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.