Should You Install a Cat Door For Your Cat?
Cat Door Placement For Indoor Use
Before we dive into the helpful advice on installing cat doors, it’s important to evaluate your specific situation wisely. Cat doors are certainly a popular and convenient door for you and your feline for various reasons; not all of them involve allowing your cat to have free reign outdoors. For example, pet owners sometimes keep a litter box in the garage or enclosed patio, and installing a cat door gives your cat ability to access it at any time even when the door is safely locked. Installing access into a closet or cabinet to store a litter box may make sense in your home. In a busy household, a cat door can give your cat a quiet place to retreat.
However if you’re considering installing a cat door into any wood exterior door of your home which will allow your cat to roam outdoors, there are some issues to strongly consider first. If your cat has never been an outside cat before, be well informed of the safety concerns of allowing your cat to go outside. Nearly all vets agree that indoor cats generally have longer life expediencies. Evaluate your neighborhood’s environment to assure it is suitable for an outdoor cat.
Your Outdoor Environment
Calm, suburban or rural areas are preferred, and you should be aware of other pets and wildlife that live in your neighborhood that your cat could potentially encounter. It’s also important to note your cat’s abilities, such as experience with other animals or self-defense. If your cat is declawed, it is strongly discouraged to let her outside, as she has no way to defend herself against other animals. If you’re thinking about getting a cat door to give your cat some freedom, there are some things to consider first. If your cat is not already familiar with your neighborhood, make sure you live in an environment that is suitable for an outdoor cat. Calm, suburban or rural areas are preferred, and you should be aware of other pets that live in your neighborhood that your cat could potentially encounter.
If your cat has never been an outside cat before, consult a veterinarian or professional on the safety concerns of allowing your cat to go outside. It’s also important to note your cat’s abilities, such as experience with other animals or self-defense. If your cat is declawed, it is strongly discouraged to let her outside, as she has no way to defend herself against other animals.
Types of Cat Doors
Of course, a cat door doesn’t need to lead straight outdoors. A cat door can be installed to lead to an enclosed patio or garage, or even to other rooms in the house. There are a multitude of cat door types that can provide different uses:
Basic flap: A basic cat door with a flap is the most versatile, simple option for most cat door uses. It provides insulation, making it a great option for cat doors leading outside. They can also be installed indoors, even into cabinets if you want to hide the litter box. Transparent or translucent flaps are recommended, as your cat is more likely to use the door if she can see through it. These doors can come with a 2-way or 4-way locking system, meaning you can block exit, entry, or both. This allows you to have some control over your cat’s coming and going, as you could let her come in at night and keep her from going back out.
Electronic: This type of door gives you some added security and convenience, but is usually more expensive. Electronic cat doors can be personalized to your cat’s collar or microchip to prevent other animals from entering the home.
Interior: Interior cat doors can be as simple as frames for an open hole in the door. These are a simple, inexpensive option for wood doors to allow your cat free passage through the house while keeping doors closed. They’re great if you want to have a room for the litter box without having the smell spread to other rooms.
With all cat door types, you want to make sure you order the proper size for your cat so she is comfortable using it. Measure the width and height of her body, and order a cat door that gives her at least a couple inches of extra space.
Where to Install the Door
Cat doors can be installed almost anywhere in the house, and there are pros and cons to each location:
Door: Installation into a back door is usually the simplest, and most cost-effective. Most door installations can be done with minimal hassle. However, there are other options that may be optimal for your cat, if you have the resources.
Window: Cat doors are small and can usually fit in a window without taking up too much space. This can be less intrusive or noticeable than a door installation, and may be more stimulating for your cat as well. Make sure there are ample ledges for your cat to reach on both sides; consider their ability to reach the door as they get older as well. If the situation changes, these doors can usually be easily removed.
Wall: Owners often prefer installations into a wall, as they can be inconspicuous and more convenient in the house. They also can be more attractive, and seem like a permanent addition to the home. They are, however, normally more expensive, and rather difficult to install. You may need to hire a professional to install the door if you don’t have experience with this type of work.
Tips for Installing Cat Doors
If you’ve decided what type of cat door is best for your home, here are some tips for installing them in different locations. Your door will likely come with instructions and installation may differ slightly depending on which door you purchase, however these are some key tips to keep in mind.
Installation in wood doors: Installing a cat door into your standard interior wood door will be rather simple, and can likely be done without a professional. First, you need to remove your door from its hinges, to have a flat, stable workspace. Then, trace the outline or template of the cat door onto the space where it will go. Drill holes in the corners of the outline, and then cut out the hole using a jigsaw. Make sure the cat door will fit properly, and then attach it!
Installation in sliding doors: Most cat doors for sliding doors come with a glass panel with the cat door on the bottom, so that it can be easily inserted into the frame of your sliding door. You will likely just need to screw it in place and install weather-stripping that should be included with your purchase.
Installation in windows: For windows, you will need to create a hole in the glass itself. This technique can also be used for glass doors such as French doors. If you have plate glass, you are able to directly cut a hole in the glass to insert the door. It is best to have someone with experience do this to ensure the hole is the right size. If you have tempered glass, you will need to order a replacement glass pane from a local glass shop with a hole pre-cut for the cat door to be installed.
Installation in walls: This process is a bit more complicated, and it is highly recommended to hire a professional if you don’t have this kind of experience. Small mistakes such as cutting the hole the wrong size, improper sealing, or cutting into electrical wiring can lead to expensive problems. However, here’s the general idea of the process for basic drywall and stucco walls. First, you need to locate the studs in your wall to find a place where the door will have stability. Trace the opening of the door, hopefully from an included template, on both sides of the wall, with careful measurements to make sure they line up. Then cut the hole out using a reciprocating saw or similar. It’s important to have a lining on the inside of the wall to protect this area from mold or dry rot; some cat doors come with tunnels or wall liners for this purpose. After inserting the door, seal the edges with high quality caulking for proper insulation.
Tal Hassid, founder of ETO Doors , is a door and wood expert in the industry for 15 years.
ETO Doors, one of the largest online marketplaces for doors, carries solid wood and fiberglass doors including Interior, Exterior, and French doors.