Electronic | Automatic | Motorized | Magnetic Pet Doors
You understand the importance of a pet door but you have stray cats coming around spraying, or you have wild animals that might try to break in for food, or you have a cat--or a baby!-- that you want to keep in while you let the dog out, or your pet is so arthritic or handicapped that he just can't manage his old pet door. Maybe you'd just feel more secure without an unlocked dog door. What to do?
The answer, of course, is to get an electronic pet door - an electronic, magnetic, rfid chip or even motorized dog door or cat door. Pay close attention to measuring for size as always. But also think about power source, spare collar keys, locking mechanism and opening method. They'll all play a role in the success of your choice.
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Q. Which type of collar key is best?
A. This is a difficult question to answer because different people have different needs and may not agree on what is "good" and what is "bad". However, we'll take a stab at it. Remember that the features of the pet door you want may be just as or more important than the characteristics of the type of collar key that it uses.
- The Vet-Implanted ID Microchip - The pros for this type of collar key are impressive. Most importantly, there's no collar needed because the collar key is actually the ID chip that your vet implanted under the skin. The absence of the need for a collar has a number of very important advantages. Some cats won't tolerate them. There's always some danger of a cat accidentally getting his collar hung up on a branch or other object which can have disastrous consequences. (Break-away collars avoid that danger but if they break away you've lost both the collar and the collar key possibly trapping the pet outside). In addition, the implanted chip doesn't add to the clutter if you've already got id tags (You DO have an ID Tag, Right?) or a hidden fencing system receiver on the collar. These collar keys and the only ones that are never lost and you don't need to pay for spares "just in case". Finally no batteries required for the collar key (the pet door will need power, though).
On the other hand there are a few disadvantage. As of this writing there are no electronic dog doors or even large-cat sized electronic cat doors that use this type of collar key. Even though, "every" North American chip in use is "covered", it might be wise to check with your vet to be sure you've got one of the right ones and, at the same time, get his assurance that the chip is still at the top of the neck where it belongs and hasn't migrated somewhere else. Finally, installation in a metal door is a hassle because a wood "collar" is needed for the door to keep it separate from the metal.
- The Magnetic Collar Key - There are two types: For the first, the magnet actually pulls a lever inside the cat door which unlocks the door. In this case, the cat door doesn't require any power either and there is no electronic circuitry to corrode or fail. For the second type the magnetic field of the magnet is sensed by the pet door and it unlocks in response. These cat doors require power. In both cases the collar key requires no power and there are no batteries to fail. Spares are relatively less expensive. Magnetic collar keys are waterproof.
On the other hand, the magnets used to pull an inside lever are relatively strong and more likely to pickup debris like nails and bottle caps. Since they're stronger they may exert more pull than is comfortable for a kitten and at least one manufacturer recommends that they not be used until the cat is a little older. At least some manufacturers recommend that installation in a ferrous metal door may require that a wooden collar be built to isolate the pet door from the door. An aluminum door would not present a problem. Finally, a magnet is a magnet. There's no way for the cat door to distinguish among your pets or between your cat and a neighbor cat that happens to also wear a magnet collar key.
- The Ultra-Sonic Collar Key - High frequency sound (much higher than can be heard by your pet) is not affected by sunlight (as were the infra-red type) or by the material that the electronic door is installed in or by the use of any other electronic like hidden fencing. The sensitivity of the microphones can be adjusted to allow the user to control the distance at which the electronic pet door activates.
But, batteries are required so you'll need to check them occasionally. The units are susceptible to damage from water. Even though, there is a water-resistant version, you shouldn't use this for a pet that swims in a lake. Finally, a few (but not all) cat owners have felt that the unit was too large to hang on their cat.
- The Radio Frequency Chip - The PetSafe Smart Door, a popular electronic dog door, uses a chip that emits a radio frequency signal. When the door reads that signal, it unlocks and when it can no longer read the signal it locks again. The collar key can be programmed to emit a unique signal and the door can recognize up to five different keys.
Of course these keys require battery power and, again, some have felt them to be too large for their cats.
- RFID Chip Collar Keys - RFID technology is the latest to make its appearance in the collar key world and appears to have some strong advantages: They require no batteries, they are very durable, some allow programming of the key (similar to a garage door opener) and are waterproof.
While some, like for the Cat Mate Elite series are perfectly appropriate for cats, others are larger and you may not find them suitable for use by your cat. As well, they tend to be on the more expensive side.
Q. Some Electronic Pet Doors Control Access From Outside Only While Others are Control from Both Sides. What Difference Does This Make?
A. In most cases, the outside access control only works just fine. Here are the situations in which access from both directions can be an advantage:
- You want to keep an inside pet (or a child) from going outside in addition to preventing strays and other animals from coming inside.
- You are concerned about raccoons coming in through the pet door. At least some raccoons have figured out that a one-way control electronic pet door can be broken into by hooking the flap with a claw and pulling the flap toward the outside. Then they can come through the opening. No one knows if every raccoon can do this, but they are very clever. Two way control prevents this. We haven't heard yet of this problem with other animals.
Q. Some Electronic Pet Doors are Motorized While Others Require the Pet to Push the Flap After Unlocking. What's the Difference?
- A. Motorized electronic pet doors always control from both directions; non-motorized versions may be either one-way or two-way control.
- A timid, arthritic or injured pet may find it easier to use a motorized version since he doesn't need to learn to push anything; the door simply opens in front of him. This is probably the most significant advantage of a motorized pet door.
- We suspect that the motorized versions may be slightly less able to keep a second pet from following the first out. It's true that the time the flap remains open can be made short. But it's still open to all during that time. The must-push versions present a following pet with a flap swinging toward him as the leader clears the door. That would seem to be more effective deterrent.
- Manual versions may be used in a non-electronic mode; motorized pet doors cannot.
Q. What are the different power requirements of electronic pet doors?
A. As we've seen above, magnetic operated pet doors require no power source at all either for the door or for the collar key. For the remaining electronic pet doors there are three possibilities:
- Some are operated by batteries only
- Some may be operated with AC power thus requiring a nearby wall outlet.
- At least one, the Hi Tech Power Pet, can use AC power with a battery backup in addition to the first two options.
Q. What Other Problems Are There With Electronic Pet Doors?
- A. The first is reliability. If a manual pet door will do the job, it will be more reliable than an electronic one and would usually be a better choice
- Cost. Electronic pet doors, particularly the motorized versions, tend to be more expensive than manual pet doors though there certainly are some high-performance manual pet doors that are quite expensive as well.
- Rigid Flaps. All electronic pet doors incorporate rigid flaps. However, some people prefer a flexible flap for reasons of safety and a softer surface for the pet to push. In this regard it should be noted that the motorized pet doors do not offer the pinching danger of a normal rigid flap.
Q: I want my dog to be able to get in and out of the house, but not my cat, what pet door would work for that?
A: The PetSafe Electronic Smart Door or the Passport Smart System would be a good choice that allows for this type of this functionality.
Q: How big are the collar keys on the different electronic doors?
A: Microchips are collarless, as they are surgically implanted by your vet. RFID tags are small because they don't need batteries. Battery run tags are bulkier because there needs to be space for a battery to be held in there.
Q: What's the biggest electronic pet door you have?
A: The Plexidor Electronic Dog Door is the biggest as far as height. The Petsafe Electronic Smart Door is the biggest as far as width for dog doors.
Q: How is the PetSafe Electronic Smart Door powered?
A: This smart door is powered by "D" cell batteries which are not included. There is no low battery indicator on the Electronic Smart Door so it might be useful to keep a spare collar key nearby for testing purposes.
Q: What is the difference between magnetic pet doors and electronic pet doors?
A: Magnetic doors are manual and require the pet to push on the flap. Also, there is only control of one way. Electronic doors can be manual or motorized, but both require a collar key or microchip to activate.
Q: Is an electronic pet door more reliable than a manual pet door?
A: No, electronic doors are not more reliable than manual pet doors. With electronic doors, there are more issues that are likely to occur. If a manual pet door works for you and your pet, we would definitely recommend the manual door as a better option.
Q: Why would I want a microchip operated pet door?
A: Microchips are implanted in your pet's skin and do not require your pet to wear a collar key around his neck. As a result, there is no risk of your pet getting locked out if the collar is lost. Additionally, there is no extra clutter around the collar.
Q: Can I get a microchip dog door for my Lab?
A: Unfortunately, there are currently no dog doors or large cat doors available that use microchip technology.
Q: Can the large dog doors be programmed to only allow access during parts of the day?
Q: What are the advantages to having an electronic pet door?
A: An electronic pet door allows you to have control over which pets are able to go in and out of your home, while also keeping wild animals or stray animals out of your home.
Q: What are the disadvantages of having an electronic pet door?
A: The first disadvantage is reliability. If a manual pet door will do the job, then we usually will recommend it over an electronic door. Second, the cost of electronic pet doors can be very expensive, especially the motorized versions. Thirdly, all electronic pet doors have rigid flaps. Some people prefer a flexible flap over a rigid one for safety reasons or pet preference.
Q: Do magnetic locking pet doors require power?
A: Magnetic locking pet doors do not require power. However, the Cat Mate 254/256 does require a 9 volt battery.
Q: Which pet doors open automatically?
A: The Plexidor and and High Tech automated doors are both motorized and open automatically.
Q: Why would you want the pet door to open without the pet pushing?
A: You would want a motorized door if your pet is timid, injured, or arthritic and unable to push on the flap of the door.
Q: Which dog doors are big enough for normal sized dogs that require pushing to open?
A: The Passport Pet Access Pet Door and the PetSafe Smart Door both are big enough for normal sized dogs that require pushing to open.
Q: Which electronic dog door doesn't require batteries in the collar key?
A: The Plexidor, Passport Pet Access Pet Door, and SureFlap do not require batteries in the collar key.
Q: What does it mean to control access from the outside versus outside & inside?
A: Controlling access from the outside only means that the door can be accessed by pets with collar keys that want to come inside, while the door opens freely to the outside. This is useful in keeping wild or stray animals out. Inside and outside control access means that the door is activated by collar key signaling from both inside and outside. This can keep some pets (without collar keys) indoors and allow specific pets (with collar keys) to have access to the door.
Q: Why would you want something to control both ways?
A: Access from both directions can be an advantage if you want to keep an inside pet (or child) from going outside while also preventing outside animals from getting inside without a collar key.
Q: Which doors control access both ways?
Q: Which electronic pet doors can be plugged in for power?
A: The Plexidor Electronic Door, High Tech Power Pet Automatic, and Passport Pet Access Pet Door can be plugged in for power.
Q: Which electronic pet doors can have a rechargeable battery?
A: The High Tech Power Pet Door and Passport Pet Access Pet Door both have a rechargeable battery.
Q: Do all electronic pet doors have low battery indicator lights?
A: Not all electronic pet doors have low battery indicator lights. Typically, just the smaller cat doors offer this feature.
Q: Do the rigid flaps of motorized pet doors create a danger for pets or children?
A: The rigid flaps of motorized pet doors do not typically create a danger for pets or children because the flap is retractable and will lift back open if it senses something is in the way.
Q: Do all electronic pet doors have rigid flaps?
A: Yes, all electronic pet doors have rigid flaps.
Q: Which electronic doors have timer controls?
Q: Do you have any that are raccoon proof?
A: Yes, the SureFlap, Cat Mate 305/306, Cat Mate 355/356, PetSafe Smart Door, Plexidor, and High Tech Power Pet Door are all raccoon proof.
Q: I need to let the dog out and not my cat, do you have anything that will work?
A: Yes, you will want a door that can be controlled from the inside and outside, so that you can put a collar key on your dog but not your cat. This way, your cat will not be able to access the door to get out. Some examples include the Sureflap Microchip and DualScan door, the High Tech power pet door and the Petsafe Smart Door. However, note that some cats may learn to sit by the door and wait for the dog to activate it so they can run or follow your dog out.
Q: Are there any patio panel doors that control both ways?
A: Yes, the High Tech Power Pet Automatic Pet Door controls both ways.
Q: Is there a microchip door for sliding doors?
A: The Thermo Panel 2e Microchip Patio Panel pet door can be used for sliding doors.
Q: Can I install the Cat Mate 256 in a wall?
A: You can potentially install this door through a wall by installing two pet doors--one on each side of a fabricated wooden tunnel that is long enough so that the flaps don't interfere with each other. Then the outside unit controls access from the outside and the inside unit controls access from the inside.
Q: With the SureFlap can I program both the implanted microchip and the collar key, that way if my cat loses their collar the chip will trigger the door?
A: No, the RFID collar key must be discontinued after chipping your pet because the two signals will confuse the pet door.
Q: Could my contractor hardwire one of the motorized doors?
A: Yes, an electrician could hard wire it inside the wall for a neater look.
Q: Which electronic doors have 4-way locks?
A: The SureFlap, PetSafe Passport Pet Access System, Cat Mate 256/356, Dog Mate 259, and High Tech offer the 4-way locking mechanism.
Q: How is a raccoon breaking into my house, I have a magnetic door that is supposed to only let my pet in!
A: Some raccoons have figured out that a pet door can be broken into by hooking the flap with their claw and pulling the flap toward the outside. Then they can come through the opening. No one knows if every raccoon can do this, but they are very clever.
Q: How many keys do each of the doors come with? (yes we are making you list every door and how many keys, although you only need to do one model one time, so for instance if you do the high tech door for doors there is no need to do it again for the power pet for walls)
CatMate 259: 2
DogMate 259: 2
Q: Do you have doors that will work off my cats microchip?
A: Yes, SureFlap and CatMate both make electronic doors that can be activated by your cat's microchip. (Sureflap Microchip Cat Door, Pet Door & SureFlap Dual Scan, also Cat Mate 355/356). The microchip MUST be implanted by a vet. You cannot try to attach a microchip to the pet's existing collar or ID tag as it will not trigger the pet door properly.
Q: Can I install the SureFlap in a metal door?
A: Yes, the SureFlap can be installed in a metal door. However, you'll want to put a border/adaptor around the frame before installation because the metal in the door can interfere with the signal if it is too close to the frame of the pet door. See installation video for more details.
Q: What does it mean to "control both ways?"
A: The option to control both ways allows the door to control which animals can come in or out, can prevent animals such as raccoons from getting inside, as well as keep your pet or even child inside when necessary.
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