A Homemade Pet Door

Winter can be cold and cruel, but build this pet door and your dog or cat won't have to be on the outside looking in.
November/December 1984
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With a pet door, your animals can come and go as they like without you having to be at their beck and call.

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When the mercury drops to the single digits, life can be very unfriendly to four-legged family members living outdoors. Yet even the most compassionate pet owners will admit that playing doorman to a whimsical animal gets old fast, during both winter and summer. So here's a solution that spans the seasons and satisfies host and guest alike: a weather-tight homemade pet door designed to fit both beast and budget.

The idea, of course, is nothing new. You can purchase animal access ports at pet shops anywhere — if you don't mind spending somewhere between $30 and $60. But a quick trip to a discount mart (and a few moments in your back-room junk bin) should yield enough inexpensive materials to allow you to make your own auxiliary access for no more than $10 or so.

The main ingredient for this project is a set of automobile rear-seat floor mats, which retail for about $6.99. Ours are rubber (which is supple but tears more easily than vinyl) and measure 13 1/2" x 16", fine for cats and small dogs. If your friend is more substantial, you'll probably have to spend a bit more and buy 16" x 28" front mats, preferably those without bulky embossments. Other materials include:

  • Two strips of medium-gauge sheet metal (one 5/8" x 6" and the other 5/8" x 8")
  • Some l/16" x 1/2" magnetic ribbon cut to 5 7/8" and 7 1/2" lengths (if you can't find this among the houseware offerings at your usual retail outlet, you might try a stationery store)
  • A 6" x 36" swatch of canvas or Leatherette
  • 40" of 1 1/8" corner molding
  • An aluminum strip measuring 1/8" x 3/4" x 11 1/2"
  • Four 11/16" x 1/2" x 1 1/4" metal offset clips
  • A piece of 1/8" x 7 1/4" x 11" Masonite or hardboard
  • 38 No. 8 X 3/4" panhead wood screws.
  • Mastic (upholstery or windshield cement)

If you plan to install your hound hatch in a hollow- or solid-core flush door that's 1 3/8" or 1 3/4" thick, the materials that we used will suffice. However, if you've got your eye on a panel door, first make sure the inserts are large enough to accommodate the floor mats you have in mind and then substitute bolts for the wood screws and 1" trim for the corner molding. (You won't need the fabric at all, since there's no core gap to cover.)

Naturally, you'll have to have a few tools to make the installation, but they're nothing fancy. We used:

  • Power drill
  • Drill bits of 1/8" (for the pilot holes), 1/64" (for the shoulder bores), and 1/4" (to start the rough-opening cut)
  • 3/4" hole saw
  • Utility knife
  • Ruler and pencil
  • Keyhole saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Pair of scissors
  • Sandpaper


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