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How do you teach a cat to use a door?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
We finally got around to installing a cat door (or - I should say my dad did ), but I'm finding myself with a few questions now.
First off - the door is NOT to the outside - so no worries there. It's a door to my cellar which is where the "feline bathroom" resides. In the past I"ve had to leave this door open so my kits could get to their bathroom meaning I was heating and cooling my basement all year as well (very costly). By closing this door I know I"m going to keep my heating and cooling costs way down.

Although I think they are slowly learning how to use the door, I was just wondering if anyone has any suggestions for teaching cats? I'm just worried cause even though I think they are getting it, I am afraid one of them will give up and say the heck with it and go to the bathroom somewhere on my floor.
So far we've left the door taped open for the first couple of days so they could get use to the opening itself being there. Then we closed it, marked it with bright tape so they could see it (since it's made out of plexi) and we've working with them ever since. We started by pushing them gently through the door both ways, then we used treats to try to coax them through, then toys. It seems to be "kinda" working, but it's like they go through one time, then turn around and look at it like "what the hell is that". Maybe they are getting it. I don't know. I'm just leary cause I just watched my darling Pebbles (after going through it a few times) stand there and paw at it for a while, not making it through, then just giving up. That's what I worry about. I don't want them to give up (neither do my rugs ).
Also, are there any "safety" things I should consider here? A cat door seems pretty straight forward and the one I have is a flexible plexi (so you can see through it), covered around the edges so it doesn't scratch or hurt them, but I was just wondering if I was missing anything.
post #2 of 9
Does it have one of those flaps? Could you just remove the flap or would that defeat the purpose of the door? I can't imagine a cat would enjoy pushing through the flap.

Before I got my kitten I bought a "kitty hole" for the basement door. He goes through it no problem but if is still young and not "stuck in his ways." When I first brought him home I pushed him through it about 10 times the first day and then prayed really hard -- it worked and no accidents.
post #3 of 9
I moved into a house with a cat door to the garage, and we put the litter box in the garage. The cat never got to the point where she jumped through with ease, but sticking her paw through, sometimes playing with the flap, then sticking her head through, and finally jumping through didn't stop her from using the litter box. I don't think there is anything wrong with the cat wanting to play with the door, or not going through every time he or she approaches the door. Maybe the door is just fun to play with!
post #4 of 9
I have five that use a cat door. I really don't remember doing much training with them. I think I left the door open for a few days, like you did, then I think I probably pushed it partway open so they could walk partway through it, but the cat had to push it open the rest of the way.

Once you have one cat using it, I think the others watch and learn. I wouldn't worry about the cat pawing it and not going through all the time, as long as you've seen him/her successfully go through it before.
post #5 of 9
You seem to be on the right track. You've used the techniques I would, and they're starting to get it. A cat will always prefer a regular door that does not require them to push something or step over/through something, and as long as there is a human around to complain to, they probably will. But they're also smart enough to get the idea that there doesn't have to be a human around for them to get to the other side of the door, and thus accept the convenience.

From the sounds of things, I wouldn't be too anxious about your carpets. Keep up the positive reinforcement whenever you get a chance, and you should be fine.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the input guys. I guess it sounds like I shouldn't worry too much. I'll just be patient and continue to work on it. I've been leaving the cat door open while I am out just in case they all don't have it down to a science, then close it when I am home. I started last night putting all 5 in the basement (where their litter boxes are) and I just went about my business waiting to see who figured out how to get back upstairs. I actually have had some success - 4 of the 5 have made it back upstairs. My last two fears though are 1) They can make it one way - back to the kitchen, but are they smart enough to know it goes the other way too - to the basement. I want to say I think so, but am unsure. 2) my 5th cat. My oldest, hasn't gone through it yet on her own. She will sit in that basement all day and just stare at the door. I feel bad. She's the only one in the damn bunch that knows how to push open a human door too, but she's just not getting this and I don't know why. I don't know if it's stubborness (I'm just not using that thing period) or if she's use to pushing a door sideways like human doors open and this one opens on the bottom.
I really don't want to leave the flap off the cat door. That does kind of defeat the purpose. Already I can't believe the difference in temperature from my kitchen to the other side of that door that goes to the cellar. It's nice and cool in the house from the AC, but hot on the other side.
Thanks again .....guess it's time to go shove some bodies through the door again...
post #7 of 9
put the food or a treat on the side you want them to go to. then put their paw or their head into the door and push thru slow. then after that have a partner hold the treat thru the door and then pull it back so they see where it goes. then follow the paw head motion again. they will figure it out once they know there is food on the other side!
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Well all is going well.....kinda. Every now and then I put all 5 of them downstairs and eventually they show up and go through the door one by one - each one greeted by a "treat" as they do .
All of them have gotten the hang of it except one....my old lady. I'm starting to feel really terrible. I've pushed her back and forth through the door, but she just doesn't get it (or she's really freakin stubborn - cause as I said she's the only one that can open a human door). Needless to say...I'm feeling like the worst Meowmy right now cause she's been on the first landing to the cellar (other side of the door) going on 2 hours now, just sitting there. Thing is, she's not trying to get upstairs...she's just sitting there....looking defeated..... I feel so bad. I've tried calling her, bribing with treats, with a little milk, her favorite toy (cloth tape measure that I can put through the door and slowly pull) and she isn't budging....(by the way...the first landing isn't her usual hang out, so this is a bit unusual)
Any other suggestions for a stubborn old lady?
Her food is upstairs here, so I"m hoping eventually she'll give in and decide she wants to eat, but that hasn't happened yet and I don't want to be cruel. I think I"m going to tape it open again for the night and try again tomorrow.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
OK - NOT WORKING! My poor Zoey has been in the cellar for hours. She has not even shown the desire to come up through the new door. Should I worry? I feel so mean, but It's not even like she's tried. She just sits on the landing and stares at me. I think it really is stubborness. HELP!
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