Projects: Installing A Pet Door
Several years ago we made the mistake of purchasing and installing a pet door in our home without thoroughly studying the issue. What a fiasco that turned out to be. How about that? Us, the gurus of precaution and preparedness being involved in a major household pupa due to lack of information gathering. The actual installation was “no big deal”. All we had to do is cut a hole in a door, mount the simple-to-install kit and begin the process of teaching our pet to use it – soup to nuts it was an afternoon proposition. But, as we mentioned, and much to our surprise, there were a few extremely important things that we were soon to discover that we didn’t consider.
We assumed – and we all know what happens when we “assume” something – we assumed that “our” pets were the only ones that would want to take advantage of the shelter, warmth and nourishment offered inside our home. Big mistake. Soon after the installation our pets seemed to be eating twice as much as normal – we thought it was because they were getting more exercise. Before very long they were eating more than we felt was safe for their health – fortunately they weren’t gaining any weight.
Finally, we discovered what really was happening. Late one evening one of our kids wandered into the kitchen for a nighttime snack. She heard scratching and rustling nearby in the laundry-bath and first thought there might be a burglar. She rushed to our bedroom to warn us. Just moments later she and wife Carol returned to the other end of the house and turned on the lights to discover four raccoons (mama and three babies) eating pet food, pooping and generally making a mess everywhere.
Have you ever seen a raccoon “TP” a bathroom? Seeing wild animals in your home can evoke some pretty unusual feelings. There is a kind of serene pleasure being so close to something completely wild – especially younger ones. You have to admit that raccoons are pretty good looking animals. At the same time fear takes over – what if they attack? The thought of being attacked by a wild animal – even a small one – can be pretty unsettling. Hey raccoons are really cute, but they also are ferocious fighters and have very long, sharp claws. They both backed off, wedged some furniture into the hallway leaving only an open door in the raccoons’ path.
Immediately after the incident we decided to abandon our pet door. And, not until recently did we realize that we could have prevented the incident altogether had we been more aware of our choices in pet doors. A mistake we would not have made had we asked a few important questions like:
- Are there other domestic animals in the neighborhood that might attempt to use our pet door?
- Are there wild animals in the area that might attempt to use our pet door?
- Will a pet door offer egress or other dangers to a toddler?
- Is the selected installation location accessible and convenient to a burglar?
- Is the selected location one that could increase the danger of a house fire?
If the answer to any of these questions is “I don’t know”, then please, continue reading. Before the raccoon incident a neighbor pet did make it into our home. It never crossed our mind that a friendly, domestic dog or cat had the potential to literally destroy our home. The incident with the raccoons made us realize that wild animals can exist even in areas that are completely built out with housing. This is definitely something that needs to be considered when opening up one’s home to the great outdoors. Before the incident we were completely oblivious to the possibility of such an occurrence. We had not previously encountered raccoons in our yard nor did we have any idea that they lived in our neighborhood.
Toddler safety is another major bone of contention. A pet door opening can be more than large enough for a toddler to scoot through. Think about it. And believe it or not there are burglars who are expert at using a pet door to gain access to your home – especially if the opening is located near a door lock.
Then there’s fire. The door between your kitchen and garage is very special. It may not look that way, but it is. In the construction industry the door between the garage and home is known as “the fire door”. In most homes this is the only door of its kind. It is specially made to take longer to burn than a regular interior door. Installing a pet door in a fire door is a no-no, doing so increases the danger of a fire spreading from the garage to the house.
So, what’s a pet owner to do? If you want to install a pet door look for one where your pet wears a special collar that unlocks the door. Pet doors of this type do exist. How about that – a house key for Fido! At least you won’t have to worry about wild animals pooping on your freshly waxed floor. Your pet door should be in a location that is completely inaccessible by a toddler. Need we say more? And, be sure that the door is the smallest size available that your pet can get through. Who wants to make burglary easy? Not us! And that’s all there is to it!
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