Why Do You Need A Microchip Cat Flap?
The humble cat flap has gone through an interesting evolution since its original conception. Most, if not all of the changes have surrounded the main inevitable flaw in their design: how can you stop other cats from abusing the door and entering your house? Most cat owners will be able tell stories of other cats entering the house. At best they steal your beloved cats food, at worst they’ll bully your cat around its own house, breaking things, making a mess and spraying everywhere.
So at first there was the 4-way locking mechanism that is still found on most cat flaps today. Then there was the magnetic and infra-red cat flaps, which required bulky attachments to the collar. The main problem with these is that the expensive ‘keys’ attached to the collar can easily become detached or lost if your cat becomes stuck and slips its collar. Then there are the problems with reliability of the magnetic or infra-red reader. These models are fraught with design issues, which can lead to your cat being unable to get in, or allow other cats into your home with other ‘keys’. All of these problems were solved in one fell swoop by the microchip cat flap.
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How Does A Microchip Cat Flap Work?
Recently, inventors found a very simple solution to the problems that have plagued cat flaps since they were first introduced. This was achieved by using technology that is already in place (or at least should be in place) in all domestic cats, the microchip.
Essentially, a microchip cat flap ‘scans’ a cats microchip the same way an RSPCA officer would if they found a stray moggy on the streets. Every cats microchip has a unique number associated with it. A microchip cat flap stores these numbers in a database within it. If a cat tries to use the flap it searches the database and if the number is in there, it opens the door, if not, then the door remains locked.
You have complete control of the microchip numbers that get entered into the database and you don’t have to manually type the numbers in, so it isn’t open to human error. To enter a cat into the database, you set the microchip cat flap to ‘scan’ mode and then run your moggy through the tunnel. Your cats unique identification number will then be logged by the database. You can store between 25-32 different cats in the database (the actual number depends on the model concerned), so you don’t have to worry if you have multiple cats. The database can also be wiped clean and started again, which is useful if you have a high turnover of cats or plan on keeping the cat flap for a very long time.
Best Microchip Cat Flap
You may want to have a look at our microchip cat flap comparison table.
There are now currently at least four manufacturers producing microchip cat flaps. However, the Sureflap microchip cat flap has dominated the market from the very beginning and still remains by far the bestselling model. The reason for this dominance is not due to one particular feature, it’s more because it does all of the basics so well. It has a reliable microchip scanner that reads all known types of microchip. It is easy to program and use. It is battery powered and have a sleek design.
The Cat Mate Microchip Cat Flap is a relatively new model to the market and has quickly become the second bestselling microchip cat flap. There’s very little difference between the Sureflap and Cat Mate models, which probably has a lot to do with its popularity. Cat Mate has overtaken the PetSafe PetPorte, which held the position for a long time. The PetSafe Petporte but has a large overhanging ‘porch’ where the reader sits, which can be a real pain. Finally there’s the Ferplast microchip cat flap, which is also relatively new and not yet heavily tested by the market.
Key Features Of A Microchip Cat Flap – Sureflap vs PetSafe PetPorte vs Cat Mate vs Ferplast
So let’s take a look at what you should look out for when buying or reading reviews about microchip cat flaps. Alternatively, our comparison table lays all of the models out side-by-side.
Appearance and Design
Here the models vary quite a bit. The PetSafe PetPorte microchip cat flap has a ‘porch’, which you can see protruding over the back of the cat in this picture. We really don’t like this feature because my partner and I have both clattered our shins into this ‘porch’ when the utility door has been open. Firstly, this hurts. But more importantly it has made the cat flap come away from the door so that it is no longer flush and therefore lets a draft in. The Ferplast model has some ’80s style robotic graphics that look a bit naff. The Cat Mate and Sureflap models look just like a typical high-end cat flap you’re probably used to. In terms of quality of finish, all models rate very highly.
Here again the models differ. The Sureflap & Cat Mate models run off four AA batteries, the Ferplast runs on six AA’s. These batteries last us about 6-12 months with two cats using it. We were worried about having battery powered cat flaps at first, however they all have battery power indicator lights that are accurate and ensure that the cats are never locked out unintentionally! The PetSafe PetPorte model runs off both batteries AND the mains. Annoyingly, it has to be plugged in at all times and will not work if disconnected by accident. Having the wire running from the plug to the cat flap really gets in the way.
Reliability of Microchip Reader
The microchip scanners in the Sureflap, Cat Mate & Ferplast models are located within the actual tunnel. This means that when your cat sticks its head inside the tunnel wanting to come in or out, the scanner can’t miss them. The lock releases instantly, so the cat doesn’t have to wait. The PetSafe PetPorte scanner is located in the middle of the overhanging porch, so when the cat passes under, the lock is released. We found all models to be extremely reliable, although if one of the cats approached the PetSafe PetPorte tunnel from a tight we sometimes found that the lock wouldn’t release. The other models have always released correctly, probably because the scanner is in the tunnel and hence, closer to the cat.
All of the microchip cat flaps store between 25 and 32 different cats in their databases, so there’s no need to worry if you have multiple cats. The PetSafe PetPorte comes with an additional ‘night’ mode, where it senses whether it is light outside and allows your cats in or out, depending on the levels of light outside. This is a quirky feature and I’m sure one that would be valuable to some people.
The Sureflap comes with a 2-year guarantee, while the Cat Mate & PetSafe PetPorte come with 3-year guarantees. Disappointingly the Ferplast only comes with a 1-year guarantee.
Microchip Cat Flap – Conclusions and Price
Microchip cat flaps are an ingenious, yet simple invention and I’m sure that all cat owners will be looking to invest in one in the near future. One important point is – don’t overpay! You can buy most models for £15-20 off the RRP, which is found HERE.