Owning a cat can be one of the most rewarding experiences in a person’s life. They offer companionship without the cloying attachment issues that are often associated with dogs.
For families, they are also wonderful for teaching younger and older children about responsibility and for bringing families together. They are also, however, wildly individual creatures who value their freedom as highly as they do their domesticity.
For this reason, if you’re going to own a cat, you are probably going to want to invest in a cat flap for your front and rear external doors. The advantages of a cat flap are numerous and should be obvious to anyone who has ever owned a cat:
Of course, there are only really three valid reasons to not consider installing a cat flap. If you don’t feel your cat is ready yet, if you are worried about random cats entering your home or if you’re worried about security.
These are all fears that can be alleviated, however. If you don’t think your cat is ready to venture into the great outdoors on its lonesome, cat flaps can be locked until you and your cat are ready.
For door security, meanwhile, as long as you are smart about where you place your cat flap, you shouldn’t have any issues. Make sure the cat flap is located far enough away from the latch so that a pair of prying hands couldn’t manoeuvre their way through and never leave your keys in the door overnight.
If you’re really concerned, you could even install a flap with a magnetic strip, which will only open for your cat, who can wear a corresponding tag on their collar. This also solves the rogue cat problem.
Of course, installing a cat flap in an existing external door can be a difficult task if you’re not a DIY master, but it’s certainly not an impossible task. To save you the cost and hassle of calling in a carpenter, joiner, or handyman, we’ve compiled a short, simple guide that should take even DIY newbies no more than a couple of hours to make it through.
We will be going through the unique eccentricities you’ll find with each of the main four building materials below, but in all cases, remember to always take precise measurements and make sure you have the right tools for the job.
Tools: The cat flap itself, tape measure, a decent pencil, spirit level, file, drill and jigsaw.
Before going any further, make sure you read the instructions supplied with your cat flap. These instructions should also include a list of any extra tools you might need, aside from those listed above.
Of course, every door will be a little bit different and the main difference will be the material your external door is built from. Below, we’ll outline the specific eccentricities you might face when fitting your cap flap in doors built from the four most common building materials.
Perhaps the most common and affordable building material for external doors in the UK, the quality of these will vary greatly, but in all cases, you’ll want to exercise greater care than you might with a wooden, glass or composite door, as the material is generally more fragile.
This is particularly true in cold weather. You should be safe following the instructions above, but take into account that some uPVC doors might incorporate a sheet of MDF, plywood or even aluminium/steel for added security, so you might need to use a sturdier blade on your jigsaw.
In the vast majority of cases, however, a decent fine-toothed blade should do the trick. The primary complication experienced with uPVC doors is seen in cases where the doors feature a raised decorative piece. Avoid these where at-all possible and install your cat flap around them. If that’s not possible, be careful when cutting the raised piece away and remember to rainproof when you’re finished.
By its very nature, wood is more natural and easier to cut than uPVC, but it’s not without its challenges!
Whilst it is a rather straightforward task on the face of it, special provisions should be made where there are decorative protrusions or tongue and groove boards making up the door pane.
It's also particularly important, with wooden doors, to make sure that the seal on the cat flap is weathertight, as wood can rot if exposed to rainwater over a long period of time. Sealant is certainly recommended in this case.
When fitting your cat flap into a glass door, the job is obviously a little more delicate.
All glass doors (such a bifold patio doors, for example) will require the skills of a professional glazer, as cutting glass required specialist tools. Toughened glass also can’t be cut after the toughening process, so if you require a cat flap in a double-glazed glass unit, the glass will have to be replaced with a new double-glazed glass unit as any attempt to cut into the glass will cause it to fracture.
If the glass is not toughened, you might want to consider ordering a new pane with a hole pre-cut to suit. Once the hole has been cut, the process is largely similar to the process of installing in a wooden or uPVC door. The primary difference is that the flap will be installed into a mounting unit that obviously won't require any drilling. As with wooden door installs, weatherproof sealant is highly recommended.
If the glass is too narrow to accommodate the opening required for the cat flap, a pane of solid polycarbonate could be used instead. In any case, you will require the assistance of a qualified glazier if you intend on fitting your cat flap into an external glass door.
Composite doors are generally built to be more weatherproof, secure and energy efficient than standard doors, which means it can be more difficult to make any DIY alterations, but not impossible.
It's recommended, if possible, to have the doors pre-built with the cat flap already installed, but if this is not possible then you'll need to make your judgement based on the materials in the construction of the door.
All composite doors are different and built from various mixes of wood, uPVC and metal, so please consult the manufacturers if possible and also, if possible, consult a professional joiner before even considering the job as making any alterations to a composite door can invalidate your warranty or break the weathertight seal. If it can be done, the process is very similar to the process for fitting in a uPVC door.
The simple and obvious answer would be to purchase draught excluding material from your local DIY store. This can be applied as the cat flap is being installed and will make a significant difference. Another idea would be to purchase a cat flap with a built-in, brush draught excluding brush or plastic system, or to fit one into an existing flap. A final option would be to fix a piece of material that's heavy enough to minimise the draught, but not too heavy to stop your cat from easily accessing the flap, above the cat flap.
Most of the time you're honestly better off replacing your door completely, as filling in the cat flap could seriously compromise the security. If your door is wooden or simple uPVC, however, you could quite feasibly out the entire panel in which the cat flap is fitted and replace it with an entirely new panel. If the cat flap is installed in a glass panel, however, you should again consult a professional glazier.
If you’re worried about damaging your doors, there are cat flaps available that can be installed in a pane of glass, rather than through the door itself. Some people, meanwhile, choose to put a cat flap on their outdoor shed rather than their house and make the shed into a home for the cat with a bed and litter tray.