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Who’ll Let The Dogs In?

Our pets like to go outdoors, and it’s driving me nuts running to the door letting them in and out with the insects and outdoor air blowing in. Would installing a pet door kit be secure and efficient?—Jeri W.

I have an old cat that is not quick about making up his mind whether to go in or out while I hold the door open. As you mentioned, a lot of outdoor air blows in while the door is open. Mosquitoes circling the cat or dog get blown in along with the air.

Although a small pet door is not as efficient as a well-insulated wall, door, or window, it is certainly much more efficient than holding a door open for your pets. The weatherstripping on the pet door seals fairly well.

Most pet door kits have some type of locking device or feature for security to block people and other animals from coming through it. Also, the doors are too small, particularly the cat doors, for an adult to squeeze through the opening.

A small person might be able to get through a large dog door, but few people would try it. Would you want to crawl through a large dog door not knowing if there is an overly protective German shepherd or Doberman waiting to greet you? It would be a good idea to also install a simulated barking dog security device in the room with the pet door. This makes a loud, realistic mean-sounding bark when it is triggered.

You may also want some type of automatic security from wild animals coming indoors with your pets. I feed some raccoons in my back yard, and they would love to come into the sunroom at night with my cat. My pet door has a magnetic sensor and my cat has a tiny magnetic tag attached to his collar. The locked pet door senses the magnetic field when my cat approaches, and the latch opens until he passes through it.

If there is an electric outlet near where you want to install a pet door, consider installing an electric one. This uses sophisticated electronic controls and a motor to open the door. The pet’s collar has a tiny built-in transmitter that triggers the motor.

There are pet door kits designed to fit virtually every type of wall, door, window, or screen. Most of them are simple to install and just require cutting a hole. Templates are included to make the proper size hole. When cutting through a wall, use an electronic sensor, such as a Black & Decker stud finder, that also senses electric wires inside the wall.

If you are not much of a do-it-yourselfer, thermal panels are available. These fit into an existing sliding or double-hung window or a sliding-glass door. These use actual double-pane glass with full weatherstripping similar to any high-quality window. The swinging pet door is built into the end of the panel. You just close the window or door against it. It has latches so the window sash or door edge is securely locked when the panel is installed. These units include a small magnet for the pet’s collar to unlock the pet door.

Screen-mounted pet doors are particularly easy to install and effective for windows (cats) and full screen/storm doors (cats or dogs). Place one of the two door frame halves from the kit over the screen. Use it as a template to cut the opening in the screen. Squeeze the two halves together over the opening so they snap together. Make sure the lock switch is on the indoor side.

Select the proper size door for the size and weight of your pet. An oversized door costs more to buy and wastes energy. For cats up to 15 pounds and dogs up to 7 pounds, a 35-square-inch door is adequate. A 90-square-inch door will handle dogs up to 40 pounds.

Write for Utility Bills Update No. 780, a buyer’s guide of 10 pet door kit manufacturers. Include $3.00, a business-size SASE, and Update number. Mail requests and questions to James Dulley, Kentucky Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244. Go to www.dulley.com to instantly download.

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