Q. We recently moved to a flat that has a garden. Our flat has access to the garden through a cat flap, but my stupid cat won't use it! I have tried going out and calling him but he just stares at me blankly. How can I make him go through the cat flap? Dave, via e-mail
A. Firstly, I don't know how much time you spend with your cat, but by now I'm sure that you will have learnt that you cannot make a moggie do something that he doesn't want to do. In fact, he's probably enjoying watching you standing outside in the cold, especially if you keep calling him "stupid"!
The primary reason that he isn't keen to go out may have something to do with the recent cold weather. Who can blame him for not wanting to venture into the garden when he's got a nice warm home? One bit of advice would be to wait until the weather gets a little bit warmer and by that time, hopefully, your cat will have become acclimatised to his new surroundings and he may even start using the cat flap of his own accord.
However, if he still seems reluctant, then here are a few other things you could try. First, try propping the cat flap open; if your cat can see outside, his curiosity might get the better of him and he might be more inclined to go through it. Another thing you could do is to hold the flap open for him and put his food on the other side and wait. If he's hungry, he'll go through.
If all else fails, you'll have to start from scratch. Get a friend to help you, collect some of his favourite treats and position one person on the inside and one on the outside. The person on the outside should pop his hand through the flap and give the cat a treat. Repeat this a few times, then push in the flap, put the hand with a treat under again and guide the cat through. When he gets to the other side, give him a few treats and lots of praise; then repeat this the other way round. Never push the cat through! You will ruin the training and he may hurt himself.
Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended