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Training Your Pet to Use a Cat Door

by Olivia Sutton

It all started with the arrival of your adorable new cat. Who could have known that your seemingly sweet and older feline resident had an inner tyrant which would suddenly be awakened by the presence of a tinier feline? You responded decisively, promptly hiding the new arrival away upstairs leaving the larger cat to stalk the ground floor. But then you decided to make things a lot more easier and purchase a cat door to ensure they each got to roam your home with minimal contact with each other.

But now the moment of truth: How do you get your precious newcomer  to use the cat door and blossom under your affection far from its furry highness which believes your home and its environs to be its sole domain?

Introducing Your Pet to Its Cat Door

  • Get your pet acquainted with the cat door: One of the simplest ways of getting your cat used to this brand new facility is by selecting their favorite toys and a few tasty treats and placing them in the door flap. Since both are virtually irresistible to cats, you’ll be able to watch them examine the door as they attempt to extricate their ‘treasure’ from it. Should they be allowed to munch on the treat or play with the toy once they retrieve it? Absolutely.

After all, your aim is to ensure that a rather positive and wholesome connection as far as the cat flap is concerned, is forged in their mind. One of the very best ways of doing so would be rewarding any curiosity displayed towards the cat door with praise, a cuddle or an extra treat.

  • Get your cat to actually go through the door:  Like the previous stage, this part of their training will also call for loads of patience, treats and toys. One of the best means of getting your pet to go through the flap by themselves is by propping it open and dangling a toy or tasty treat on the other side of it within their line of vision. The sight and scent of the object of their desire will encourage them to overcome any initial reticence they have about using the door or passing through it as their sole preoccupation is bound to be getting their paws on that delightful snack or favorite toy.

It’s also important to repeat the exercise on both sides of the door. Doing so will enable them to get to practice using the cat door both ways so that they become accustomed to coming and going out through its opening. And just as for the first step, any attempts on their part to take a closer look at the door, examine it and even use it should earn them a tasty snack, words of praise or an affectionate cuddle.

  • Encourage your pet to use it in your absence: Cats are naturally curious and intelligent creatures. Once you’ve gotten your pet acquainted with the cat flap, it will want to explore it some more. Hence, your pet’s likely to return to examine the new curiosity further in your absence and even attempt to go through it just in case there are more tasty treats or a new toy awaiting it on the other side. Using a peg to prop it slightly open will encourage them further since the flap will respond to the slightest push from their paw or their head.
  • Encourage your cat to use the flap unaided: Once you’re certain your pet has gotten rather used to the door and is now able to go through it and back again at will, it will be time to progress to the next stage of training. This time they’ll have to open the door all on their own without the peg. However, it should progress rather smoothly since they ought to be rather used to it by now. And even if it does take a little longer than expected, all you’ll need is a little patience with your furball as it figures out how to get the hang of using its personal exit and entrance.
  • Provide support if the sound startles them: Cats have acute hearing which is far sharper than a human’s. Hence, noises which we may easily dismiss, may sound startling to them especially if they’re unaccustomed to them – just like the sound of their new cat door shutting once they’ve gone through it.

One of the best ways of getting them used to it is by opening and shutting it frequently so that they become accustomed to hearing the sound over time.

Cat Door Training – Dos and Don’ts

Do

  • Stock up on loads of treats: Training is often a treat intensive process and you will need to come prepared with loads of your cat’s favorites. Doing so will make things progress a great deal more smoothly and result in a happier pet and therefore a happier you.
  • Use loads of positive reinforcement: Each step taken by your pet in the right direction should be rewarded by cuddles and words of praise.  Doing so in addition to the treats mentioned above will simply make your cat more willing to try to figure out the mystery of the new apparatus you want them to learn all about.
  • Introduce your pet’s scent to the door: As has been previously noted, cats love the familiar. Hence rubbing a favorite blanket or stuffed toy all over the cat door will make the pet more amenable to approaching it and exploring it due to the familiar cozy scent.

Don’t

  • Be impatient with your pet: Do not push your pet’s head or body towards the cat door. Doing so may upset them and make them withdraw into themselves. This is especially true if they’re timid or shy, in which case, they would require a bit more pampering during the training process.  It’s also worth noting that upsetting your pet may also ultimately negatively affect your relationship with it.
  • Be inconsistent: Consistency is key. Especially during the training process. Do not show up to one training session with treats and another empty handed. Doing so may result in your either receiving a disapproving stare from your feline or being ignored, letting you know the session is over before it’s begun. Getting them interested might turn out to be that more difficult as a result.

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