“Properly” Installing a Pet Door
…and 5 Important Questions to Consider
Several years ago one of us made the mistake of purchasing and installing a pet door in his home without thoroughly studying the issue. The actual installation was no big deal. All he had to do was cut a hole in a door, mount the simple-to-install kit and begin the process of teaching his pet to use it. But, there were a few extremely important things that he was soon to discover.
He assumed “his” pets were the only ones that would want to take advantage of the shelter, warmth and nourishment offered inside the home. Big mistake. Soon after the installation the pets seemed to be eating twice as much pet food as they did before. He thought it was because they were getting more exercise.
Then he discovered what was occurring. Late one evening one of his kids wandered into the kitchen for a snack. She heard scratching and rustling nearby in the laundry-bath and rushed to her parents’ bedroom to report. Moments later they returned to the scene of the crime and turned on the lights to discover four raccoons (mama and three babies) happily partaking of pet food and making quite a mess. Raccoons are cute, but they are ferocious fighters and have long, sharp claws. The Careys managed to have them exit without incident.
After that, the culpable Carey decided to abandon the pet door. And, not until recently did he realize that he could have prevented the intrusion had he been more aware of choices in pet doors. It was a mistake he would not have made had he asked a few important questions, such as:
- Are there other domestic animals in the neighborhood that might attempt to use one’s pet door?
- Are there wild animals in the area that might attempt to use one’s pet door?
- Will a pet door offer egress or other dangers for 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?
Before the raccoon incident a neighbor’s pet did make it into the home… harmless enough. But 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 something that needs to be considered when opening up one’s home to the great outdoors. Before the incident we were completely oblivious of the possibility of such an occurrence. We had not previously encountered raccoons in our yards, nor did we have any idea that they lived in our neighborhood.
Toddler safety is another consideration. A pet-door opening could be large enough for a toddler to scoot through. And, believe it or not, there are burglars who are expert at using a pet door to gain access to one’s home, especially if the opening is located near a door lock.
Then there’s fire. The door between your kitchen and garage is special. It might 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 joining you at home. Your pet door should be in a location that is completely inaccessible to a toddler. And, be sure that the door is the smallest size that your pet can get through.