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  • Linda

Why I'm not a fan of pet doors

This one incident made me think they weren't so great!

I had a wonderful pet sitting client with six cats and two dogs. She lived in the country (sort of) and had a lot of land. Her cats were indoor/outdoor cats. Sometimes she'd be gone for a few days or more with the dogs and would leave the cats in my care.

Because she wanted the cats to go outside at their will she installed a nice cat door on the side of the house. With the door, the cats could come in and out of the basement and then make their way up the stairs to the main house.

Several times, when she would want them inside only, she'd set the door to only swing in and not out. This meant that the cats could come in and then they would be unable to go out again. This almost guaranteed that by the time I'd come for my pet visit, all the cats would (usually) be in the house. She didn't set it that way all the time, but some of the time, and for different reasons.

One weekend she told me she was setting the door so that the cats could come in and then would not be able to go out again.

When I arrived for the supper visit, the first visit of this round of pet sitting, all the cats were in and counted for. All went well, and all was well.

The next morning was another story and I want to tell you about it.

I arrived at about 6:00 AM for the breakfast visit. Usually one of the cats (who she said had a "crush" on me) would come and meet me at the door and then stroll down the hall, leading me to the kitchen for his breakfast.

But on this day Kirby the cat did not come to greet me. I knew the cats and their routine well so the fact that Kirby didn't come to the door was a concern. I stood by the door and called him. Nothing. No pitter-patter of little cat feet coming down the hallway.

I slowly walked into the house, calling out Kirby's name and the other cats' names as well. SILENCE.

My heart began to race. Where could they be? What was going on?

Well, as I came into the heart of the home, I saw a truly interesting sight. All six cats were together. No - wait! SEVEN cats were in the home!!!!

A cat of an unknown location had found its way through my client's cat door and couldn't find its way out. The pet door was locked anyway so that her cats could get in but not get back out again. In essence, this little tabby cat was trapped in a strange land, surrounded by enemies. He/she was a trespasser and a noted danger to the cats who "owned" the home.

Once my clients' cats saw me, I could sense immediate relief coming from them. It was like I was the calvary and the troops (cats) stood back and let me take it from there. Their job was to corner the "enemy" and they did it well. The six cats had circled the one intruder (or lost) cat and he/she was petrified. Imagine being a little cat stuck in a stranger's home and surrounded by strange cats.

The little intruder cat was in panic mode and was very difficult for me to coax out of the house. I took my client's cats one by one put them in a separate room so I could focus my attention on getting the intruder cat out. I didn't know if the intruder cat was feral or friendly and when the cat refused to run out of the front door or let me near him/her, I took a towel and after several tries, was able to pick it up and put it outside. Once in the towel he howled and growled. Thankfully he/she didn't scratch me due to the towel. It took an additional half-hour of my time for all of this to play out safely.

The other cats and I were very relieved, as I'm sure the intruder cat was too. From that time on, whenever I was set to pet sit, the cats were inside the home - safe and comfy. The pet door was locked from going in either direction.

So, as per this example, you can see why I don't like pet doors. Pets can bring in many non-pets through these doors and have situations like the one I just described.

I believe if pet owners want to use pet doors when they are in charge of their pets well being, then so be it. But I believe there are too many variables involved when pets can roam in and out of the home during the time a pet sitter is in charge.

Consider these situations:

* Strange neighborhood pets can come in and out as well as mice, squirrels, etc...

* Pets leave and don't come back - a big liability for a pet sitter.

* Muddy pet footprints can be tracked throughout the home, leaving messes for pet

sitters to clean up.

* Injuries to other pets and pet sitters when various non-client pets get in.

I'm not a fan of pet doors in combination with pet sitting. As a professional pet sitter safety and peace of mind are paramount and of the utmost importance. If a pet is used to a pet door, they will do just fine without it for a few days - especially if the pet sitter is doing his/her job correctly.

I encourage pet sitters to discuss the pet door issue if there is one involved. Talk about safety measures and your pet door policy with your clients. It is up to the client and pet sitter to decide how to handle pet doors and hopefully, this blog post will help toss in a few more nuggets to the conversation.

As for me, I'm just like John the Baptist - a voice crying in the wilderness - about the concerns of pet doors!




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