Cats are delightful pets to own most of the time. Though typically aloof, they observe when you’re down and will provide company to you. They’re fairly low-maintenance as they don’t need to be walked like dogs and eat food that’s generally inexpensive. They like routine, and use the bathroom in the same place repeatedly. In fact, the most time-consuming facet of cat ownership is maintaining their litter boxes. No question about it – litter boxes can be smelly when they’re out in the house proper. Installing them in closed off rooms is a good option, but only if the cat has ready access. Here’s how to train your cat to use a kitty door.
About the Doors
Kitty doors (or small dog doors, for that matter), are basically covers that close off a hole you’ve made in a door from one room to the next. They can either work in one direction, allowing the animal to go out but not come back in or vise versa, or in both. Many have locks that prevent the animal from going either way (good for nighttime). They’re installed by cutting a quadrilateral hole near the bottom of a door. A frame is inserted over and inside the hole, and a swinging flap attached, and then a cover is applied to hold the apparatus together.
Where to Install the Door
The ideal place to install a kitty door is on an entrance to a laundry room or interior garage door. That way the smell of the litter box is kept in a part of the house that doesn’t interfere with your living space. If you do not have those sort of rooms in your house, a basement, storage closet, bathroom, or utility room could be alternatives.
It’s important that your cat or cats know where the litter box is before you expect them to use the kitty door, especially if they’re used to going in another open spot. Carry the cat to the litter box in the new space regularly and set them in it, even if they don’t need to go. Go ahead and remove the one from the previous location so the cat doesn’t return there. Leave the door slightly ajar so the cat can get in and out.
Training the Cat
Once your kitty understands that their litter box is behind a door and in a certain room, install the kitty door. Put the cat on the litter box side and close the door. Cats are generally intelligent and will eventually figure out how to get out when food is at stake. One of my cats was more proficient at using the flap than the other early on, however, and I had to regularly coax her out. I would often open the flap and look into the laundry room at her, show her a can of food, and then let the door whisk down.
Keep putting the cat back behind the door until it’s easy for them to find the flap and push out of it. Next, help them understand that the door works from the other side, too, so that they’ll take themselves to the bathroom. It’s not a good idea to squish your cat through the kitty door as they may perceive it as trauma; however, it won’t hurt to push the flap with their flaw to demonstrate what they should do and then see if they follow through.
Most cats are quick learners (exception noted above), so there should only be a few accidents while they figure out how to use the kitty door independently. If your cat does soil outside of their designated room (due to incompetence or idiocy), simply escort him or her to the litter box and close the door as soon as you discover the puddle.
With any luck, within a couple of short weeks the training period will be behind you and your cats will use their kitty door without problems. Make sure you keep those litter boxes clean, or no matter how much training you do your cats will soil your house wherever is comfortable!