Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Buying a Pet Door for a Fat Cat

This entry is modified from my original blog, so it might seem familiar. Repurposing material can be seen as either genius or lazy. It’s your call.

Years ago, when I had a cat, I decided to install a cat door between my new “pet room” (a.k.a. the air conditioned garage) and the rest of the house. That way the cat could access his litter box but the dogs and my then-toddler son could no longer reach it. I figured that this would cut down on the amount of the times I needed to shout “Leave it!” at the dogs and “Please don’t touch that!” to my kid.

The biggest problem was choosing the correct size. The smallest pet door seemed like a logical choice, especially since it had a picture of a dog on the front that appeared to be about the same size as my cat. But when I got the door out and looked at it, I had some serious doubts. It was only five inches wide by seven inches tall. I slid the opening over the body of my suspicious, sixteen-pound cat. It fit, but when he was sitting down I really had to squish him through it. I decided to look into larger doors, although I really liked the construction of this one, including the slide which covered the opening to keep the cat from using the door when I wanted to keep him in or out of the room.

My parents, who helped me with this project, located two alternate pet doors. One was made by the same company, but it was the next size up. Unfortunately, a pet door large enough to fit a 40-pound dog was also large enough to fit both a 27-pound toddler and my Whippet. Having a pet door big enough to let my kid and one of my dogs through defeated the purpose.

A different company made a special door called “Chubby Cat!” After I got done laughing I decided that I should check out the Chubby Cat door because clearly my cat fit that description.

Upon examination, the Chubby Cat door had one glaring flaw. Like most pet doors, it had an option to keep the cat in or out by locking the door. Unfortunately, instead of providing a different colored slide to make it obvious that the door was locked, this contraption had no real way for the cat to tell when the door was impassable. The door was clear. In case you aren’t seeing the problem here, with this door a cat could be running toward it, attempt to jump through, and smash into the immovable door. Yes, this was a funny image, but the reality was harsh. How many times is a cat going to use the door after smashing his head into a hard plastic flap? My guess is, never. I decided that perhaps the Chubby Cat people actually had something against fat cats and they were hoping to slowly reduce the population one broken neck at a time.

So the Chubby Cat door went back to the store. This left me back with my original option. I decided to go ahead and install it and see what happened.

I removed the flap entirely so that my cat would have the maximum opening width possible. I could still slid the (obvious) door in place to block him in if necessary. I put him on one side of the door and my son and I sat with treats on the other. We coaxed and begged, but my cat wouldn’t budge. I think he knew very well that we could open the door and let him in if we wanted to. The problem was compounded by the fact that my two-and-a-half-year-old son didn’t really understand the concept, so he kept chucking the treats through the door to the cat waiting on the other side.

Finally I decided that I would just leave the cat in the room and allow him to jump out when he pleased. Eventually, he did just that. It shook the door a bit as his plump sides squeezed through, but he made it. And at least when the flap was closed, he knew it.

(Disclaimer – I’m sure the Chubby Cat people are nice folks. Perhaps they just have more faith in fat cats than I do, and they think they can figure this stuff out. And maybe they can, I just didn’t want to find out!)

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