We’re all about technology here, and we love our pets as well, so why not combine the two? It’s 2021, gone are the days of having your old school cat flap or dog door, you now have the option of having an automatic electronic version of the antiquated old school solution.
Dog doors and cat flaps are awesome, they let your pet have the freedom to let themselves in and out, which is a blessing – no more hearing the dog clawing at the door to get out. You may be thinking, well it’s a bit of a step too far, the solution that has been there for years does the job. Well, that is where we like to think you’re wrong, just think about the added security and the fact that bugs and other unwanted visitors won’t be able to get in and you’ll soon begin to realize the advantages.
Sounds expensive right? They are generally more expensive than standard pet doors, as you would expect, but they’re not going to break the bank.
Want to find out more? You can use our table of contents below to answer any specific questions you may have:
- How do Electric dog & cat doors work?
- What exactly is a smart pet door?
- What’s the benefit of buying a smart pet door?
- What to consider when buying an automatic pet door
- Measuring your pet, and the door
- Our best smart automatic dog & cat doors
- How to install your new smart electronic dog or cat door
How do Electric dog & cat doors work?
Electronic pet doors are fantastic, and a good bit of technology, so how exactly do they work? They all operate in a similar way, with some form of sensor that indicates the mechanism to open and close the door, much like your garage door. That being said, the bit that differs between all of the automatic pet doors is what the sensor is, every brand seems to have a slightly different approach to exactly how their doors open and close, here are the main ones:
A couple of the brands opt to use the microchip as a sensor. If you own a pet, you likely know what this is, it’s the microchip that the vet may have implanted into your dog or cat when it was young in order to find it should it get lost. The way in which it works is through the RFID signal emitted by the already implanted microchip. In order to make these doors work you’ll need to know your pets microchip number, which also makes sure you don’t have anyone else’s cat or dog dropping by unexpectedly!
Not every pet will have a microchip, so you need to ensure if yours doesn’t that you don’t choose an automatic door that uses the microchip as it’s sole sensor method.
Collar or Collar Fob
Some of the electronic solutions have a chip in the collar or an additional fob that you attach to the collar which sensors when the dog gets close and opens the flap. It’s a pretty straight forward solution but it involves adding an extra tag or changing the collar of your pet, which some people might not be too fond of.
The last option that you might come across is simply a sensor, which I know what you’re thinking, won’t it go off every time you walk past? No, actually, they’re usually pretty smart and are directional sensing systems which don’t just open when your pet or you walks by, it will only open when your cat or dog is directly approaching the sensor head-on.
What exactly is a smart pet door?
Hold your horses! What exactly are these new fancy electronic automatic pet doors? In essence, they are the same as your typical cat or dog door, a fitting that you put on your outer door to allow your pet to go freely between the garden and your house, but they take it a step further. These are just slightly more technologically advanced automatically open or close as your pet approaches or moves away from the door itself, adding extra security and meaning your heat doesn’t escape as freely.
Each product varies as to exactly what it offers in terms of security and power options, but typically they are either battery-powered or will plug directly into your wall plug in order to operate.
What’s the benefit of buying a smart pet door?
Why should you buy a smart dog or cat door? Well, there are several benefits to doing so and we’ve boiled it down to three main pros:
Compared to a standard cat flap or dog door the electronic versions offer extra security as they lock shut when your cat or dog isn’t near them. A traditional option leaves a flap always open on your door, although some do have the ability to lock it relies on you remember to do so, whereas the electronic versions don’t.
The same can be said of a traditional option, but an automatic pet door offers both convenience for you and your pet. It allows your pet to go outside and exercise whenever it wants, and you don’t even have to get up off the couch – trust us, your pet will be much happier for it, being able to get more regular exercise!
No Unwanted Guests
One of the biggest flaws of having a traditional cat flap or dog door is that it doesn’t stop the neighbors cat from wandering into your house uninvited, giving everyone quite the shock when you realize you’ve somehow acquired an additional pet. The electronic door doesn’t have this issue because it requires your pets fob, collar or microchip to open.
What to consider when buying an automatic pet door
Hopefully, you’ve now decided that you want to dig a little further into these automatic electronic pet doors and see whether you can find one that suits your requirements. Before diving into our product recommendations you’ll need to identify which product is right for you and to do that you need to know what the main things that you need to take into consideration are.
You tend to have two main options when it comes to electronic pet doors, a battery-powered choice and the main power one which you simply plug in. The obvious question you have to ask yourself is if you have a mains wall plug nearby the door that you plan on putting the flap on, if not, then you’re likely going to want a battery option instead!
We touched on functionality in the how it works section, and this is just the personal preference of the pet owner, whether you want one which opens with a microchip, directional sensor, collar or an addition to the collar.
Another very important factor is picking the right size pet door for your cat or dog, if you have a Great Dane for instance, you don’t want to be buying the same door that would be suitable for a Boston Terrier.
We’ll go into more depth in the next section about how exactly you should measure your pet, but you want to ensure that it is at least 2-inches taller and wider than your cat or dog to make it comfortable for them.
Another thing to consider is if you have a puppy or kitten, you might want to first check the maximum size that they grow to – or leave buying an automatic pet door until there that bit older and fully grown.
Some of the doors have extra features that others don’t, just as an example, enhanced weatherproofing and extra security functionality and even wall entry options as opposed to having it on your door. Every product is slightly different though, so you’ll have to weigh up your options and decide based on your personal preference.
This is of course one of the main factors, how much is this all going to cost? Automatic pet doors, because of the technology, obviously aren’t as cheap as your traditional options. The price will obviously depend on the product you go for, and the size of your pet as well, in our research you’ll be looking anywhere from $95 to $399.
Measuring your pet, and the door
Now one majorly important thing to consider is the size of the pet door, you’ll need to measure your cat or dog in order to determine what size option you should go for. Cats are a little different, as generally speaking they come in a much smaller range of sizes and most flaps come in a “one size fits all” solutions, so we’ll be mostly talking about dogs in this bit.
Now it’s time to measure your dog, here’s how:
Height: Let your dog stand up on the floor and measure from the flooring to the highest point of it’s back.
Width: Measure from the broadest part of your pet, usually the torso. Personally, we always recommend building in an extra buffer for width, especially with the dog I have and the weight fluctuations he can have.
Now, remember what we spoke about adding on that 2-inch buffer at either side? Add that to the measurements of your dog and you’ve got the general size of dog door that you should choose.
Our best smart automatic dog & cat doors
The section you’ve been waiting for, after all our research around automatic pet doors, looking across the web at a variety of solutions, reading reviews and determining the best overall deals, we’ve narrowed our list down to four products in total.
Without further ado, here are our top electronic pet doors:
PetSafe Electronic SmartDoor – Collar Activated Dog and Cat Door – Small to Large Pets
This smartdoor by PetSafe allows you to control your pets acess to and from your home by detecting a smart key that unlocks the door automatically and locks it on the otherside when your pet passes through. The range that the door unlocks is adjustable, and it’s up to three feet.
There are two options with this door, for smaller and larger pets, and the pricing differs quite dramatically between the two.
The door is completely waterproof and programmable for multiple pets. It’s battery operated with 4x D-Cell batteries that you’ll have to supply yourself. It also is relatively easy to install and you’re able to buy an additional option if you want to fit it to your wall.
You know you’re getting a trustworthy product with this one as PetSafe has been an industry-leading brand for 30 years.
This door functions by your pet or pets wearing smart keys on their collars that allow them to trigger the open and closing action of the door when getting within 3 feet, although the range is adjustable.
This product is battery operated.
This door comes with two options, small and large. The small door allows for a height of up to 7 1/2 inches, and width of just over 5 inches, whereas the large one allows up to 15 3/8 inches in height and up to 10 inches in width.
Why We’ve Chosen It
We’ve chosen to have the PetSafe Electronic SmartDoor at the top of our list because we believe it’s the best product. It’s reasonably priced compared to some of the competition, comes in a range of sizes and is by a brand name that you can trust. There are loads of diagrams and helpful information on the product listing that details exactly the product you’re going to get, the sizes and the way it works, and the reason we highlight that is a lot of the products we found in our research had smaller descriptions and less initial information.
Power Pet Large Electronic Pet Door PX-2
This electronic pet door by Power Pet is acclaimed by experts and loved by customers as you can clearly see in the reviews. Made of bulletproof resin for extra security this pet door opens and closes on its own and it has airtight panels to ensure it’s fully sealed. The product is available in two sizes, with medium which caters for pets up to 30lbs and large up to 100lbs but they do specify that small cats and dogs can come and go with no problems.
The door is motor driven and is activated by a collar that you put on your pet which is lightweight and adjustable. There is the control to adjust 4 ways of access from in only, out only, full access or closed & locked.
The product comes with 4 collars and all the items you’ll need to install the door and ensure it is fully operational, no extra parts needed.
This door is controlled by a collar, and the order comes with 4 of them. They are lightweight and adjustable so shouldn’t be too much of a pain for your pet.
As we spoke about you’ll need to measure your pet for this one, this particular product comes with two options, for medium and large pets. The large panel is 12.25″ x 16″ and the medium one is 8.25″ x 12″.
Why We’ve Chosen It
We’ve chosen this as second in our list because much like the PetSafe option it has great reviews and details about the product. It also has great added security with deadbolt locking which is something that the PetSafe option doesn’t have. Why is it second you ask? Mainly due to its price, both options are north of the $300 mark.
SureFlap Microchip Pet Door Connect Without Hub
This is a product by SureFlap and it’s primarily focused at cat owners, but it will work well for smaller dogs. This flap offers you not only the ability for your pet to be allowed into the garden automatically but it also keeps track of your pets coming and goings, tracking their habits and behavior in the Sure Petcare App.
You can set specific exit permissions for each of your pets and it’s activated with the microchip ID allowing your pet in and out without stray animals getting in. You can program up to 32 collar tags which should be more than enough for all your pet(s)!
This door has control through the app and you can unlock and lock the door whenever you please.
Your pet can get in and out of the door using the control tag that you attach to their collar, and you can program up to 32. It’s powered by 4x AA batteries and has an estimated battery life of 12 months, so it’s very energy efficient and will indicate low battery with a flashing light.
The opening on this door is suitable for small dogs and cats with 5 5/8″ in width and 4 3/4″ in height, and t can be installed on windows, walls or doors.
Why We’ve Chosen It
We’ve chosen this product because it offers a different approach with more control through an app, and you can track your animal’s behaviour, so you can quickly determine if something is wrong. The reason it isn’t higher in the list is that it doesn’t have alternate sizes for larger dogs and is mostly aimed towards cat owners. It’s also worth noting that this reasonably priced solution also comes with a three-year warranty for peace of mind, which is a great extra from the manufacturers that a lot of the other options don’t give you.
SureFlap – Sure Petcare Microchip Cat Flap
And finally in our list is another addition from SureFlap, although this one is solely aimed at cat owners. It’s much cheaper than the one previously in our list, currently at about half the price.
This flap screens your cat on entry via the microchip ID which allows only your cat back in, not any other stray animals that might attempt it. It’s very similar to the previous product with a few less features, but it will do the job and allows your cat to come in and out as they please with their microchip, and if they don’t have one, you’re able to purchase the optional extra of a collar tag and it can learn up to 32 identities.
This device has the option of using the cat’s microchip ID or buying additional collar tags, in which you can allow up to 32 IDs. It is battery powered, just like the one previously on our list, with 4x AA batteries which provide a battery life of around 12 months with a red flashing LED when the batteries need replacing.
The device is more suited to cats than dogs as it is a smaller opening with a height of 4.75″ and a width of 5 5/8″.
Why We’ve Chosen It
Very similar to the previous product we have highlighted so there isn’t too much to say apart from it’s about half the price, but the reason it’s last in our list is that it is only really beneficial for cat owners, as the opening is too small for dogs.
How to install your new smart electronic dog or cat door
Great – you’ve chosen which door is suitable, but how do you actually install the thing? Usually the process is actually a pretty straight forward one:
- Measure the door and don’t forget about the placement, if you have a smaller pet then you want to ensure it isn’t too far off the ground.
- Mark the door frame with the dimensions provided by the product.
- Take the door off it’s hinges and place it on it’s side, it would be a good idea to use some kind of work table for this.
- You’ll then need a jigsaw to cut along the lines.
- You can then place the pet door on hole and as long as you’ve got your measurements right it should sit well.
- Screw the pet door in.
It’s worth noting that this will vary slightly from product to product, so you always want to read the instructions given when it arrives, especially if you are planning on using mains power the installation process may be a little different.