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How to Teach a Cat to Use a Cat Door: 5 Simple Steps

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

blue tabby maine coon kitten standing in front of cat flap pr door

If your cat enjoys spending time outdoors, you’re probably familiar with the constant crying and scratching at the door that may happen as your kitty begs to go outside. One way to solve this issue is to install a cat door. But just because you build it doesn’t mean your cat will automatically know how to use it.

In this article, we’ll tell you how to teach a cat to use a cat door in 5 steps. We’ll also provide tips on picking the right cat door and keeping your pet safe outside.

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Before You Begin

The best time to train your cat is when they are hungry and extra food-motivated. Try to fit a short door training session in before mealtime for the best results. Here are the supplies you’ll need to teach your cat to use a cat door:

  • Treats
  • Tape
  • Cloth
  • Tools to remove cat flap if needed

woman hang giving treat to a cat
Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

How to Teach Your Cat to Use a Cat Door

1. Start Without the Flap

To help your cat learn to use a cat door, start with the door flap removed or taped up out of the way. This step allows the cat to get comfortable with the cat door as a reliable way to get in and out of the house first without having to push through a flap. Encourage your cat to jump through the opening by tossing treats through.


2. Cover the Opening with a Cloth

After your cat is comfortable with the cat door opening, cover or partially cover it with a light cloth. This allows your cat to get used to having a barrier to push through. Nervous cats may be reluctant to go through a cat flap because they don’t know what’s waiting on the other side.

Gradually increasing the amount of the door covered by the cloth allows them to gain confidence using it. Once your cat reliably goes in and out the cat door through the cloth, you can move on to the next step.

Cat hiding behind curtain
Image Credit: llaszlo, Shutterstock

3. Attach the Cat Flap

Once your cat is comfortable using the open cat door and pushing through a light cloth covering, it’s time to attach the cat flap.

Allow your cat to inspect the fully assembled cat door and get used to it. Reassure them by offering treats or another high-value reward.


4. Lure Your Cat Through the Cat Door

Some cats will start using the cat flap with no issues. If your cat seems confused or reluctant to do so, try luring them through the door with treats. Stand outside and call your kitty or show them a treat through the cat door.

Reward your cat for taking baby steps, like sticking a nose or paw through the door. Never push your cat through the door because it will frighten them and possibly cause them to avoid the cat door altogether. Once your cat uses the cat door, offer extra praise and rewards.

norwegian forest cat goes through a cat flap or cat door
Image Credit: Astrid Gast, Shutterstock

5. Don’t Lock the Cat Door

For safety, it’s recommended that you install a cat door that can be locked to keep your cat in and other animals out if necessary. However, you don’t want to lock the cat door during training.

They need to learn that the cat door is a consistent method of entering and exiting the house. Finding a locked door may confuse your cat and make it harder to train them to use the cat door.

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How to Choose a Cat Door

The most important step in choosing a cat door is ensuring it is the right size for your kitty to fit through easily. If possible, measure your cat’s height and width to ensure you purchase the right door. Training your cat to use the cat door will be extra challenging if your kitty feels trapped or gets stuck.

You’ll also need to decide if you want a standard cat flap door or one that can be locked. Remember, if your cat can go in and out, so can other small animals like raccoons, feral kitties, or dogs. A locking cat door is the best for safety.

You can buy smart cat doors that are unlocked by your cat’s microchip or by a special tag they wear on their collar. They are the best options if you want to prevent any other animals from getting inside.

tabby cat going inside through glass cat door
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Keeping Your Cat Safe Outside

If your cat goes outside, ensure they are up-to-date on all preventative care, including vaccines and parasite control. Microchip your cat and fit them with a collar and identification tags.

Ideally, only allow your cat to go outside into a protected area, such as a catio or screened porch. If your cat has full access to the outdoors, try to at least keep them inside at night to protect them from predators.

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Conclusion

Installing a cat door can be a timesaving, stress-relieving option for pet owners with indoor-outdoor kitties. Some cats will accept the new door without complaint, while others need time and training. These five steps will help you teach your cat to use a cat door, but every animal is different regarding how long the process will take. Be patient, stay positive, and be generous with the treats.


Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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