Generally speaking, cats take to cat flaps quite well. Training is therefore usually quite straightforward – but every cat is unique, and for some, learning through trial and error on their own may take a long time and some may even be too timid to attempt to push their head against the flap.
The most important rule is to be patient with your cat. Let your cat work out for himself that he can go indoors and outdoors using the flap. The enticement of the outdoors is often so great that your cat will be willing to keep trying, pawing and pushing the flap until he learns it can be moved enough to get out!
For those with a cat or kitten with no experience of using a cat flap, training can ensure it’s a positive experience and that he can use it to both exit and enter his home (It’s quite common for some cats not to understand that the cat flap also moves in the opposite direction and that they can come back into the house through it!)
For kittens, small or timid cats, pressing their head against the flap can take quite a bit of effort, so there are a few tricks you can use to help. The first is to keep the cat flap fully open. This way, all your cat has to learn initially is to go through the hole (make sure how you are keeping it open is secure though and the flap doesn’t fall down accidentally as you’ll be back to square one!)
This is also a good time to establish a motive to get your cat to use the flap. Place your cat’s favourite toy or food in the cat flap opening so he is drawn to the area. When he then willingly explores the cat flap, he will find something he enjoys, which will ultimately make the association that going near the cat flap is a positive thing and consequently, he’ll be likely to do it again.
Once your cat is happy to approach the cat flap, it’s time to start training for going through it. From the other side of the cat flap, hold out a treat for your cat and encourage them to come through the gap to get to it. Reward all successful trips through the cat flap with treats and praise. Once you have got them through the cat flap in one direction, make sure that you also train them to go through in the opposite direction. The next step is to lower the flap over the opening and teach your cat to push it with his paw or head. If you hold the cat flap open for them long term, it’s likely that your cat will expect you to continue to do this and won’t look to push it open by themselves, so it’s therefore not something that you should look to do for too long once your cat gets used to using the flap.
Good luck and happy flapping!