Guest review by Fern Crist, DVM
The SureFlap Microchip Cat Door is a new-to-the U.S. product from the United Kingdom. It uses RFID technology to read a cat’s veterinarian-inserted microchip and determine whether or not to let the cat inside. This prevents strays, and other animals, from entering a home and adds a high-tech level of convenience to the homes of outdoor cat owners.
SureFlap offered to send one of these doors to Ingrid, and since Allegra and Ruby don’t go outside, but my cats do, she asked me to test and review it for The Conscious Cat.
Let me start out by saying that the Sure-flap Cat Door is a wonderful invention. My favorite feature: it is unlocked by the microchips my cats already have in place.
Our last cat door was unlocked by a magnet hanging on the cat’s collar, a concept doomed from the start. Cats mostly regard collars as irritations, something to be chewed, ripped, or tugged off as soon as possible. End result: a lost collar, a cat stuck outside, and you have to keep buying new magnets.
This door runs on 4 AA batteries, allowing it to recognize the microchip and unlock the latch. The batteries pop into an easy-to-reach chamber on the top of the door. You don’t have to stand on your head to get to the batteries. Well done, engineering team!
The installation procedure was not appreciably different from any cat door. I really like the tube extender, an optional part we needed so that the tube remained unbroken through the full thickness of the wall. All the parts click together easily. The hardest part was cutting the hole in the wall.
Once installed, the door needs to “learn” your cat’s microchip. This is done by the simple method of pushing a button and having your cat walk through the door. Repeat as needed, once for each cat. I was delighted to discover that the door remembers the microchips even if the batteries are dead or missing, removing the need to “re-teach” the door every time the batteries need changing.
After we had our Sure-Flap in place, I taped the flap open for a week so my kitties could get acquainted with the door without unpleasant sensations. Since it is easier for them to push through the flap with the microchip feature turned off, the second step was to leave the flap down but unlocked — batteries out.
The third and final step was the reinsertion of the batteries. To open the door when the microchip reader is active, they do need to squinch themselves up a bit to get the microchip, which is between the shoulderblades, close enough for the door to read. However, they figured out pretty quickly how to position themselves (this part of the learning process goes faster if you have food on the other side!) and now the mechanics of the door are no problem for them.
I’ve only had one issue with our Sure-Flap: the diameter is a little tight for my larger cat. At a lean 16 pounds, he doesn’t so much walk through the door as ooze through. He looks for all the world like toothpaste coming out of a tube. In future models, I’d suggest that the opening be a little bigger.
While I can’t testify that the door is totally raccoon-proof, I can say that as of this writing, we’ve had several raccoons attempt to get through, so far without success. With our last cat door, a raccoon just needed to insert a claw under the flap and pull, and in he came. This door seems to be made of sterner stuff.
A warning to consumers: the Sure-flap people sell an adaptor that is supposed to allow you to install the flap in a glass door or glass window, through the glass panes. This only works with single pane, non-safety glass. You cannot install the flap through existing double pane glass (the manual suggests you purchase a replacement double-pane piece manufactured with a premade opening in it, which may be prohibitively expensive), and safety glass will just disintegrate if you try to cut a hole in it. Be sure you know what kind of glass you have before you buy the adaptor.
Our first Sure-Flap is installed between our kitchen and our sunroom. We plan to install a second one between the sunroom and the deck, creating a double level of security against those pesky raccoons. We had planned to install it in the sunroom glass, but – well – you guessed it.
So we will be installing the Sure-Flap in the aluminum wall of our sunroom. The manual is discouraging about installation in metal walls and doors, since the metal might interfere with the microchip reader. With no other choice, we plan to use the glass adaptor to install the flap through the metal. Worst case, we can turn off the microchip function and leave the outer flap unlocked. Hopefully I can post the results of this experiment in the future.
Overall, I rate this as an excellent product. Great ease of use, fabulous concept, strong construction. It could be a little bigger, but apart from that, I’m delighted with my Sure-Flap!
For more information about the SureFlap Microchip Cat Door and to purchase, please visit SureFlap’s website.
Dr. Crist has been practicing veterinary medicine since 1982, and has been working exclusively with cats since 1993. She served on the board of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. Dr. Crist is married with four children, two of which are not fuzzy.