and didn't get the idea of the catflap. We eventually grabbed him and pushed him back and forth through the catflap a few times, then it seemed to get through to him.

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    Should work if the cat is not scared of the idea. – fraxinus Aug 24 at 13:50
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    forcing a cat is defenitely not helpfull in solving the problem but showing the cat how to open the cat flap might help.if your child is afraid of the dark you do not turn off the light to prove how safe it is it is simply not how you make the child overcome the fear of the dark. – trond hansen Aug 25 at 11:46
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    A 10 year old cat is not a child. They're definitely way more independent and stubborn. – Nelson Aug 26 at 2:42
  • Given that @Jez has stated they have multiple other cats who use the flap it seems unlikely that showing the cat is going to help very much. You may need to simply force the issue by never opening the door for the cat. – Turksarama Aug 27 at 3:05
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Your cat is scared to use the catflap because it is a dangerous situation where it can get attacked by other animals, cats needs to see but not to be seen.

Putting up some flowerpots and large plants outside your door will often make your cat feel safer, the thing here is to make a shielded area outside your door where your cat can be safe from imagined or real dangers.

Source: an article on seniorcatwellness.com.

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  • Behavior can be a clue whether this is the case. The cat might sit just inside the open doorway looking and listening before setting a paw outside. – Owen Reynolds Aug 24 at 14:24
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    I second this. My cat flap was also quite high off the ground as well (due to a height difference between the floor and the ground outside). I built a little porch with a step, side walls and a roof. Problem solved. Cat would go through, sit on the step and then peek around the side walls before continuing her journey. – DavidPostill Aug 25 at 13:18
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My experience of cats sharing a house is that they are extremely territorial, even though some areas will most likely be shared territory by some of the cats, and the (invisible) territory boundaries defy human understanding.

It is quite likely that your cat flap is simply "off limits" for one of the cats, and there is probably little you can do about that.

The old joke about "I got a second cat and now I need to install a second cat flap" has a grain of truth in it, like most good jokes.

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    It seems as if the 4th cat uses the door when it's open, so the area itself isn't off-limits. The off-limits area would be merely the flap? – Owen Reynolds Aug 24 at 22:24
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I had to train my 2 years old cats, I'll share my experience.

I held the flap open and let my cat go through with a treat on the other side, doing this back and forth while still holding the flap open. Then I progressively closed the flap and did the same trick until they got used to it.

It tooks 2-3 days until they were used to it.

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    I've found this effective too - much more so than shoving the cat head-first into a piece of clearish plastic. A second step in the training may be to make a temporary step so the cat can peep through without committing, with the flap propped open. – Chris H Aug 27 at 9:15
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A way that can help you is to train the cat to use the cat flap somewhere else than where it is installed.

When I trained my own cat, I first didn't install the cat flap. Instead, I enclosed the cat in a carrier (a situation she doesn't like much) and fitted the cat flap into the carrier opening instead of the front grille. I then placed a bowl of food in front of the flap, outside the carrier. Then I pushed through the flap a few times with my finger to have her recognize that the flap is movable. It took her about two evenings of this training to recognize the mechanism and realize that she can go through it.

Then I installed the flap in its permanent hole, and showed the cat that she can go through. When the cat would wait for me to let her out, I would instead bring her to the flap (for me, it is in a french window beside the door itself) and push the flap open for her. I don't remember if I also physically pushed her once or twice, not completely through the whole flap, but just enough that her nose lifts it and she gets haptic feedback.

Of course, not all cats are equal, mine was under a year when she learned. But it might be a good way to train yours, if the training at the installed flap doesn't work. Especially putting her in a situation where 1) she is craving to leave and 2) she is not accustomed to solving in a different way (with you opening for her) might help her try out new things like pushing the flap.

One thing which makes cats mistrust the flap is encountering it locked. If yours is lockable, make sure to always have it unlocked until she gets accustomed to it. Even then, each single encounter of a locked clap can result in the cat asking you for opening the door for a couple of days afterwards (mine does this - I think she also dislikes the flap closing on her tail in principle, as well as enjoys my attention).

If the cat learns how to use the clap on her own (and you are sure about that - I think mine at first thought that I have to touch it before she can pass, because of the demonstrations) but still prefers you to open the door, the only solution is to outstubborn her. Mine knows very well when I am pointedly ignoring her, and if she asks me for door service and I don't give it, she at some point gives in and goes through the flap.

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A cat article here https://www.seniorcatwellness.com/why-does-cat-stare-at-me-without-blinking/ states that if a cat acts dominant over their owner, it will do things such as request the owner to open the door every time instead of using the cat flap.

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Try using a long piece of string threaded through the taped open cat flap with one person at either end. The person on the inside gets the cat interested in chasing the string by swishing it back and forth. Once the cat starts to chase the string, the person on the outside pulls the string through the cat flap. Hopefully, the cat will then follow the string. By turning it into a game the cat will be distracted and not think about how scary the cat flap is. I frequently use this technique to persuade my cats to do things they aren't keen on, for example getting them down from the top of cupboards.

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  • Hi welcome to Pets ^.^ – lila Aug 25 at 22:26
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One of our cats used to get a sore on her nose where she pushed the catflap open.

Another cat had difficulty because that flap was a long way off the ground on the outside

It may be that your cat similarly has some good reason for not liking your catflap, it may be worth exploring ways to make the flap easier to use or more comfortable - remove any rough edges, provide a step? Maybe try a different make of catflap?

Otherwise, training may work if you use a lot of calm patience, positive encouragement, repetition and consistency.

Don't force the cat, if you do they'll just associate the catflap with unpleasant experiences.

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It sounds like you already have a great way to train her. When she wants to come in, hold the catflap open and try to encourage her through, but don't open the door for her.

Cats can be very persistent, and will often meow for hours when they want something. So you need to be equally persistent. It took us about three weeks of encouragement, using treats, to get ours through the catflap, training for about half an hour a day. If you can encourage her through with treats, when she's already asking to come in, that's a double incentive.

The keyword here is patience. You have to be more patient than your cat.

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  • Hi, welcome to Pets ^.^ – lila Aug 26 at 17:32
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    I always call it "stubborn" over "patience," but it's the key in training a cat to do anything, really. – Allison C Aug 26 at 19:11
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    @lila Hi! Thank you. – bornfromanegg Aug 26 at 19:14
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    @AllisonC Agreed. It’s easy to think what you’re doing is not working, when really you just haven’t tried for long enough. It took me about two years to train my cat not to wake me up in the morning!!! – bornfromanegg Aug 26 at 19:17
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We are currently parents to 6 cats and 2 dogs, and we've been blessed with the care of 5 more cats that have passed. This doesn't count the many cats and dogs I had growing up. I've taught cats many tricks, and taught at least 6 cats to walk on a leash. Here's my advice (written quickly, so I hope it's understandable):

  1. Prop the flap open (or remove it) so the cat can walk through without having to push the flap. Do this until the cat gets very used to going through the opening. Do 2 or more training sessions a day, for a few days. Entice them with treats or toys. Pulling a string toy through the opening and waiting for the cat to pounce might be a good option.
  1. Introduce the flap: Hold the flap so it slightly brushes the cat as it goes through. As the cat uses the opening more, allow more pressure on the cat. Eventually you should only need to poke the edge of the flap so the cat can see daylight, and the cat will push the flap open. Then, the cat will start doing everything on its own.

  2. Some flaps can be difficult for small cats to open. If there are magnets holding it closed, remove some of them. On our door, there are 3 magnets and I removed one at the side. Now that the corner of the flap moves easily, and our small cat can get the rest of the flap open if it starts at the easy corner.

  3. Our oldest cat has arthritis in a front leg and will not step over tall things, and will not use the door flap any more. She can still jump up on the bed, etc., but not step over the flap entrance except as a last resort. We leave a door propped open for her as much as we can.

  4. Door flaps rub on their bodies and pinch their tails as they go through. Some cats are more sensitive to this pressure. Some cats play with the flap by batting at it, and get their paw pinched. This is why the cat needs to be super OK with going through the opening before dealing with the added stress of the flap.

The cat has competing thoughts in its head. It wants out, but it's also nervous about this new door thing. You need to reduce the anxiety about the door so that the desire to go out overrides the anxiety.

Do NOT trap the cat in a small place and force it to use the flap. That will only cause the cat to associate the flap with fear, anxiety, and pain. The cat will never use the flap willingly after that. Forcing a cat to go through the opening with the flap propped up or removed might be ok in general, but probably not a good idea for this sensitive cat. The most I'd do is (with the flap removed) let the cat out, then wait for it to want back in and not let it in, so it has to come through the opening. This would work best at feeding time, and using its favorite food or treats as a lure.

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I agree with many of the ideas that others have given. I was going to suggest what @rumtscho says about training by getting her to use the flap to get out of somewhere enclosed. It's a good motivation.

Personally, if the weather is good and the house is secure at least for a day or two, I would remove the flap altogether and just leave the hole.

If the cat was observing whilst it was installed and there was a lot of noise, she may associate this with the new "thing" that has appeared on the door. If you remove the strange new object and just leave a hole, then, at the very least, you will find out if the problem is the actual flap.

If the cat won't even use the hole then the flap is not the problem but it will still be easier to train her without the risk of the flap falling on her. If the cat is happy with using the hole then the problem is the flap and you have to get her familiar with it, perhaps by doing what rumtscho says but with the door taped open to start with.

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