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Cats are the favorite pets of the Swiss people. In 2022, 1.7 million cats lived in Switzerland, about twice as many as dogs. Many cats are outdoor cats, i.e. animals that are allowed to roam freely outside during the day and at night. To allow them in and out without someone opening a window or door for them every time, there are cat flaps. We have researched what you should look for when choosing the right cat flap and how much a cat flap costs, including installation.
Install the cat flap in a place that is somewhat hidden and not freely visible. This way you will avoid other cats (or burglars) trying their luck. The best place is a basement or garage door. If you install the flap in a balcony or patio door or window, you can protect the location from prying eyes with plants. Make sure that no window or door handles can be reached through the cat flap. If you do, secure the window or door with a lockable handle afterwards. Because a cat flap insulates less well than glass, you should install it in a room that is not heated very much or ventilated regularly every day. If you are a light sleeper, you should install the flap as far away from your bedroom as possible, because otherwise the rattling will wake you up several times during the night …
The flap must be large enough so that your cat can comfortably get in and out without having to squeeze through the opening. For kittens, keep in mind that they will still grow, so buy the flap large enough. The distance between the floor and the cat's belly determines the ideal position of the cat flap for comfortable entry and exit. For most cats, 15 centimeters from the floor has proven effective. If you have more than one outdoor cat, adjust the position to the smallest cat.
Cat flaps are made of plastic, are available in white or in brown and are suitable for glass windows, glass doors and wooden doors up to 54 millimeters. Basically, you have a choice of three types, which differ in comfort and safety. Prices range from 100 Swiss francs to about 300 francs without labor.
Most cat owners have the cat flap installed in a balcony or patio door or in a window. This is more complicated than you might think at first, because windows and doors today are double or even triple-glazed. That's why you can't just drill or cut a hole in the glass. To install it in a glass door or window, the old pane must be replaced with a new one, into which a glazier will mill the cutout for the cat flap. It is better to leave this to a window or door installer. You keep the old pane in case you want to sell your house or apartment one day and the new owners do not own a cat.
Installing it in a wooden door is easier, but it weakens the door's security and insulation values. Therefore, you should install the cat flap in wooden doors only in exceptional cases. Besides, the dismantling is complex and expensive. If you still want to install the flap in an exterior, interior or room door made of wood, you should hire a carpenter.
You can buy cat flaps at hardware stores, online or pet specialty stores. Glaziers who specialize in cat flaps usually have some in stock. Manual flaps cost from 100 Swiss francs, flaps with magnet 150 to 200 Swiss francs and flaps with microchip sensor 250 to 300 Swiss francs. Add to that the cost of labor and glass. For a double-glazed balcony or patio door, calculate 800 to 1,000 Swiss francs plus 100 to 300 Swiss francs for the flap, and for a triple-glazed door, 900 to 1,100 Swiss francs plus 100 to 300 Swiss francs for the flap. Installation in a wooden door is easier. Calculate with 500 to 750 Swiss francs plus 100 to 300 Swiss francs for the flap. On the other hand, the dismantling is more expensive than with the glass door, because most likely the whole door will have to be replaced.
Once the cat flap is installed, your cat should learn to use it. This takes some patience. The most promising method is the treat method: put some treats in front of the flap, close the door or window and hold the flap open. Your cat will smell the treats and try to stick its head out through the little door and eat the treats. Once this has worked several times, close the cat flap and put some treats out again. For the first few tries, you can still gently push the flap open, but after that your cat should try and make it on his own. This usually goes quickly, because the cat wants to get out to discover the new territory.
Give the cat enough time to feel comfortable and at home in your house or apartment. This usually takes a few weeks. Do not urge your cat to leave the house or apartment. Usually they will make themselves known as soon as they are ready. Let the cat out and take it on shorter walks in the local area. Everything is new, there is much to discover. Therefore, be patient. With time, the walks will be longer and you can leave your cat alone. If you want to be on the safe side, equip her collar with a GPS transmitter for a few months to locate it in case it doesn't return home and you can't find it.
Does your cat not eat as much as before since it was allowed outside? A neighbor may be feeding the cat occasionally or regularly. This is forbidden: Unfamiliar cats may not be fed without their owner's consent. For example, if the food was spoiled and the cat has to go to the vet, the neighbor must pay the medical expenses and face criminal charges for cruelty to animals if the animal dies. If you suspect that someone is feeding your cat, talk to them. If that doesn't get anywhere, write to your neighbor to inform them of the legal situation and ask them to stop feeding. In the worst case, you could take legal action. However, for the sake of good neighborliness, you should only file a lawsuit as a last resort.