Thursday, November 13, 2014

SureFlap Microchip Pet Door

At the start of this year I shared with you my challenge of trying to keep Oliver and his family safe during the nights. I had started bringing Oliver in at night or locking him on the back porch so he couldn't fight with the other neighborhood cats in the night. The problem was by doing this, his family couldn't be with him overnight. Pierre and MK both adore Oliver but being ferals, they keep their distance from me. So, I needed a solution that would allow Oliver to be locked away and yet would allow Pierre and MK to visit at their will.

I discovered the SureFlap Microchip Pet Door, which is a programmable pet door. It can selectively allow cats to enter by scanning their microchip as they stick their head near the door. And it has curfew mode, where you can program a time that will allow authorized cats to enter but not leave again until the pre-programmed time. My hope was that this would solve my problem. They are a bit pricey, but after saving all year, guess what I got?!

Introducing the latest bit of technology installed on Oliver's back porch - the SureFlap Microchip Pet Door!

I installed it through the wall, next to the existing, old-school guillotine cat door. I left the existing door because I wanted options and I had the space.

On the outside, I installed a larger shelf so the cats could access both doors and have room to navigate around the flap that would swing out on the SureFlap.

The manufacturer makes a smaller model called the CatFlap, but it doesn't have the curfew mode and it's made for a small to average size cat, which means it wouldn't fit Oliver! They also make what they call a "Dual Scan Cat Door" which is the same size as the CatFlap but has the ability to scan microchips both coming and going, so you can program which cats can enter and which can leave. The Pet Door only allows you to selectively choose which cats can enter. The idea is to keep undesired cats or raccoons from coming into your house. I wish they made the Pet Door but with Dual Scan option, that would be the best choice.

Programming the unit is fairly straight forward. It comes with a large manual, but the bulk of it is the same information presented in multiple languages.

The door's memory can remember up to 32 different microchips, wowza! I think that means I can get more cats! Oliver is already microchipped, but I haven't gotten Pierre or MK chipped yet. Thankfully, the door has the option to function as just a non-discriminating pet door with curfew mode, with this setup any animal can enter at any time but animals can't leave during the programmed curfew time (8:30pm to 6am). I'm still planning to get MK and Pierre chipped so I can use the scanning feature, I just need to gather the gumptions to trap them and get it done.

Installation was fairly easy. The challenge was going to be how to teach feral cats to use a cat door! When the door is closed it has strong magnets that pull the door to the plumb position, so the cats have to push hard enough to overcome that magnetic pull. My regular cat door has a magnetic closer to but this one is way stronger, which is great for making sure the door is in the proper place so the locking mechanisms can function correctly.

I started by taping it open like shown in the picture. This would allow the cats to get used to the feeling of it rubbing their backs as they passed through. Each day I used a bigger piece of tape making the cat push against the door more and more. I also taped a string to the door that went up and over to the other side of the room, this way I could open the door from the mudroom and encourage the cat to try coming through.

Pierre figured out the door the same night and has had no problems pressing his head against it to open it and push through. MK has tried but still hasn't managed to figure it out. After being locked in someone's garage for a week last July he's gets very anxious about being locked away somewhere, so I'm guessing he's figured out that if he goes through the door it will result in him being locked away, which probably curbs his enthusiasm for trying to come in. I haven't seen Oliver use the door yet, so I'm still not sure if he knows how to use it! During the daytime, I just open the old guillotine cat door so everyone can enter and exit at will.

Now, before I go to bed for the night, I'll go out and secure Oliver on the porch. Then it's just a matter of time before Pierre lets himself in, locking him in with Oliver for the night. Pierre has let himself in every night since I have installed the SureFlap! This makes me very happy.

Thus far I am very happy with my SureFlap Microchip Pet Door, it works awesome! It's well built and feels sturdy. It operates on 4-C batteries, which they say will last about 6-months. My complaints are really just nit-picking - I think the instructions could be laid out better in a way that makes it easier to figure out the basic operations and I wish they had the option for using AC power in addition to battery power (like the Pet Feedster I recently reviewed). And as I previously mentioned, I wish they made a Dual Scan version of the Pet Door. I've read that SureFlap provides awesome technical support, but so far, everything has gone perfectly, so I haven't needed to talk with them.

I LOVE coming out in the morning and finding Pierre cuddled in with Oliver. Seeing this every morning has made me feel really good about spending the money to buy the SureFlap Pet Door, it's been totally worth it. I so hope that MK gets comfortable using it too. Maybe soon I'll come out and find all three of my boys safely secured on the back porch for the night.

The fully enclosed back porch currently offers three heated bed options, but with the temperature falling to crazy cold recently, I've started to think it's time to insulate and finish off the back porch so Oliver and his family can truly stay warm in a heated and insulated space. The heating pads do a great job keeping their tummy side warm but their topside gets chilled from the freezing cold air temperature. Hmmm, I think I see my next project calling my name...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

belated blest Sunday

I really wanted to participate in the blest Sunday blog event, but I missed the mark as I was settling back into life at the hobby cattery. Better late than never, so here goes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few of the blessings I'm tremendously grateful for.


My senior (15+ years) who is starting to have more health issues. I love this guy and his non-stop insistence of having his tummy rubbed. In his mind, there is never an excuse that justifies why his tummy is not being rubbed at a given moment. I'm grateful for each day he continues to be with me.


My little Willow is turning into quite the cuddle bug and cuddly cats are the best!! Willow's existence in my life brings my heart great joy everyday.

Safe crossings:

As I walked home from the dentist Tuesday morning, I saw MK dart across the busy street near my house. I hate that the ferals insist on crossing the roads, but I am immensely grateful they have safely crossed these streets for 3+ years now. I hope they have many more years of safe crossings to come.

I wish I could somehow contain MK, Pierre, and Nora and keep them from crossing streets - but they are truly feral, and I live in a city.

Mr. Bert:

With the colder than normal temperatures, Bert has moved! He's now occupying Oliver's room inside the house, yes, inside, like a real inside kitty! 

Bert is passionate about being loved on. He LOVES love. I really get the sense he's aware of the gift he has received at a second chance of being a spoiled inside kitty and he exuberantly expresses his gratitude. He's non-stop wiggling around trying to smash his head into my hand or have his tummy rubbed. All hands must be actively loving on him somehow and he must be smashing his body into the hands that are loving on him. With Bert, love is truly a verb!

For this boy's enthusiasm for giving and receiving love, I am grateful.

Beautiful view:

The list of things I don't like about the Pacific Northwest is vast, however, I am grateful for the pretty view of the Cascade mountains I sometimes get to enjoy from my office window.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Vermont travels

The Vermont portion of my trip has been delightful. I LOVE Vermont, it's such a beautiful state and the simple way of life really speaks to my soul. I so want to move back.

I stayed at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction, which dates back to around 1879.

It's a lovely building and the rooms are very unique. It has the slopeiest floors I've ever seen! It was fun, I would certainly recommend it. 

The rooms are simple and perfect for the old hotel.

An original phone in the hallway. I didn't try it to see if it still works!

A neighboring Catholic Church, dated 1897.

This cracks me up - it's a park & ride at 9:30am on a weekday! 
Where I live, the park and rides are overfull!

I love Vermont forests. I stumbled upon this trail and enjoyed every minute of it. The forest bed of dry leaves was delightful. In the Pacific Northwest, we don't have forests of deciduous trees, so the forests are dark due to the greenery and the forests are always wet due to the forever presence of drizzle!

This kitty window ornament was in a store that sold locally made Vermont Artisan products. I think it would have come home with me, but sadly, the store was closed for the day.

After leaving Vermont, I drove on little roads through New Hampshire. This was some lake alone the way. I love the lakes in New England, most of them are undeveloped and just beautiful.

I got to meet Toby in person. He's my brother's latest cat who had to had his eye removed. 
He's a lover boy for sure! It's good he rescued him and gave him a chance at the good life.

My trip is coming to a close. It's been a lovely time away exploring two different parts of the country. I've enjoyed keeping an eye on my kitties while away, but soon I'll get to love on them in person!

Oliver cuddles with one of his sons

The boys' room!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

more vacation

Vacation sure is nice, I need to do this more often!

We stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast in Grand Haven, Michigan, called the Boyden House. The house was built in 1872 and has been beautifully restored.

Going to a beach town in the off-season can be a gamble. We won! The weather was warm and windy, but so beautiful! We're not lay on the beach-kind of people, so seeing the empty beach and rough lake was perfect.

No dogs, but cats must be ok! 

I didn't see any cats, except this one.
Rough seas!

Nahum waits by the tunnel

Oliver is still looking bored stiff!

Today, our paths diverge - I'm on my way to Vermont while Laura returns home to the kitties! Soon the cats will have their normal routine resume, that makes me happy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

the lake

Long ago, when I went to college, I did so near Lake Superior and it was then that I fell in love with the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The size and freshness of the water are amazing. These massive bodies of water have the ability to soothe my heart like nothing else on earth.

Since we are hanging out in Western Michigan for a bit means I get to enjoy Lake Michigan. It's breathtakingly lovely with it's clean, beautiful sandy beaches.

Muskegon State Park

Cider donuts!!! 

We stumbled across a cider house that had fresh cider donuts, for some lame reason, these gems don't exist in the Seattle area. And they call Washington the "apple state" when all the local apples are nasty and no cider donuts! 

Oliver's getting bored being locked away in his room,
 but I'm not bored watching him be bored!

Bert's looking bored too, as he hangs out on his heating pad.

Monday, November 3, 2014


I'm away from the cats for the entire week. I like traveling, but I hate leaving the cats.

I think this means Buddy wants to come with me

First I'm in Michigan for a training class and recreation, then off to New England to visit family and more relaxing. I'll be keeping an eye on all the kitties by checking in on the seven kitty-cams spread across the various kitty habitats. 

Before leaving, I brought Buddy to the vet. He's been losing weight even though he eats like a horse and he horks almost daily. He's getting older (~15 years), so I wanted to get a full blood work-up. 

I got the results back, his thyroid T4 is elevated. It has been going up over the past few tests, so now we start medicating. His BUN (kidney) level was higher than we would have liked to find too. I'm worried about my tummy-rub-addict senior. When we get back from our trip, we'll start the medication. Meanwhile, purrs for his health would be appreciated. I want many, many more years with this guy, but my heart tells me that most likely will not be so.

Friday, October 31, 2014


For several years now I've chronicled how helpful Oliver is with my various outside house projects. I'm proud to share that his son, Pierre, is following in his papa's paw-steps.

At the end of summer, I decided to do some last minute exterior house painting. Two walls were in rough shape and I really wanted to get them fixed up before the rainy season. So, I went gung-ho but the winter rains came faster than I could get it done. My plan shifted to covering the side of the house with a huge tarp in order to keep it dry so I could keep working on it.

As I laid out the tarp in the yard, Oliver and Pierre insisted on helping me get it all stretched out. It's hard to get good help, so I count myself blessed to have two such dedicated helpers!

Before I could get it hung, Oliver put his seal-of-approval on the tarp - he peed on it! Thanks Oliver! Argh!

The tarp did what it needed to do and with the help of one last dry weekend, I was able to plow through the last bit of priming and painting! It's ready for the winter and next summer I can go back and do a final coat on it all to keep it fresh.