The Cat Door
by DOUG BOLTON

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I have three Persians and I've been letting the cats out in my fenced yard during good weather for years. The yard is fenced with tight, vertical wood planking about 5 feet high. A Cornish Rex might be over it in a flash but my threesome having been enjoying the fresh air outside all their lives without a problem. The oldest is now 6+ years old so they're well behaved... at least about not climbing the fence :-))).

To accommodate their coming and going, I've always had to keep the screen door open when they're out , otherwise they're uncomfortable about being "stuck" outside. Of course they weren't the only ones coming in through that open door. I regularly have flies and wasps wandering about the house. I usually manage to shoo them out but flies can be quite a challenge to my "herding" efforts as they seem to like being inside.

I needed a better solution... so I decided to install a cat door in the sliding patio screen door leading to the backyard.

Choosing A Pet Door

There is a wide selection of pet doors available. I chose a style that can be installed in a screen door. It was perfect for the screen of my patio door. It would be accessible only when I opened the sliding glass door. That way I had complete control over when the cats could go out.

I purchased the PetSafe door from Home Depot. For more information visit the PetSafe site at:

http://www.petsafe.net/pet_doors/pet_doors.php?L=3&PROD_CODE=Screen_Door

The Installation

The pet door was quite easy to install.

It comes in two halves, an inner and outer section. I did have to remove the screen door so I could lay it on the outer section of the pet door. I then positioned the pet door behind the screen where I wanted it to be (obviously not too high for the kitties to get through), cut a hole as indicated by the instructions, applied the inner pet door half to the top of the prone screen door and used a mallet to lock the two sections together. This secured the pet door in place. It was simple enough and went reasonably well - though a wrinkle did appear in a corner despite my care. Oh well... installing things is like that.

Closed & Locked

The pet door I choose had sliding plastic tabs on each side of the flap bottom to lock it. The door has a magnet in the bottom of the flap to keep it closed. Any sort of pressure on the flap will force it to swing up allowing a cat access out or in. When the cat passes through the door, it makes a slapping sound as the door swings back and forth before the magnet catches it - so I can tell when a cat's going in or out.

Several manufacturers don't use a locking system. The reasoning is that pets (I suspect they mean dogs) may damage the surrounding screen when the pet door is locked because they want out, like NOW.

Learning To Use The Door - Day One

Initially, my cats couldn't figure out how the door worked. They knew where "out" was, but not how to operate the cat door to get out there. I think they still saw a solid wall of screening. So, in an effort to illicit understanding, I gently pushed their heads (one at a time of course) against the flap 'till it opened a bit. Once they saw it opening they realized they could go through it and were happy kitties, eager to go out using it.

They didn't yet understand they could operate the door themselves though. I suspect they thought I'd gone mad trying to force them through the wall. It was almost amusing.

After several more sessions they seemed to catch on to the fact that the "magic door" opens to the world outside or, at least the backyard outside.

Out is a *big* deal to them so I hoped that was enough motivation for them to figure out how to operate the cat door. Cats really do enjoy being outside - all those sights, sounds and smells to entertain them.

Day Two

All three cats, all eager to go out... so I hoped at least one would learn the trick. At that time it seemed they were trying various kitty spells and incantations. None were working. I hoped they'd soon realize they had to use their heads in a more literal way...

They're very well aware of where the cat door is now as I'm insisting they use it instead of my sliding the screen door to let them out. This they've understood very well. There's much milling around when they know they're going out for the first time of the day. It gets a little more blasé after that. 'Cept they're not happy they're out without knowing how to get back in. The males are mostly OK with this but the female, Beigher, starts the "cat wants in, cat wants out" routine. Maybe she will be first to figure it out on her own?

Norby, the silver, is a vigorous head butter so he's got a head start (so to speak). Beigher the black smoke female does a little gentle head butting. Sedgewick, the male black smoke, doesn't do head butting at all but he's generally the smartest of the lot. There's been some exploratory investigation and Norby did move the flap on his own but no one's yet figured it out.

I'm finding gently pushing their heads against the door is clueing them in so they do realize they need to push it with something. They aren't really waiting for me to open the screen door anymore as I'm insisting they use the cat door now so they gather around and wait for some magic to occur. I think they will understand in time but all 3 have to understand for me to be comfortable leaving the screen door closed. If not, I think it would be easy to use a tin tie to hold it open while they're allowed into the backyard. It's still a smaller opening than the whole screen door for the bugs to find to fly into the house :-)

Progress!


Hmmmm... We know this is out...
but how does it work?!?

Step aside...
Let me check this thing out...

How does this thing work?

There's a secret here somewhere

This is exasperating!

Wait....


I got it! All I have to do is...


PUSH!!!!

Ha! I'm outta here...

Hey... Don't leave me!!!!

Okay... You saw how I did it. Come on out and play!

Okay...

Me Too! Here I COME!!!!!!!!

I love being outside :-))

Okay... So how do we get back in???

Success!

Well the contest is over and Sedgewick won! Day Two he was the first to use the cat door on his own to come in. He had a bit of trouble understanding that out works the same way. Ground level is different between in and out, there's a step down to outside, thus the Beigher dive. I think that had something to do with his difficulty understanding "out" through the cat door. But he's having no trouble either way now.

As I thought, Beigher's in/out quandary meant when she did figure it out she'd get lots of practice with it. And that she does. Happily I don't have to be her doorman anymore...

Norbert, the silver, has been a bit more recalcitrant. He knows how to use the door, but he's either in or out and doesn't spend much time deciding so he could use a bit more practice. Sometimes he's out looking in and appears quite mystified. Then I see him in so I suspect it's a matter of how much he really wanted to come in.

I think the four of us are all quite pleased with the new cat door.

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