Instructables
Good day!

My wife and I live in a 3-level townhome. We have a cat and two dogs. The cat has run of the house- and in fact needs to have access to the 3rd floor. However the dogs should not be up there! My challenge: take a baby gate that we already own, and make a cat flap so the cat can go up and down the stairs without letting the dogs through.

We already had the extra-tall walk-thru baby gate that you can get at Babies 'R' Us. We had it at our old home, where we used it for the same purpose - but there, the cat was able to get around the gate by going through the railing bars. Here in our new home, the bars are too close together, and the cat can't fit through.

Ready... Go!
 
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Step 1: Supplies (and a comment on Safety)

Picture of Supplies (and a comment on Safety)
Stuff I needed to do this project (your supplies may vary):

Copper pipe holders (1/2 inch) -- not sure if that's the official name, they're u-shaped with tabs on either side, and holes for screws or bolts to pass thru.
Four Round-head bolts, four washers, and four nuts for the bolts. I used #10 coarse thread bolts.
1x2 wood. This wood is poplar, inexpensive at Home Depot or Lowes. I used 20 inches (2 x 10" lengths).
Screen material (I already had this from repairing window screens)
Packing tape (you can use any durable tape, ie. Gaffer's, Electrical, Duct...)

Tape measure or ruler
Needle nose pliers
Regular pliers
Flat-head screwdriver
Staple gun
Drill and drill bits
Dremel tool with jigsaw attachment, or reciprocal saw, or hacksaw
Dremel tool with barrel sander bit, or sandpaper and lots of patience
Metal blade for the saw of choice above
Clamps (I use quick-clamps)
Razor, scissors or box cutter
White semi-gloss or gloss enamel spraypaint

Probably more stuff I'm forgetting.
Ah, well. I'll add them in later if I remember more.

A Note About Shop Safety, aka I Am Not Responsible If You Sever A Limb Or Injure Yourself In Some Other Grievous Manner:

Saws are loud, sharp, and create sawdust. They can cut off body parts, and cut holes in bodies. The dust that a saw makes can fly around in the air getting into eyes, mouths, ears, and skin. Saws are also loud and can damage your hearing. Electricity can also kill you.

Please wear EYE and EAR protection at all times. You may consider wearing a dustmask and work gloves, to prevent any metal shavings from becoming splinters or being inhaled into your lungs. Also please keep electric cords out of the path of saw blades.

Thank you.
Greetings, very nice Instructable, nice clear pictures and instructions. Kudos. As a contractor I am frequently called upon to solve this very problem. I have in many cases installed a wooden storm door with a commercial cat flap cut into the bottom panel. This allows free air circulation, kitty access and keeps the woofs on the other side. Lots of folks also set up kitty food and literbox in attached garage and install cat flap in door to garage. For me it's cheaper to buy the ten dollar cat flap and cut it in than to custom fab one, for a customer.
smokehill6 years ago
This is a pretty classy solution, and very well presented. Nice job!

I tend to agree with the earlier comment about not completely trusting this with small children, unless they are supervised, and especially with stairs involved. However, I never saw a baby gate I really trusted anyhow, and built my own. I never took any pictures of them, but they're similar to what I built to separate the 24 house dogs here (mostly rescue dogs being fostered) into compatible groups. No baby gate will keep in a determined, medium-size dog, even our Goldens. If they really want to go over or through it, they can. And considering the price of baby gates, anyone can build a better one MUCH cheaper.

I am a bit puzzled about the need for a cat door -- even our antique, obese cats have no trouble jumping up onto, and then over, our 37-inch tall gates, even the one going to the basement stairs, which is a much longer drop on the other side. It's hard to believe anyone has cats any fatter, or older, than ours ... but maybe it's just a matter of what they've gotten used to.

Our dog gates, made out of scrap plywood and replacement mesh floors from dog crates, are probably overkill for most people, and the mesh is only necessary because we heat with a wood stove and need lots of air circulation. The dogs also like to look out through the mesh, too, it seems. Probably other, cheaper mesh would work, but we wanted something that an angry Great Dane couldnt get through, and something a dog couldn't get his paw caught in. This strong mesh also adds some structure and stiffness to a thin plywood gate.

Personally, I wouldn't trust any gate that wasn't securely hinged to the wall with long screws. The way we mounted ours also doesn't interfere with the regular door, since we mounted to the outside of the door jamb, past the "stop" trim that the door closes against.

Anyway, for whatever it's worth, I posted a couple of photos of the dog gates we built. I'm also working on a "slider" gate, like a pocket door, for an unusually wide opening (38"). Hint: if anyone tries a similar gate, use a lot more hinge than you think you need, or eventually it'll sag and your lockbolts won't line up anymore. Remember that dogs WILL lean on the thing, even if you don't.

Link to dog gate photos:

Dog Gate
technosapien (author)  smokehill6 years ago
Very nice solution you have there. Re: need for cat flap, my cat has luxating patella and arthritis, and will not jump more than 2 feet off the ground. This is designed to preserve her comfort. As it happens, we no longer use this cat-flapped gate, first because it just kept getting in the way, and second because a family member who did not listen to me, taught the dachshund it could get through the cat flap and defeated the entire purpose for the gate in the first place. (Sound of me pulling my hair out.) I took an old bookshelf and rigged a hook-and-eye catch to hold it upright against the bottom step. I attached magnet plates to it, and the stepstool I made for the first gate now just attaches directly to the new one. Our shepherd can jump over this barricade if she wants to, but she knows when it's up it means "no upstairs for you" and she stays downstairs (she's smart, that one). She's not the one I'm worried about anyway. It's definitely NOT child-proof, but gets the job done for now. The barricade is just at 2 feet high, which the cat can lever herself over two legs at a time (or use a chair as an intermediate step to getting over it). And it does just fine at keeping the dachshund downstairs, since the wiener-dog hasn't figured out yet how to bypass this new security measure. Ah well.
Poor kitty ... maybe because all of our cats are rescue cats originally "outside," they've all been orthopedically very healthy, even the 12-yr-old pear-shaped ones that can't keep away from the food bowl, which is on top of some dog crates, so they have to jump up there, too -- maybe 30" or so. When we first started talking about dog gates, we pondered the cat problem a lot, not realizing how far they could easily jump. We had thought about putting cat doors in one or more of the gates, since we had always rescued medium-to-large dogs, but then we got a couple of little beagles, which killed the cat-door idea. Fortunately it isn't necessary now, but I think about the possibility in case one of our old cats gets too feeble & rickety (like me). There really isn't any reason they need to get into the bedrooms or basement, but I'll try to accommodate them if I can. And we'll still need to find a way to feed them (and not the dogs) if someday they can't jump up on the large dog crates where their food is. I wonder if your "steps" idea might work if you could design something narrow enough for a cat to negotiate, but still not wide enough for a small dog to climb ..... or narrow, ramp-type things at the edge of the gate, covered in carpet scraps. With the gates I now have that might interfere with the latches, or keep the gate from going flush against the wall when it's open. Definitely food for thought, though. I suspect my gates are now child-proof, from one side anyhow, but purely by accident. We put those two slider-latches in, figuring that we'd very seldom use the bottom one ... maybe just if we left the Danes alone in there while we were gone a long time (seldom happens anyway). However, we discovered that even though you have to pull the knob out to slide the latch to UNLOCK it, it doesn't require a pull outward to slide the latch to LOCK it. After several dogs locked the bottom one accidentally, apparently by just rubbing against it while lying down in that "corner," we realized that a dog could lock us in the bedroom, since it's almost impossible to reach that bottom latch from the other side. That does make the thing nicely child-proof (from one side), but for our use I'll have to fiddle with it. I think one of my insulin-syringe caps will fit into the bolt-hole in the door jamb, but can't remember to take one in there and check it. Seems like no matter how carefully you plan these little projects, there's always something that needs fiddling later. As with your gate, I know that several of our dogs could jump the gate if the right stimulus occurred, but so far none have tried. I considered making little extensions that could slide up to make the gates "higher," but then I consider the possibility of a fire when we're not here .... and I leave well enough alone. There is no foolproof way to cover every eventuality, so we just have to play the odds and make the best guess we can. And these are still a lot better than hearing the plastic or wooden baby gates come crashing down the hallway, sometimes worn like a necklace by some ornery dog.
Israfel6 years ago
great Instructable! I have the same dilemma--cat food in the basement and three golden retrievers who would love to get down there and have a little snack. I bought one of those gates with a a cat flap but it was too tall and around $80. Your idea is #1 on my to do list for the weekend!
mrmath7 years ago
Nice work, but can't the cat just jump over the gate? Why all the extra work?
we had the same problem when I was a baby and my dad bent the bars apart enough for the cat to get through but not me (unforunately for him I was a climber and escaped from the superhigh cot over the gate and down to the kitchen
technosapien (author)  killerjackalope7 years ago
Haha, great story! Luckily my dogs can't climb. Yet. I hope.
lol some can trust me
Our dog yards are all 5 or 6-foot chain link, and I had to wire up plywood triangles (horizontal) into the corners to keep the climbers in. Even then, several (usually small or medium-sized ones) could climb up the chain link without bracing against the corners. Several Golden Retriever puppies, less than 7 weeks old, taught themselves to corner-climb 4-ft chain link sections. One champion mongrel could do the ten-foot sections in our kennel. One caveat if you have a "climber" -- it killed that mongrel girl, and quite terribly. She would grab the chain link with her jaw and pull herself up, holding with her paws. After doing this dozens of times, one time her jaw got wedged somehow and her feet slipped. I won't describe the horror, but the vet couldn't save her. If I ever see one like her again I'll use the electric collar to discourage that trick at all costs. Pet owners often underestimate how agile, or clever, their furry friends can be. I've seen several cats than can open regular doors, and dogs that have learned how to crank down car windows or lift standard double-hung windows in a house.
yeah two kittens in a tiny room at night, after three nights they had figured out the door, a week later they were heavy enough to open it, simple door handle they jumped for a while till one grabbed it then the othe just pushed the door open. Our cat now Lucy love laptops, she sits for hours trying to figure out how she's making things happen on the screen, she sit and paws at buttons for hours, one time she managed to open media player and scare the hell out of herself it was hilarious, I laughed till it hurt... That's sad about the climber your had, then again I could have went that way myself as a child, I climbed out of my cot (already the tallest one then extended) walked down the hall, I preffered climbing the over the bannister rail than the baby gate, then did that outside of the stairs thing down to the bottom, I believe this to be why my fingers nearly reach my knees when i stand up straight with them outstretched
Any door that has a latch-type knob (instead of a round handle) is pretty easy for most animals to figure out. Our new storm door has to be locked to keep dogs in; it took about two days for six or seven of the house dogs to learn that if they jumped up and pushed the handle, the door would magically open. For the same reason we got rid of the fancy European-type handle on the back door and replaced it with a regular round handle.

Even horses, who are a long way from being the Einstein of the animal world, often learn to manipulate gate latches. Their lips & tongue are nearly as "prehensile" as fingers. One guy that boarded some of our horses kept finding them out taking a stroll down the road, having opened several types of latches he tried. Finally he went to a combination lock on the chain, and wouldn't let the horses see the combination when he opened it. He was only about half-joking there ....

Since we do dog rescue, most of my life often seems to revolve around proving that I can outsmart the critters. At best, I am only slightly ahead most of the time.

One thing I have learned about child or animal "gates" -- there is not one on the market that isn't mostly worthless. Even those that are secure at first will, eventually, get sloppy or wear to the point that a kid or dog can push against them and get through. Only if you make your own can you be certain it's foolproof. Those that aren't willing to invest in hinges or some slider-frame like in this Instructable, firmly attached to the frame, apparently don't value their children very much.

Knowing how inefficient the government always is, why would a rational person rely on some plastic piece of cr** just because it's approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commision?
I misspoke in my comment above -- my reference to a slider-type frame is to a different Instructable, where the child gate is modified with wooden frames on either side, screwed to the wall. Gates that rely on friction-fit are NOT secure, period, and should not be relied upon except as a deterrent ONLY.
technosapien (author)  smokehill6 years ago
Absolutely true, regarding deterrent. If you have well-trained pets, then deterrents are sufficient to keep them under control. As it happens, this mod to the gate ended up needing further modification, because one of the dogs did figure out how to defeat the system. Currently it's holding fast, but soon enough we'll need some other novel solution I'm sure. All this so the cat can go upstairs, but not the dog. I'm thinking of just getting rid of the dog. And the cat. :P
Believe me, I sympathize greatly with your pet-control problem. We currently have about 12 dogs loose in the house (haven't taken a head-count lately), and since there's always a couple of new rescues waiting to find permanent homes, isolating this pack into compatible, "safe" groups is essential. Also, there are always one or two (usually the newer ones) who are fine normally, but when left alone for hours MIGHT get into minor trouble -- garbage can, chewing, etc. It's just safer to split them into 3-4 confined groups and avoid problems. Same problem as most people, just magnified & complicated somewhat. One thing we've found is that, given enough time & unpredictable circumstances, almost anything can happen. Some stray bitch in heat wanders thru the neighborhood & the boys (neutered or not) get a little bit nuts ... someone knocks on the door & cranks them up .... they see a chicken or duck in the front yard & old predatory instincts muddy the waters ... Murphy's Law prevails. If your latest fix doesn't stop the dogs, you might consider the solution we finally settled on, since you obviously have great mechanical skills. My wife cut a scrap piece of plywood to make a half-door, cut out most of the interior for a screen, and hinged it to the door jamb. After she sanded & stained it, finishing with a superfine 2000-grit finish, it looked so good that we blew ten bucks or so for fancy brass hinges and a nifty sliding brass bolt -- one that you have to pull out on the knob before it "slides." Since the wood was scrap, the only cost was maybe 30 bucks in miscellaneous, and everyone admires the thing. I'd bet money that even our two Great Danes couldn't bust thru that. Most people wouldn't even need the cut-out for screening, but we heat with wood & circulation is more important than with central heat. In your case, you could just use a nicely finished (or painted?) piece of plywood with a cut-out for the cat door. One other caveat in my long-winded comments -- dogs can jump really high, and even my 3-foot-high gate could be jumped by many of our dogs, but the furniture is arranged so that they don't have a clear shot at it. I doubt that I'll need it, but I have a modification (in the back of my head) for a one-foot extension for occasional use when we're gone for longer periods -- fortunately a rare occurrence. However, in case of fire, I'm not sure about this -- maybe it's better to leave it so a badly-panicked animal could jump the gate? You might consider doing an Instructable on your modification, too. Any idea to improve pet or kid gates can be valuable to us all.
technosapien (author)  smokehill6 years ago
Neat ideas, I'll have to think about them. Our big doc could jump the gates if she wanted to, but I'm not really worried about her. It's the little one that is a problem, and she is very skittish of flaps and gates and refuses to use them. the addition of a purposefully rickety stool in front of the gate was enough to keep her from going through the flap, since she's small enough to do it otherwise. Then my mom, bless her soul, got it in her mind to TEACH the dog how to go through the flap. Yes, teach the dog that we DON'T want to go through it, how to. And the danged dog learned it in ONE TRY! The modification wasn't much -- we replaced the screen with a piece of black art foam and placed wedges on the sides of the stool so the only way through the flap is straight through, with no ability to see what's on the other side. This was enough to make the little dog skittish enough of the setup again, but it won't work for long. I'm thinking of putting a few holes through walls and some rigs that only the cat can jump up to and down from so she can go through the house wherever she likes (kind of like a hamster habitrail for a cat). Dunno if my wife will go for it, though. I like your construct-a-gate idea, though, I know a few places that could come in useful in my place, and look a lot nicer than the white-bar gates we have up now.
technosapien (author)  technosapien6 years ago
Our big dog, rather. Why can't we edit instructable comments? Hmph.
"Big dog" is relative anyhow. My two Great Danes are 215 lb & 195 lb. A few years ago I thought of my Boxers & the Rhodesian Ridgeback as big dogs. Now they seem more like hamsters, by comparison. If one of the Danes ever gets injured or real sick, I'm not entirely sure how I'll load them into the car .... Might be an instructable there if I can figure out a wheeled trolley out of PVC.
I like your hole-in-the-wall idea. I'll keep it in mind. If you go that route, you might consider a "half of an idea" I've been playing with. Since our main heat source is a woodburning fireplace insert (with blower fan) in the living room, that room is really warm and the heat eventually migrates down the hall to the BR's. We sometimes use space heaters there, as a result. Since the upper foot or so near the ceiling of the LR, above the doors, is really, really hot, I'm planning on cutting a 4 or 6" round hole high on that wall to install an electric fan, maybe thermostatically controlled. Since it'll blow that very hot air out into the hallway, I'll use a short section of PVC pipe for the fan housing, and attach a 90-degree elbow on the exhaust side to blow the hot air straight down the hall to the BR's (aimed toward the floor). If you line your "hole" with PVC like that (or use a 4" dryer vent kit?), it might look finished enough to not offend your wife. I suspect some PVC plumbing parts could be found, or adapted, to make nice trim pieces on both sides of your wall ... then paint to match the wall (or the rest of the trim). Depending on the size of your cat, a 4" dryer vent kit might not be big enough, or might need a little platform on each side ... maybe cut a piece of PVC about a foot longer than the wall thickness, and then trim the excess on either side to leave a 6" platform the cat could jump to? Nicely cut, sanded & painted, it might not offend She Who Must Be Obeyed :-) I think I've got someone to loan me a digital camera, so I may be able to do some pictures of our first gate and the current gate we're building (#2 of 4). If so, I may try to do my first Instructable Instructable, if I can figure out the process. The third gate will be very different, a "slider" with no screening, sort of a home-made variation of that "A Better Baby Gate" Instructable. The last three gates were cut from a single piece of nice birch plywood, so the wood cost was only about 8 or 9 bucks each.
u r mean>:(
technosapien (author)  estab6 years ago
I *was* just kidding.
technosapien (author)  smokehill6 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
technosapien (author)  technosapien6 years ago
FTR in case anyone's interested, the baby gate actually designed to hold in babies (and little children) is here:
A Better Baby Gate
hmmm I understand you on that point, my mother and i were having an interesting point about the governments workings in this country, we're the only european country that pays tax on, sanitary products (specifically ladies) and baby milk... it's kind of ridiculous...
technosapien (author)  smokehill6 years ago
Well I'm glad I don't have children, therefore I am not yet a terrible horrible parent who doesn't care for his children. Geez. :-/ Of course this thing ain't for children, like I said in the instructable, it's designed for a cat and two dogs. (For a cat to go through, and two dogs not.) You can buy PET gates like this retail from pet supply stores but they cost a lot more than buying a baby gate and modifying it for your needs. that's all I was trying to do.
technosapien (author)  mrmath7 years ago
Not my cat.... This particular gate stands over 3 feet tall, and kitty is elderly (12 years old) with knee problems. She can only jump at most 2 feet. It's hard to tell from the instructable how tall the gate is. I'm 6 feet tall and can barely step over it... I actually use the stool myself to step over sometimes.
WileECoyote7 years ago
I have been planning to make some modifications to a gate so my cats can get through but the dog can't. I was planning to use one of two gates I already have so I didn't have to buy another but I may be able to use your idea. My cats are fed on the other side of the gate and the dog is on a diet and will try to finish off their food. I have just pushed the gate up against a storage container so the cats can just jump on the container to pass through and I have relied on being nearby to stop the dog but she's too sneaky. She waits until I seem preoccupied and then she lays down near the gate and quietly belly crawls the rest of the way to the gate so I think she's just laying down being good. Then she noses the gate open and belly crawls inside the gate until she's out of my line of sight and then goes to town on the cat food.
technosapien (author)  WileECoyote6 years ago
We got a small table and a set of "pet steps" for the cat, and tuck it in a corner of the kitchen. The cat is fed off the floor on her table, so that the dogs can't get to her food. Just a thought.
smokehill6 years ago
One thing I'd be sure to check is that your child's head is either way too big, or too small, to get stuck in the cat door, whatever its size turns out to be. Some Federal Fuhrer has determined the optimum spacing for these kid gates, and I think it's the same as on porch and stair railings ... somewhere between three and four inches. Obviously it can't logically apply to this project, but the reason behind it is a good one to keep in mind.
technosapien (author)  smokehill6 years ago
I'd do you one better: if you have kids, don't do this at all. Find another solution. Babies and kids can defeat a setup like this too easily, and the wooden crossbars are not designed to bear weight - one grab and a good yank, and you have sharp exposed metal and an assuredly injured baby. I, obviously, do not have kids.
Punkguyta7 years ago
Well, that's pretty decent, where's the picture of the cat using it though? We need demonstration! -Punk But seriously, good job on that, what if you dog(s) tried to stick their head through and get stuck?
technosapien (author)  Punkguyta7 years ago
Cat is usually thru the gate so fast I can't get a picture, and if I try to coax her thru, I get the "You want me to do WHAT?" look. CATS!... If the Dachshund gets her head thru the gate then all is lost...but she won't get stuck. The other dog is a german shepherd, so her head is small enough not to get stuck. I hope.
lemonie7 years ago
That's a wide cat, or you're being generous(?) L
technosapien (author)  lemonie7 years ago
Somewhat generous... but she is big, we think she has some Maine Coon Cat genes in her. 12 pounds. I wanted the opening to be big enough for her to get through in a hurry.
So what's she running from? Cats (and cows) usually see off dogs... L
technosapien (author)  lemonie7 years ago
More like running to... her litterbox is upstairs. :-)
Ah, away from the dogs. L