im in ur house steelin ur cat food
December 7, 2006 11:26 AM   Subscribe

What's a raccoon-proof cat door solution?

I have an electromagnetic cat flap. I've seen two different raccoons in my house in the past week, because the stupid thing only stops it being pushed open, and does nothing to stop an animal smart and dextrous enough to pull it open. Thus far, they haven't been terribly bad as home invaders go, but urban raccoons have been known to kill cats and I need to stop them.

These doors are advertised as raccoon-proof. Does anyone have experience with them (or another solution that works and doesn't cost hundreds of dollars)? (Though it looks like even clever homebrew attempts don't fare too well.)

I'm not interested in getting a dog, and don't want to try to re-acclimate the cats to being indoors-only (we tried that when we moved to our house -- it wasn't pretty.)

I've read this and this and, no, Flo Control won't help -- it ultimately uses the same cat flap I have.
posted by Zed_Lopez to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
I know this isn't exactly the solution you were looking for, but have you started by calling Animal Control in your town?

At my offices, a neighboring tenant had taken to feeding all the stray cats in the area (thus concentrating their numbers and attracting raccoons who also waited patiently each morning to be fed.) Once that business moved, the underfed racoons immediately started eating the stray cats that had grown used to eating alongside them.

Animal Control came out with live-capture traps for a couple of weeks ... and while they didn't eliminate the raccoons, they greatly reduced their numbers. And now there are fewer (thankfully, none) cat parts littering the parking lot.

If the raccoons are already coming into your house looking for food, that's probably a good sign that they are exhausting the food supply -- they get bolder when they get hungrier. So I suspect you're right to worry.
posted by bclark at 11:37 AM on December 7, 2006

I agree with bclark; I think that the raccoons are a problem in and of themselves, independent of whether they're coming into your house. Trapping or otherwise eliminating the local population as much as you can (which Animal Control really ought to help with, since they're a rabies risk) may help the problem.

About your current door: do you need your cat to be able to go out through the door by itself? Or just in? If you can live with letting your cat have to 'ask' to go out, you could glue some strips (of wood or plastic) around the outside and prevent it from swinging out. If he's used to being able to go out whenever he wants (to do his business) that could get ugly, though.

It seems the accepted wisdom is that only the "lift up" style cat doors are raccoon-proof, and as you discovered, they're not cheap.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:10 PM on December 7, 2006

I have had them pull off nailed-on boards over a cat door. Big ones can weigh 35 pounds. They are smart and have nothing better to do than to worry your door open.

That said, I successfully used a hinged cover with a lock latch, secured by a caribener, and brought the cats in at night, then locking the door. (I designed an automated cat door for a pet door company.... so I have looked at this problem A LOT!) At the same time, my cats had radio beacons on and I would use them to locate the cats at dusk to bring them in... (I know... I had more money than brains.)

I once kept racoons off a deck by encasing the posts in sheet metal and lubricating it with Pam frequently. That kind of worked.

Racoons are a challenge to your ingenuity. Keep at it and you'll prevail.

All else fails, catch them in a have-a-heart and take them 20 miles away to a national forest for release. Once they learn where the food is in your house, they are relentless about returning.
posted by FauxScot at 2:11 PM on December 7, 2006

Response by poster: You're right; removing the raccoons is worthwhile of itself, and I hadn't been thinking about that. Turns out Berkeley Animal Control doesn't consider it their problem, so I'll have to hire a professional or buy my own trap. I wonder what the legalities of releasing it are, though. I can't think of anyplace within 20 miles that isn't still sufficiently populated for it to immediately become another human's problem.

Yes, I need the cats to be able to get in and out on their own. I had been locking the cat door at night, and I've had a lot of bad nights' sleep from one of the cats demanding to get out. (For now I'll be back to locking it and getting bad nights' sleep.)

Thanks, folks.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:51 PM on December 7, 2006

I had a good chuckle at the notion that Berkeley Animal Control would lift a finger about raccoons.

My 110 pound shepherd-rottweiler mix cornered three raccoons on our back porch, trying to get into our kitchen. He was smart enough not to get too close to them, but they were holding their ground. Berkeley raccoons are not to be trifled with.

My raccoon problems differ from yours, but I'll share what has worked for me and perhaps you can figure out a corollary that works for you. We had raccoons going though our garbage and making a nasty mess of it. No brick on the lid or bungee cord contraption could keep them out. Now, whenever I take out the kitchen trash, I head out into the back yard and pick up whatever dog poops I can find, and put a bag with dog poop on top of the bag of kitchen garbage. Seems to dampen their interest significantly. Maybe their is something equally unappetizing that you could put in front of the flap so it doesn't smell like food? Your cats would have to step over it but if they want out badly enough they'd get over it.

Motion-activated lights might discourage them too.
posted by ambrosia at 3:29 PM on December 7, 2006

I read somewhere about a pet door that was activated by a chip on the pets collar. Pretty simple, but I don't know if you could easily retrofit an existing door. At least easily. And I can't remember the name of it. But a Google should find it I think.
posted by toucano at 7:23 PM on December 7, 2006

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