Cat Reviews and News

The History of the Cat Door

The familiy’s own cat door passed its monthly inspection – no telltale squeaks, no signs of our tabby Silver’s escape attempts. It sparked a question: what if this gateway to their world disappeared? Where would my mysterious mousers vanish to then?

I got curious and researched more deeply into the history of the cat flap. Where did it come from, why did people need to give the domestic cat instant access somewhere? With the Dash Kitten Crew I found some weird and wonderful cool cat doors to share and some stunning high tech developments you wouldn’t have dreamed of a couple of years ago. Let me tell you about them.

Cat Door Fun Facts

There are so many different types of cat doors. There are wall cat flaps, window cat doors and amazing electronic wizardry that seem almost to have a mind of its own. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

  • Let’s step back in time into Medieval English history, a long time ago.

In late C14th England, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his famous collection of stories of a pilgrimage to a religious shrine, called the Canterbury Tales. We spot here what must be one of the earliest mentions of a cat being allowed access to buildings ‘officially’.

Remember, cats were an important part of life then although not the domestic cats we know today. They performed a valuable service hunting rats and mice in the barns that stored essential crops.

The hard-working feline in Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale

A servant goes to find his master. He knocks at the door but gets no reply. Being a sensible servant he uses the cat flap to look into the room. Here’s what happens. It is in Olde English but you should be able to work out how the servant manages!

An hole he foond ful low upon a bire
There as the cat was wont in for to crepe,
And at the hole he looked in ful depe,
And at the last he hadde of hym a sighte.

I was delighted to find some evidence of a cat door so long ago in history. Decidedly low tech but very practical, and acknowledging the cat’s help to humans so long ago.

Cat Door Exter Cathedral

Cats, Mice and Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes also provide us with odd cat door facts. Most readers know the rhyme ‘Hickory Dickory Dock. The Mouse Ran Up the Clock‘. The rhyme is thought to be based on Exeter Cathedral (England). The clock tower ropes were plagued with constant nibbling mouse damage. A cat door was included as part of the tower door in the C17th, to combat the rodent problem, and the aperture can still be seen today.

Sir Isaac Newton Takes Cat Doors to Another Level

Not only was Newton a theologian, philosopher and physicist, and recognised as one of the world’s most influential scientists. He is also rumoured to have made the very first cat flap.

This story of ancestor to the modern electronic cat door seems fanciful, but it has a thread of sense that grounds it in reality.

Newton had a cat called Spithead. She had a habit of nudging open her master’s laboratory door. This was frustrating for the scientist when the room was darkened for his experiments.

Although he loved his cat, Newton was not happy with the disruption to his work. So he called in a local carpenter and asked the man to saw two holes in the door for Spithead to access the laboratory. Then he covered the holes with flaps of black velvet to keep out the light!

Cat Door Dash Kitten Crew

The Modern Cat Flap

Compared to the door in Exeter Cathedral, contemporary cat flaps are much easier for a human to install. From the simple swing door to a state of the art microchip operation, most outdoor and inside cat doors can be installed with ease.a 

Old style magnetic swing doors are being replaced by more robust models with improved weatherproofing, microchip activation, and better security against unwelcome visitors.

Here are some fun cat door facts to surprise you:

  • Did you know there are wall extenders that allow a catio or garden owner to place a cat tunnel through a wall? Just because your safe garden area faces a wall doesn’t mean you can’t have a cat flap.
  • Cat doors now come in a range of sizes. A petite calico will need a smaller cat flap than the bigger built Maine Coon. A large cat will happily slip in through the larger pet doors built for small dog breeds.
  • A qualified glazier will be able to install a cat flap in most glass doors and windows as well as many high-density plastic windows. [Do not attempt to do this yourself!]
  • You can, however, often install your own cat flap in a plain wooden external (or internal) door. As long as you have the correct tools, and have checked the manufacturer’s instructions. I installed a basic swing cat door when we lived in the U.K.
Cat doing stretches

Catio Access Through Cat Doors

The increasing popularity of the enclosed outside cat play area is known as a ‘catio‘ is a source of important sensory engagement and stimulation for indoor cats.

More cats now enjoy a lot more fresh air and bird tv that they did in the past, with the added bonus of birds surround sound! The catio cat will need regular access to their play area (depending on the season) and this gives rise to monitoring concerns for pet parents, even if they do install a flap.

Cat owners who prefer to have complete control over access to a catio or garden will be interested in the latest developments from Sure Petcare. We came across this smartphone App operated model at a pet expo late in 2017.  The company is working to keep up with demand as the cat door ‘Connect”s popularity is off the scale. It is easy to see why when we tell you more.

  • NOTE: We are not affiliates but love Sure Petcare after reviewing their Surefeed cat feeder.

Meet the Microchip Pet Door Connect

The ‘Connect’ is a cat door linked to your smartphone via an App. The App is downloadable from Google Play and the App Store and it gives you, the cat owner, access to a range of controls that will put even the most anxious pet parent at ease.

  1. You receive notifications when a cat leaves or enters the catio or garden.
  2. It is easy to create a schedule for catio or garden access. You can also control this manually if you prefer.
  3. You can monitor your cat’s activity. Reassuring if you want to know if a cat is staying active or spending too long snoozing and needs more enrichment time from you.
  4. Anxious pat parents can receive alerts to show you when a neighbourhood pet is trying (and failing) to get into the house from your garden!
  5. You can share the fun friends and family to see what the cats are up to as well. Security and access are yours to control at all times.

Need any more persuasion?  Check out the super cute ‘hub’ that transmits cat door data to your phone. With this kind of attention to design detail, we know you will appreciate such a quality company. We hope to buy our own own new Connect soon.

Microchip cat door

A Cat Door For The Modern Pet Parent

Cat doors are keeping up with the demands and concerns of the modern cat family. Cat tech is providing more ways to monitoring our cats’ activity, health and wellbeing. A top quality cat flap like the ‘Connect’, or similar, will work alongside a cat monitor like the Petcube in keeping a feline family safe and at the end of your wi-fi network whenever you need to check.

Would the Petcube and a cat door like the Connect work together?

In our view yes. Although on separate networks we anticipate using devices like this in tandem. They will be part of a secure cat monitoring program that we aim to use this coming year at the Dash Kitten Crew HQ. A cat flap like Connect will allow us to monitor and control cat traffic into and out of the back garden area, and the Petcube, being mobile, will be positioned at points within the house we want to watch. Both are accessed via an App on our smartphones.

Cat time Cat flap post

Any time is catio time

The smartphone we carry can now help us keep an eye on cat health and mobility which is a weight from the minds of many cat parents. Future developments thanks to the ‘internet of things’mean that Google Assistant or Alexa may be able to let your feline out for some catio fun if they think the weather looks good on the catio!

Maybe it’s quite a way off due to major worldwide security concerns and recent developments in the USA world of the internet, but it will come and the world’s felines maybe a paw step closer to world domination while we think we are watching them……..

* The Internet of Things:
This is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.



27 thoughts on “The History of the Cat Door”

  1. We looked into the Sure Petcare door but since we already had an existing door it wouldn’t fit. We started out with a cat door because the litter box was always on our back porch which is unheated/insulated. So during winter we always have to have the door closed. Luckily we had a really big cat because when Dolly came along she fit right through it, unfortunately now, because there’s kitty litter and food out there and she’ll eat both! So now everything is kept up high. I would love a new back door but we don’t want to put a hole in it! Sandra and Dolly

  2. Absolutely love this post and all the information you have gathered! Very entertaining read. I’m saving this post for that high tech door for our catio. I like all the functions it offers and it’s definitely something that is long overdue. My husband has an aversion to making any holes in walls so let’s see if this convinces him! I shared, stumbled and pinned away!

  3. I really learned a lot about cat flaps from this blog post. It seems like cats started training their humans early so that they could do their jobs. I like the microchip doors to prevent unwanted visitors.

  4. I have been wanting to build a catio for my cats for some time but never gave much thought to the access. Lots of food for thought here.

  5. I never knew there was so much to know about cat flaps! I thought they were typically used for indoor to outdoor use but I was babysitting some cats that had a cat flap inside that led to their litter boxes! If cats have a cat flap to go outside do they normally not go far or they have a good sense of where they are to get back home?

  6. What a fantastic history lesson, it always amazes me how much we can learn from history and how it is used today and adapted to today’s lifestyle, just loved this post

  7. So much awesome info. I had a feeling that cat doors had been around for a long time, but I didn’t know they had such an interesting history. That cat flap at the Exeter Cathedral is too cool! Thanks for sharing

  8. Who knew cat doors had such a history? We live in a terrible place for cats to go outdoors (coyotes, trains, trucks etc) but one that led to a catio would be cool.

  9. The history of the cat flap in doors is very interesting! I’d love to have one for the girls if I had a catio. They don’t go outside now because it’s too dangerous for them. I do like the idea of the “smart” cat flaps.

  10. Wow, this is pretty amazing that it notifies you when your cat tries to leave the catio or yard. Our Miss Rosie has hearing issues and we live right off a major highway so I am pretty nervous about letting her go outside. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem terribly interested in going outside.

    I loved learning about the nursery rhyme and Exeter Cathedral.

  11. I LOVE the fact that they come in different sizes! Can you imagine if Andy were to try to get through one made for Toby’s size? My gosh, he’d get himself stuck, for sure. MOUSES!

  12. I’m not surprised that people were using cat doors centuries ago. Cats have lived next to and interacted with people as far back as the Egyptian era. Not as many people seem to provide cat doors for their pets these days (probably because of home security concerns), but the Connect cat door certainly addresses this issue.

  13. What a fascinating history of cat doors! I love that Newton created what so closely resembles modern cat doors. A device that can open up to a Catio is the best idea.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  14. Wow, I loved learning the history of the cat door! I love that Newton had a cat door with added flap for Spithead. We use the wall extender piece that you wrote about for access to our catio for our cats!

  15. What an interesting topic! It has never occurred to me how the cat door/flap came to be. We have installed 2 cat doors within our house but not so much for the cats, but to stop our dog from “sampling” the litter box gold 😉
    We’ve placed one on the door of the laundry area so only the cats can access their box and the dog can’t 🙂

  16. Wow! Who knew that cat doors have been around so long? We have a cat door to our second bedroom; we installed it years ago to keep Sammy and Graphite (our cats at that time) from eating each other’s food. Well, mostly to keep Sammy from eating Graphite’s food. 🙂

  17. A Cat door? Hmmmm, We haven’t even got a pet cam. There’s no way mommy would let us let ourselves outside. Not that we would want her too. MOL big hugs

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Raena

  18. That is really neat to know cat doors were around way way back when!
    Pipo is clever and has figured out its fun to sneak outside sometimes though our doggy door(s). Minko used to do that too…
    I think Pipo wants a catio surrounding our bird feeders with a tunnel to them all!

  19. Great Post! Growing up, we had a milk shoot (a cupboard in the wall of the house with doors on the inside and outside) for the Milk Man to put the milk – we would leave the doors open for our cats. When I grew up and left home we have put in several cat doors.
    Who knew cat doors were so old!
    Love Barb

  20. we did nt know that about Sir Newton – coolio! And if we had a catio we would TOTALLY want a cat flap!

  21. We had no idea about the extensive history of cat flaps/doors. I missed the reference in Canterbury Tales back in high school when we read it. The Microchip Pet Door Connect sounds like a great product – with so many features!

  22. Wow, so early on in history. A great partnership born out of mutual need has meant we cats get some seriously cool kit. Now if only there was an app to help me find mice! MOL

  23. Wow, you found so many fascinating facts about cat doors throughout history! If my human’s office had a door, it would have a cat flap so she could shut it when she needed privacy. Because she never needs privacy from us kitties!


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