GADGETS & ACCESSORIES

How to Install a Cat Door: Giving Your Kitty the Freedom She Needs

A cat sitting next to a cat door in house
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

We are used to seeing dog doors in many homes, but something else that has recently started to gain popularity is cat doors. Cats are curious little creatures that like to explore, and once they have set their mind on something, there’s no stopping them. Installing a cat door relieves you of your duty as your cat’s doorman, but at the same time, it’s a source of a different kind of hassle. Making any kind of modifications to a permanent fixture in your home such as a door is no small feat, but if you apply our tips on how to install a cat door, it shouldn’t be an insurmountable task.

It’s neither expensive nor difficult to install a cat door as long as you are comfortable with some simple DIY procedures. At the same time, undertaking this simple project could have a big impact on your cat’s life. I once nearly lost a cat because my house didn’t have a cat door. I’ll tell you the story in detail later; the point is, it made me realize how important installing a cat door is.

Kitty getting into the house through a cat door

I didn’t want to call a handyman to install the door for me because it would have cost me at least $200, so I did it myself. The result was beautiful, and so I would now like to share with you the simple steps I used to install the kitty door. But first things first, let me talk about the reasons why you want to have a cat door in your home.

Reasons You Should Have a Kitty Door

So, I promised that I’d tell you the whole story of how I almost lost my cat because I didn’t have a cat door, and here it is. At the time, I had just received a call from my boss that I should report to work for an emergency that we had to work on throughout the night.

I always made sure that my kitty was locked inside the house every time I was going to be away for a long time. But something unusual happened—she somehow sneaked out when I opened the door. I didn’t realize she was out of the house, so I locked it.

Close-up image of a kitty sitting in a cat door

I headed off to work, completed the client’s order, and was back by 2 AM. But the weather got really bad just a few hours after I left my home. I found my kitty outside—alone in the rain. I took her to the vet immediately, and luckily she wasn’t out there long enough to develop hypothermia. It was a close call, though.

If I had installed a cat door, she would have been able to make her way into the house when the weather got bad. Long story short, drawing from my experience, it should be clear already how beneficial installing a kitty door is for both you and the cat. I learned my lesson and did it right away. Perhaps you should too.

It Offers Your Cat Freedom

When you have a cat door installed, you allow the kitty to move in and out freely. If you install a cat door in the door that leads outside, your cat will be able to get in touch with her wild instincts. A cat is said to be the happiest when she is allowed to explore the outside world whenever she wants.

A cat entering the house through her cat door

If your cat is an indoor cat, a cat door will still come in handy. You should install a few into the doors that lead to your cat’s favorite rooms—such as your bedroom, the playroom, etc.—so that she will be able to roam freely.

It Offers You Convenience

How many times have you had to get up from your couch to open the door for your cat while watching your favorite show? Pretty often, I’d wager. Cats like to go out then ask to be let in again not even five minutes later. So why not install that cat door? It’s going to stop those interruptions.

Picture showing a black and white cat getting in house through a cat door

Of course, health and fitness enthusiasts may argue that those steps you are taking from the sofa to get the door are good for your body. But I really don’t want to be interrupted even by my own body when I am watching The Aristocrats.

It Curtails Unwanted Behavior

A cat door prevents the annoying behaviors you are often subjected to when you don’t do what she wants. Cats will meow loudly for you to let them outside. They will scratch at the doors and walls if you don’t open the door. Not only are these behaviors a major bother, but they could also be destructive.

It Offers Safety to Your Cat

Had I installed a cat door, I would not have lost my beloved kitty. A kitty door allows your cat to safely get back into the house in the event of an unexpected bad weather. And not just bad weather—your kitty will also be safe from all the dangers that await her outdoors.

a man presenting to a black cat a cat door

If the neighborhood kids are bothering her, she can quickly sneak back into the house. If she spots an angry dog, she will be able to avoid a confrontation. It is said that outdoor cats, in general, have a much shorter lifespan than indoor cats because they face many dangers. You can even lengthen their lifespan simply by installing a cat door.

Steps to Installing a Cat Door

Now that we have looked at the reasons you should consider installing a kitty door, let’s now get to the procedure. Installing a cat door won’t make you break a sweat if you know what to do and what tools and materials you need.

Image showing The Best Multi-Bit Screwdriver

Before you start, it is important to understand that depending on the surface you will be installing the cat door into, you may require different tools. For example, the tools you use to install a cat flap in a metal door may not necessarily be the same as those you need for wooden doors.

In this article, we are going to explain how to install a pet door into a solid wooden door. Here are the tools and materials you need to prepare for this project:

  • Pencil

  • Ruler

  • Set square

  • Screwdriver

  • Drill and drill bits

  • Tape measure

  • Jig or keyhole saw

  • Masking tape

  • Safety goggles

  • Cat flap fixings and template

  • Dustpan and brush

Step 1: Measure and Mark

How big of a cat flap you should install so your cat will be able to fit through it comfortably can be determined by measuring how far your cat’s belly stands from the ground.

A men measuring and marking a piece of wood

In most cases, the measurement you will get is somewhere between 4” and 6”, which is the equivalent of 100 to 150mm or 10 to 15cm.

  • Once you’ve got the measurement, mark it on the outside surface of the door, then draw a straight horizontal line of about 6.65 inches or 169mm.

  • If you choose to fit the cat door in the middle of the door, you can use the tape measure to make a mark in the center part of the door.

  • Now, take a ruler to draw a straight horizontal line until it crosses the mark you made before to show the center point of the door.

Step 2: Cut the Hole for the Cat Flap

Now you need to cut a hole where the cat flap is going to fit. To cut the hole for the cat flap, you will need to use the horizontal line that you drew in Step 1 as the starting point.

  • Now draw a square of 6.65 inches or 169mm, so that you have a box measuring 6.65 inches x 6.65 inches or 169mm x 169mm.

  • When done, take out your drill and drill holes at each corner. So, you will have four holes.

  • Using your saw, cut along the lines you just drew.

  • After that, use sandpaper to smooth out the edges.

The reason you are drilling holes in the corners is because you want to create space for the saw blade to push through the wood before you begin cutting.

Drilling holes for the two screws to install a cats door

Alternatively, you may use the template provided in the cat flap package to help you drill the holes. Below is how you should go about using the template.

  • You will find that cat flaps come with some paper templates to help show you the positions where you should drill. If you have the template, place the bottom on the baseline you drew with the pencil so that it is in line with it.
  • Using the drill, make a hole in every corner of the template. You should be able to clearly see the position of the holes indicated on the template. The holes make it easy for you to form the shape of the cat flap using the jigsaw.

  • When done with drilling holes into the corners, remove the template and ensure you blow out the sawdust.

  • Using a ruler and pencil, outline the opening by drawing four lines that join the holes. This way, you will have outlined the cat flap opening.

  • Using the saw, cut along the lines. Make sure to close the main door before you start cutting.

  • After cutting, push out the wood so that you reveal the hole where the cat flap is going to fit. Sand the edges to smooth them and remove any sawdust.

Make sure you test the flap to fit by placing the front part over the hole. Ensure that the flap can move in and out easily.

Step 3: Fit Your Cat Flap

With the lock of the flap positioned on the inside of the door, it’s time to place the flap in the hole. Here’s how you fit the flap:

  • Using a pencil, mark the screw holes that are located on each corner of your cat flap. Make sure that you first remove the blanking plugs.

  • When you have marked the screw holes, remove the cat flap then start drilling the holes using a drill bit of about 4.5mm. You want to ensure you select the right drill bit and it’s paramount you choose one that’s slightly narrower than the screws you are using.

  • Now, drill the screw holes until you punch the holes to the other side of the door.

  • After you have finished drilling the screw holes, you now want to screw together the two sides of your cat flap.

  • Holding the front of the flap in position, gently ease the screws into the holes.

  • Now, open the main door and take the back of the flap and put it over the protruding screws.

  • Get to a position where your arms can reach either side of the door to enable you to attach the nuts to the screws.

  • Holding the nut secure using one hand, you need to use the other hand to hold the screwdriver, then tighten the screws.

  • Repeat the same thing on the other three screws—making sure that the nut is as tight as possible for a firm fix.

Last but not least, test your cat flap to see if it works fine. Now, show it to your cat and encourage her to use it. That’s all. You are done with installing your cat door. Your cat will surely love it, and so will you when you’ve felt firsthand how handy it is.

Helpful Tips

Installing a cat door isn’t as complicated as you imagined, is it? Still, if you’re not used to going DIY, it could take a bit more time and effort than your average beginner’s project. To make things easier for you, we’ve arranged some helpful tips over here.

Choose a Warm Day

You’ll surely want to make the experience of installing the cat door a pleasant one, so consider doing it when the weather is fine. A fine weather makes it easier for the cat to learn how to use the new cat door in case they need time to do so.

Image showing a Warm Summer Day

While the weather is nice, you can prop the kitty door open for some time without letting the cold or the rain in.

Keep Safe While Doing the Installation

Because you’re using power tools, you’ll want to be extra careful not to injure yourself. You also don’t want to risk sawdust getting into your eyes. Put on your safety goggles to ensure safety. Clear the area you are working around of any potential hazards and find a stable standing position as you work.

Close-up image of a safety goggles on the table

Also, understand that other critters like opossums and raccoons may discover the cat flap and use it to visit your abode. Worse, kids may crawl out of your house through the cat flap. These are some of the things you will want to be prepared for. If you are using a programmable cat door, properly set it up so it would not let in wild animals or let out kids, respectively.

Choose Where You Plan to Install the Door Carefully

Remember that cat flaps can be installed in different locations such as the doors, walls, and windows—meaning there is plenty of room for improvisation. One thing you should consider is situating your cat flap in an area that opens out onto some sheltered space or the garden, so your cat will feel safer.

Image of a cat getting in house through a cat door

If the design of your home does not permit this, you can make the space where the cat flap opens out to more secure by placing some plant pots or even benches she can hide behind.

Wrap Up

One of the greatest investments you could make for your kitty is to install a door she can comfortably use. Giving your cat the utmost freedom by allowing her to come in and go out of the house will make her very happy. Installing a kitty door is easier than what many homeowners believe. Whether you are installing one between rooms or through the main door, you will find it fun and interesting to do.

Make sure that you take the measurements properly and follow all the instructions you have been given. Use the tools properly and remember that depending on the surface—you can install it in a fiberglass door, metal door, French multi-lite door, brick veneer wall, double brick masonry, glass, stucco, or sliding wall—you may require different tools. Don’t forget to take safety measures seriously when handling this DIY project.

A cat entering the house through the Sureflap Microchip Cat Door

What experience made you consider installing a cat door? Where do you plan to put it? If you’re experienced in the art of installing a cat door on surfaces other than the wooden door for which a step-by-step guide has been provided above, please let us know how you did it. We’d like to learn from you too.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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