Few joys in life compare to that of having a loyal furry companion by one’s side. No wonder the American Pet Products Association found that 66% of US households own a pet in 2023. Out of these, at least 13% of them own exotic animals as pets.
The most common exotic pets include guinea pigs, mice, and ferrets. Some states across the US even allow legal ownership of wild and wonderful critters like iguanas, alligators, and fennec foxes (too exotic, perhaps?)
As intriguing as it is to watch a new generation of pet lovers rise, it is equally crucial to learn that pet door demands are also changing in the market. Gone are those days when a compact pet door was associated with a dog or a cat. Modern-day pet owners are probing the possibility of installing a convenient and secure pet door for their exotic friends.
Is it possible, and what can you expect? Keep reading to find out.
Can Exotic Animals Use Pet Doors?
Let’s start by discussing some bizarre and possibly scary stories of animals finding their way into households through pet doors. Just a month back, a Louisiana couple was startled to hear their Australian cattle dog, Panda, barking, only to find a 5-foot-long alligator greeting them in the living area.
The unwanted visitor had made its way in using the dog door (probably following the dog’s scent). The couple also admitted that their dog had earlier prevented rattlesnakes from entering their home. There have been reported cases of rattlesnakes and pythons intruding into properties through pet doors in other US states, too.
While such uncalled-for visits are petrifying (more on that later in the blog), it does help us know that almost every animal can use a pet door ideal for its size. Even exotic pets deserve the freedom to go in and out as they please, either to do their business or to simply play, exercise, and enjoy the fresh air outdoors.
Factors to Consider While Choosing a Pet Door
Choosing a pet door for exotic animals is similar to choosing one for a cat or a dog. The following factors need careful consideration before you invest your money:
1. Door Type
The first consideration when it comes to pet doors for unique animals must be the door type. Different kinds of doors are available, based on the material, opening-closing mechanism, features, etc. For instance – vinyl flap doors with weather stripping are ideal for areas that receive heavy rainfall. Some doors also come with three flaps for additional protection against stormy weather.
Just like the old saying goes, teaching an old pet new tricks doesn’t work. Much like cats and dogs, exotic pets may also find favorite openings around the house they commonly use to escape. If yes, then it is best to install the new pet door on a wall in that area.
If your friend has been caged all this time, and you’re only starting their journey towards more freedom, allow them some time to explore the home (under scrutiny, of course). If they show affinity towards a particular spot, try to install a door there.
The size of the pet door will depend upon the animal you own. Even among dogs and cats, there are differences, such as cats’ skeletal structure allows them to easily move in and out of narrow spaces, something that dogs (especially the larger breeds) cannot.
When it comes to pets like rabbits, ferrets, and mice, a small door is enough. However, some animals may feel more comfortable with a slightly larger space depending upon their temperament (particularly iguanas).
4. Costs Involved
The price of the door is an important consideration, although you should not let this factor alone overrule your decision. The aim is to invest in a pet door that is robust and can withstand heavy claw and teeth traffic (you know how reptiles and mice can be!).
The installation costs will depend upon how many flaps the door has and how easy it is to install. Other than that, you also need to factor in energy costs (if the door is not well-insulated).
5. Weather and Temperature
The pet door should be such that it can trap heat indoors during winter and prevent heat from entering indoors during summer. Moreover, if the door is to be installed at a place that receives direct sunlight, you need to be careful about warping issues.
It is best to invest in tightly-sealed doors that offer adequate insulation. Also, a door latch that offers flexibility in opening and closing is a good addition.
While the pet door must allow your unique friend the freedom to move in and out, it should also preserve your home’s safety. Even if the door is small in size, you need to be careful about other small creatures, like rodents and squirrels, that may easily invade your property. In case the pet door is installed into an existing door, ensure there is a robust locking or safety mechanism in place.
Dos and Don’ts of Pet Doors for Unique Animals
If you keep in mind the above-mentioned factors, it should not take long to find a suitable pet door for your unique friend. However, it never hurts to double up on important dos and don’ts.
1. DO Remember the Sealed Edges
A new door in your home automatically means there will be another way for air to leak out. When the edges around doors and windows are not properly sealed, air leaks form – climate-controlled air moves out, and unwanted hot or cold air sneaks in.
Such air leaks easily disturb comfort and energy bills. Ensure the edges around the pet door are properly sealed. If light enters through the crevices, use caulking to plug up the edges.
2. DON’T Assume Your Pet Automatically Knows How to Use the Door
Just about any pet can learn to use a pet door, but it takes time and patience on the owner’s part. Never push or force your pet through the opening designed for them. Positive reinforcement through rewards like toys and treats should gradually help them get used to the door.
According to Hale Pet Door, some timid animals may show reluctance while training, for which you can use temporary training flaps. These flaps are lightweight and can replace the standard (insulated) flaps on the pet door till the training process is over.
3. DO Ensure the Door is Bite-Proof
A bite-proof door may become necessary for even dogs and cats, especially if they’re accustomed to chewing on things. However, some animals like mice are experts at destroying materials with their sharp teeth.
It is best to opt for a bite-proof pet door constructed using heavy-duty materials that can withstand pets clawing on it, knocking into it, and chewing it. Also, the door should be able to handle constant opening and shutting.
Preventing Wild Interlopers from Gaining Access
As stated earlier, pet doors (especially when large enough to allow wild animals and humans with less than admirable intentions) can easily become your property’s vulnerable points. Consider this your bonus section on how to keep unwanted intruders from exploring your haven.
- Lock the Door at Night
Most wild animals are nocturnal by nature, so locking your pet door at night should keep them out. As for the day, you may need to monitor the door at periodic intervals (alternating with locking during nap time) to ensure your pet still has free access to walk in and out.
In case your pet door does not come with a locking mechanism, simply use a heavy item to block the entrance. It is best to not allow your pet to go out during the night unaccompanied.
- Use Motion Detector Lights
Numerous wild animals are scared of bright motion detector lights. If you install such lights just above the pet door, they may not even attempt to enter. As for your pet, they should get accustomed to the lights. However, keep an eye out for the first few days after installation to check whether your pet is bothered by the lights.
- Install an Opaque Barrier
Some pet doors use a clear plastic flap, which may allow the passage of light. Wild animals may try to enter through the pet door out of curiosity. Installing an opaque barrier or film over the door will deter intruders from breaching inside.
As free humans, it is quite easy to forget that even our pets need a certain degree of autonomy. This is something a traditional door may fail to offer, especially since exotic pets like mice and ferrets are pretty small in size.
A pet door designed exclusively to fit them will remove the discomfort and boredom involved in being cooped up. Ideally, you should choose a pet door manufacturer dealing in custom sizes and designs. This way, you can allow your unique friend indoor-outdoor access without jeopardizing safety.