Cat flaps can be a great convenience for both cats and their owners. They can allow your cat the freedom to come and go as it pleases or, alternatively, they can be operated so that you have control over the cat’s movements. There are several different types from which to chose: each has advantages and disadvantages, so some thought should be given to the design most suitable for you and your cat, before you buy and install one.
Installing a cat flap in a wall, rather than a door, may be a costly operation, but it is worth considering if your normal route to the garden is through large patio windows.
Cat flaps are especially useful for people who are away from home during the day and those who entrust the feeding of their cat to a helpful neighbour rather than a cattery when they go on holiday. For those who are at home most of the time they may be an inconvenience, and potentially detrimental to the cat’s welfare.
CHOICE OF FLAP
If you have a particularly large cat (a Maine Coon, for example), check that it will fit through the opening in the cat flap before you buy. Also, check that the flap is suitable for fitting in the type of door or wall that you have: some types are intended for use in walls rather than doors.
Ordinary cat flaps have a door or plastic tunnel that allows the cat access to house and garden. Most of those on the market have an access control with four positions: open both ways; locked both ways; in only; and out only. The disadvantage of these is that any of the neighbourhood cats who want to gain entry to your home can. The more sophisticated — and more expensive — cat flaps contain a sensing device that is controlled by a magnet attached to the cat’s collar. In theory, these only allow your cat in and out, but in practice, if any of your neighbours use the same make of cat flap, their cat will also be able to use the flap. Some manufacturers have tried to limit the risk of strange cats entering the home by offering several different ‘coded’ sensors in the locking device and magnet, which they differentiate by colour. A major disadvantage of the magnetic flap is that there may be a delay in the triggering device, and however short this is, it may be too long in an emergency when the cat is fleeing from danger. Another is that, if the collar to which the magnet must be attached is lost, the cat cannot enter nor leave the house.
The cat flap was invented by Sir Isaac Newton (1642— _1727), the English physicist and mathematician. He had a small door cut into the ordinary door for his cats and, when kittens came along, had an even smaller one cut in the original cat door.
Cats may be reluctant to use a cat flap when a human is about, and will wait for a door to be opened for them. This is because they like to have a wide view of the outside world, to see that there is nothing threatening on the other side.
Cats hate rain and snow, and are reluctant to go outside in wet weather. So, in a house with more than one entrance, a cat may ask to be let out the second door if it sees that it is raining at the first. This is simple cat logic.
Some cats take to using a cat flap easily, while others require more training. Your cat may be afraid of being trapped or injured, but given encouragement it should overcome this. Start by propping the flap open and placing a titbit of food on the other side. Lift the cat gently through to let it know what you want it to do. Once it is used to going through an open flap, close the flap and show the cat how to push it open with its paw. You will have to try both of these steps several times in order to reinforce the lesson. Be liberal in your praise when the cat is successful, but if the cat is reluctant or becomes anxious, don’t force it, leave the training to another day.