How to Teach a Cat to Use a Cat Door

10 | Posted:

By Dr Sophia Yin

Q) We have a five month old kitten who can't seem to get the hang of using the cat door. Our other cats use the door and I'm sure he sees them, but he doesn't seem to learn by imitation. Any suggestions? 

A) A kitty door is a simple contraption that many cats learn to use right off the bat, but others don't know what to make of the flappy barrier. While some cats are actually afraid of the odd swinging contraption, others are just too polite to shove their way through. In either case, the solution is straight forward. Make it easy for kitty to go through and make the trip worthwhile. Here's one plan of action. 

Start with a hungry cat, tasty treats, and a fully open kitty door. Toss some treats through the door so that kitty has to pop his head through to get them. When he consistently peeks through without hesitation, you can go to the next step which is to throw the treats a little further. In no time, kitty should be going all the way through the open door to retrieve his yummy rewards. Now to deal with the closed door.

To get kitty used to pushing the door open, hold the door part way open and repeat the treat throwing progression. Gradually, over many trials, make the opening smaller and smaller so that kitty has to push more and more to get through. 

If kitty's hungry enough training should go quickly. Once he figures it's safe to push the hanging thing he'll be going in and out at will. Even very door-wary cats can learn within a dozen practice sessions. 

Just one more tip. During the training sessions make sure the door never smacks kitty in the rear. A good startle may get him through fast, but in terms of ever using the door again, that may be the last.

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10 responses to “How to Teach a Cat to Use a Cat Door

  1. We have older cats and they are microchiped, we used the above and worked really well but they don’t like the clicking noise the release button makes…any suggestons please as we have a stray that comes and steals the other cats food

    1. Don’t leave your cat’s food out all day. Feed at specific times and then put the food bowl away. It’s much healthier for your cat, as well.
      Your other option is to buy a cat door that has a programmable chip recognizer – they run around $250.

  2. My cat is almost a year old. I have propped the door open thus far. She refuses to push the door open herself. I have placed treats outside of the door and she meows like crazy. But will not push the door open.

    My previous cat had no issues with the door.

    1. My cat is the same way… my other cats had no issues with the door (well, window screen pass through). I have propped it open using wire to attach it to the rest of the window screen … :/

  3. It may be surprising to know all the uses you could put a dog door to, even if you don’t have dogs. If you have a pet cat, the dog door can also be used by that. This is also convenient if you have a small dog or a pup – so the same sized door can be used by both. Usually owners install dog doors for dogs but rarely bother to do the same for cats.

  4. After only about three weeks of training once a day, my cat is finally using the cat door all by herself! She loves that she can go anywhere without the dogs following her.

  5. Which is easier for a cat to learn? Going outside to use the bathroom or coming into eat. My cat door has a ledge that can go on either side of the door. Which side should I put it on? Inside or outside?

  6. Our new cat door goes to a basement. All 4 cats (5-10 years old) will squeeze through no problem. I gradually worked with them with treats. The basement stairs are 10 stairs deep and they have no problems going through to the first step. They are having a problem “pushing” through the cat door even if it’s slightly open. The magnet works so well that it closes tightly. Any suggestions on “adjusting” the magnets so the door is easier for them to go back and fourth?

    1. Same here. I just bought one for my cat and I tried to duct tape both magnets, cardboard, and nothing yet. I tried to slide the bottom magnet out, but it must also have glue on it.

    2. I always remove the magnetic strip on the flap. Generally they come off with a bit of effort. Might have to use a pliers.

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