Cats love to have the freedom to come and go from the house as they please. Putting in a cat door is a way to allow them that freedom, even while you're asleep or away at work.
Cat Door Essentials
All cat doors consist of a rectangular frame with a flap in the middle that is installed near the bottom of an entry door to the house. The flap swings freely inside the frame and is light enough for a cat to push its way through to go in and out as it pleases. Most cat doors also have a latching mechanism, so you can lock the door closed if you're going out of town or want to keep the cat in or out for awhile.
How Big to Make a Cat Door
Cats don't vary as much in size as dogs, but there is still quite a difference between a skinny Siamese and a huge tabby. Most cat doors are one-size-fits-all, however, you can find large cat/small dog doors as well as small cat doors.
When checking the size of a cat door to make sure it will be the right fit, be sure to check for the dimensions of the opening, rather than the outer frame. The opening should be at least two inches wider and taller than the greatest width and height of the cat's torso.
Special Types of Cat Doors
There are several different types of cat doors, including some cat doors with high-tech options.
- Four-Way cat doors are those with a latching mechanism that can be set to allow the cat to either go out without the possibility of returning, or to come in without the possibility of going out again. The upside of these doors is that you have more control over the cat's activities; the downside is you have to remember to set it.
- Magnetic cat doors come with a magnetic 'key' that goes on the cat's collar. The door unlocks as the cat approaches, but stays locked the rest of the time. One benefit to these types of doors is that other animals can't come in, however, the cat has to wear a device attached to its collar.
- Electronic cat doors are the same concept as magnetic doors, but are even fancier. Electronic doors utilize an electric sensor in the cat's collar to unlock the door for the cat. The doors typically include an LED display that tells you which cats are in or out and when they last went through the door. While it's great to have a door that has the ability to track the activity of more than one cat; the downside is these types of doors come with a high cost.
- Screen cat doors are special lightweight models designed to fit into a screen door, rather than a solid door. You can enjoy the ventilation and bug protection of a screen door while keeping your cat happy; however, this type of door causes a lot of wear and tear on the screen.
Installing a Cat Door
The process for installing a cat door is essentially the same for wood, metal and plastic doors.
- Mark the height of the cat's shoulder on the door.
- Remove the door from the hinges and lay it flat on a pair of saw horses or the edge of a table. Place the template provided onto the door and trace the shape of the cut-out with a pencil; mark the locations of the screw holes indicated on the template as well. The top of the cut-out should align with the height of the cat's shoulder.
- Drill a one-half-inch hole just inside each of the four corners of the area to be cut out.
- Cut along the marked lines with a jigsaw, using the holes as a starting point for each of the four sides.
- Drill pilot holes for the screws if indicated in the instructions for the door.
- Remove the cut portion of the door and reinstall it on the hinges.
- Place inner and outer frame of the cat door in their respective locations and insert the screws that connect them to each other.
Once the door is installed, encourage your cat to come through it by rewarding them with treats. They will be very thankful and life will be a little easier for you, too, since you won't have to run to the door constantly to let them in and out.