Purchase Date: May 2016
Purchase Price: Approx £70 ($100 @ May 2016)
Product Code: (still searching for it! coming soon…)
Review Date: September 2019 (3years 4 months)
Cat Traffic: 3 cats endlessly in-out-in-out-in-out all day all night
We were doing just fine with a manual ‘free access’ cat flap for our three cats until ‘Maxi McFly’ turned up. That’s the nickname we gave the wretched cross-eyed feline that took over our neighbourhood and felt obliged to use our house as a hotel. Not only eating our cats’ food but peeing up walls too. (What made it worse was that our cats were not bothered by him and his foul spraying habits; he had similar black and white markings and we suspect they were a bit confused as to whether he was friend or foe or possibly that he was a visiting long-lost relative). After sustained efforts to deter him there was only one option; fit a a SureFlap Cat Flap with Microchip Identification; this review has many good things to say about it.
Installation: Our flap is fitted to a steel door so we decided to incorporate a SureFlap Mounting Adaptor to ensure that the range of the microchip reader was not reduced by the close proximity of metal. Unfortunately this makes the fitting slightly more complicated because cutting a steel door (albeit quite a thin door) is not a job for those of us with only basic DIY skills. We rose to the challenge and bought an electric jigsaw especially for the job and – let’s be honest because this is an honest review – the results were not pretty. Nevertheless the design of the SureFlap pet door is quite forgiving and it fitted well and works fine. The fitting instructions and templates are very clear and they are usefully supplemented by YouTube instructional videos
Programming: Good news. Programming the flap is super-simple especially adding cats to the ‘permitted list’. We’ll spare you the details in this review but adding programming-in microchips is completed even quicker with a bag of Dreamies.
Operation and Detection: Overall excellent … but we have noticed that one of our cats does not activate the flap as easily as the others (even with its miserable fat face shoved up against the flap) and we suspect that this is related to the position of its microchip which must be further back on its neck than the other cats. Now! … is this a thing? … is it possible to ask the vet to insert the microchip as far forward as possible so that the flap opens sooner? … or maybe there’s just one spot that the chip can be inserted and this isn’t possible (?) … and they might call the authorities … we will make further enquiries and update this review accordingly. (These days you definitely need a tech-ready cat; Apple or Google are probably working on the iCat or Gcat at this very minute). Other than that anomaly we have been immensley impressed with the effectiveness of the microchip detection. We were concerned that if the flap did not unlock quickly enough the cats would be deterred from using it if they were scraping and thumping at a flap that was locked shut but this has never happened. (We did have the benefit of all three of our cats being competent with a standard ‘manual’ flap before the SureFlap Cat Flap with Microchip Identification was fitted so there was very little issues with training them. We would 100% recommend that if you are training a cat to use a SureFlap pet door with microchip ID that has never used a cat flap before that you turn off the lock while they gain their confidence. Their uncertainty and hesitation in using a flap will only be made worse by a lock that is flicking on and off as their furry brains try to puzzle it all out.
Issues: On windy or breezy days the flap can occasionally fail to fully close shut after a cat enters the house i.e. the pressure of the wind prevents the flap from swinging back to a vertical ‘locked’ position. This is, however, quite rare and you’d have to be very unlucky for this to exactly coincide with the neighbourhood tom being in the vicinity with a full bladder/empty stomach at exactly the same time. The moment the wind drops the flap returns to its correct locked position so this is only a temporary issue.
Another issue we have encountered occurs during very cold weather. Obviously one side of the SureFlap microchip cat flap is exposed to the elements which means that during freezing cold weather conditions the batteries get cold and can start to under perform causing the battery warning symbol to flash. (Once the batteries are back to room temperature they are fine, this is just a temporary power reduction due to them being cold). We have got around this by having two sets of batteries which we alternate as necessary when the temperature drops. A steel door probably probably makes this worse and we wouldn’t review this as a fault or design issue; it’s just something that needs some planning and vigilance so your cat doesn’t get stuck outside in the snow … and let’s face it, you’d never hear the end of that! … you’d definitely never be forgiven.
Battery Life: Battery life has been amazing. We were worried that owning a battery operated pet door might become an expensive hobby and require regular purchases of ‘C’ batteries. Not so. We have been getting 12 months+ battery life from each set (three cats in and out regularly) however we have found that only Duracell batteries can achieve this; cheaper cells have not been up to the job. (The batteries are fitted in each side if you were wondering; see photo)
Durability: Like any cat flap it needs a certain amount of cleaning to keep it looking presentable. Even after 3 years it cleans well and even the ‘high traffic’ parts of it have not acquired stubborn brown stains that pets can tend to create with filthy feet. We’ve had basic manual cat flaps that have fallen to bits in less than 2 years (maybe we should review them too!) but this SureFlap microchip cat flap is still solid and trouble-free.
After that review you can see why we’ve given it five stars. Our initial concerns about the ability of the flap to operate smoothly and efficiently were gone within just a few days of installation and – despite the ‘cold battery syndrome’ – we have found it to be almost faultless in every other respect.