Hack half a screen door/pet gate?
April 8, 2020 4:32 PM   Subscribe

I am now working from home in a room where the only window is a door. I'd like to be able to open the door for fresh air on nice days without my feline coworkers escaping. A regular screen door won't work because the door frame also includes a tall, narrow window. Pet gates (even if I screened the bars to make sure the cats couldn't slip through) probably aren't tall enough. Do you have any suggestions? I'm open to hacks and temporary solutions.

A pet gate would be a fine solution even if I had to take it in and out regularly, but on most websites, the tall pet gates top out at 41 inches high. That doesn't seem quite high enough for a determined cat. And I think a permanently installed pet gate that tall would hit against the door handle when the door was closed.

So then I was looking at screen doors, but a standard screen door is made to fit in a door-sized frame, not a frame that also includes a window. (And the door handle comes out too far to use the smaller frame.)

A friend suggested a sliding screen door, barn door style, attached to the top of the frame, but if it was big enough to cover the whole doorway, it would block at least half the door even when pushed to the window side. I suppose I could hang it outside the frame, but then it would be attached to the siding of the house and that seems complicated because I am going to do this mostly myself with some limited help.

I also looked in my basement to see if I had a few window screens I could somehow attach to each other, but I don't have anything big enough.

So, in the absence of a good solution, I think I'm just going to hack something together? I was thinking I could buy a large window screen and somehow lean something against it from the outside so it would stay put. I suppose I could buy a shorter pet gate and stick a screen on top of it somehow.

But, creative people of Metafilter! Is there some clever solution I'm missing?
posted by bluedaisy to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are the dimensions such that if you put the screen door over just the door, it’s too narrow, but if you put the screen door over both the door and the window, it’s too wide?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:40 PM on April 8, 2020

Would a magnetic screen curtain do the trick? I’m not endorsing that particular product, a cat owner in my life has successfully used something similar. Her cats are not very determined or sneaky, however.
posted by Grandysaur at 4:40 PM on April 8, 2020

Best answer: Two pet gates atop each other doubling 41” coverage.
posted by tilde at 4:42 PM on April 8, 2020 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Pet gates can be stacked. Get two or three of the cheap wooden ones from Walmart. They have a plastic grid in them so you won’t have to add screening (for cats anyway, maybe for bugs).
posted by HotToddy at 4:47 PM on April 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This kind.
posted by HotToddy at 4:49 PM on April 8, 2020

Best answer: I used to use a panel of welded wire fence, cut to fit and with the sharp ends coated in plasti-dip.
posted by workerant at 4:59 PM on April 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure that a good carpenter could install a screen door that works and looks good. Here's a page on Ask This Old House where Tommy builds and installs a screen door. There are also kits available.
posted by H21 at 5:00 PM on April 8, 2020

Retractable screen doors are pretty unobtrusive when retracted.
posted by Mitheral at 5:32 PM on April 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Why not add /stack a piece of wood to/on the door frame (door striker side) to build it out to make it flush with the hinge side and then install a standard screen door which just covers the door portion and not the side window?
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 5:38 PM on April 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’m with Larry David Syndrome. Have a carpenter fit a piece of wood to extend the mullion between window and door to bring it flush with the jamb, and use a normal storm door.
posted by jon1270 at 6:00 PM on April 8, 2020

Each morning, block the bottom half or 3/5 of the doorway with a piece of plywood or cardboard to corral cats, and use a door frame fan up high to maximize breezes? "The portable specialty fan mounts easily to most door frames with 2 screws (included) and still allows the door to open and shut."
posted by furtive_jackanapes at 6:15 PM on April 8, 2020

Best answer: Keep the cats out of that particular room.
posted by Max Power at 6:25 PM on April 8, 2020

Screen door. You attach it to the door. You open the door and fold out the screen door so that it looks sorta like \/. Attach the screen door to the actual door (cut a hole for the handle) so that it would swing out to make a double-wide door of half-door/half-screen like opening a book. You're thinking 2-D with covering the doorway. With the door cracked you have to go 3-D with covering the open area that intrudes into your space. No need to cover the whole area of the door itself, just the bit of the opening. Screen door, chicken wire, anything that cats can't get through or over faster than you can stop them.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:27 PM on April 8, 2020

Best answer: block the bottom half or 3/5 of the doorway with a piece of plywood or cardboard to corral cats

Dunno about OP's cats, but ours could jump that with no problem whatsoever. I built a movable 5ft divider to keep them from darting into our entryway when we enter/exit; the very first thing they did was jump up and walk nonchalantly along the top of it.

Similarly I've found pet gates pretty much useless for corralling cats unless they're tiny kittens; once they get agile they will either climb it or jump it.

Ours do respect screen doors although our smallest does still sometimes get the zoomies and climb the mesh.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:36 PM on April 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have a retractable screen door and my a-hole cat quickly learned to MacGyver the screen out of the bottom track, allowing him to escape. And he's not a particularly bright cat. I wouldn't recommend this type of screen door unless your cats are completely terrified of or indifferent to Outside. Maybe the type of retractable screen door that rolls down from above may be more difficult for the cats to figure out, but who knows.

I agree with everyone upthread suggesting that you build out the mullion separating the door and window so that you can install a framed screen door; this should keep your cats inside so long as they're not into climbing or tearing up fixed window screens. If you're worried about the aesthetics a retractable screen storm door might work, but they're not cheap.
posted by blerghamot at 6:41 PM on April 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is probably not a good solution, because the door opens inwards so you'd have to put it on the outside, and it's definitely only a temporary solution at best, but on the offchance that you don't care about aesthetics and live somewhere with reliably clement weather at this time of year, I offer the hacky workaround I've used to rig up a fly screen on an awkward window: you could run self-adhesive Velcro tape around the door frame and use it to fasten a piece of net curtain material over the door opening. Probably best to sew the tape to the curtain material rather than relying on the self-adhesion to work on the fabric. Flexible enough to stretch over the door handle, openable by you if you want to walk out of the door, and while it's certainly vulnerable to cat claws, it'd take them a while to shred it so much that they could get through it.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:04 AM on April 9, 2020

Best answer: How about a piece of garden lattice covering the entire opening? You could put nails into the top edge of the inside door frame to hang it from, taking advantage of the lattice structure.

I haven't worked with this material but I'm guessing it's sturdy enough that the cats could climb it if they wanted. If you need to keep bugs out, you could staple screen material onto the outer face.

The cats might be able to pull the bottom edge inward and escape, which you could prevent by putting something heavy in the way.
posted by lakeroon at 6:41 AM on April 9, 2020

Best answer: It really depends on the athleticism and determination of your particular cats, I think. One of my cats is usually deterred by a stack of those wooden child gates (though only usually). You could maybe figure out a way to even wedge a full wooden screendoor into the open hinge of your regular door and the frame where that door would normally shut again--it'd require some careful measuring but might work.

The other can only be stopped by actually installed doors and windows, and would laugh at any attempt to use a roller screendoor or anything not actually bolted down at all edges. If your cats are the latter type, I'd second Max Powers's recommendation about shutting your coworkers out of the room when you need air.
posted by past unusual at 7:19 AM on April 9, 2020

How much air do you need? I'd use a door stop or two to hold the door a couple inches open so you get some breeze but the cats can't fit their heads through it.
posted by momus_window at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2020

Best answer: Stack pet gates and put aluminum foil on them to discourage climbing. Put some screws in on each side of the upper pet gate so it doesn't fall out when climbed, in such a way that you can still remove the pet gate.

If that doesn't work I think you will have to either keep the door closed or not have the cats in the room, or have a new door and doorframe installed with a perforated steel security door. Your cats will not get through a perforated steel security door unless they learn how to use a cutting torch, do not allow the cats to google how to do this.
posted by yohko at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey, all, this has been really helpful! Thanks so much for all these ideas! I have one adventure cat who would not see a magnetic screen as anything other than a fun new challenge and another cat who sometimes sneaks out the door but then hides in terror under the porch until she can get back in, and who wouldn't be as likely to bust out.

I also want to say that, while I have before closed the interior doors to this room to open the back door... I completely forgot about that as an option now that I'm in here more. Seems so obvious but I missed it. Thanks!

Your answers really helped me think through all the various options from simple (plastic pet gates stacked on top of each other; a large piece of lattice or steel mesh) to longer term (a proper door). I hadn't realized it might be possible to build out the mullion, which is what I think I will hire someone to do (well, "someone" here being my kids' dad, whose an extended part of the household already), and then put in a regular screen door. I think the other options would have taken time and money anyway, so I might as well just go ahead and get a good solution. Cheers!
posted by bluedaisy at 5:29 PM on April 9, 2020

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