A Simple Latch, a Happy Cat, and a Dog-Free Basement

How an extraordinarily simple product provided relief for our cat, kept our dogs upstairs, and made home life more peaceful and convenient.

door latch for cats

Photo: amazon.com

Does this scenario sound familiar? We needed to keep our two 50-pound dogs away from the cat’s litter box on the basement landing, but our cat, of course, needed regular access. Making the situation a little more urgent, we had recently given our basement a small upgrade with fresh peel-and-stick tile and a swath of plush, brand-spanking-new carpeting. The dogs loved lying on it and rubbing their noses all over it, and we were afraid that they’d also love squatting on it. You can see why we absolutely did not want them down there.

We first looked around the house for a solution. We thought about using an old baby gate, but our 10-year-old cat can’t leap as well as she used to, and the landing at the top of the basement stairs offers little room for error. Also, we didn’t relish the idea of having to negotiate a gate every time we wanted to run a load of laundry. (There are, by the way, gates with integrated pet doors. They weren’t right for our purposes but might suit your needs.)

We considered (and discarded) many more options. For instance, a pet door would have done the trick, but we have a solid-wood basement door that we were loath to cut into. A well-placed doorstop might have worked, but I worried that it wouldn’t stand up to 100 pounds of dog. We could have MacGyvered something involving a doorstop and string or a bungee cord, but we wanted a permanent solution that wouldn’t look silly (our basement door is visible from the front hall).

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The Search Moves Online

So off I went to the web, where I found plenty of dog-stopping door solutions. Some rely on an adjustable strap that attaches to the door with a strong adhesive and limits how far it can open. Installation seemed extremely simple, but I was concerned that it wouldn’t stand up to our dogs and that without an additional stopper (for instance, a baby-proofing pinch guard), the door could slam shut.

The Solution

I ultimately sprang for a slightly more expensive option: the DoorLatch, an adjustable latch made of flexible stainless steel that firmly holds the door ajar. Unlike the “strap” solutions, this one screws into the jamb, or in place of the strike plate.

DoorLatch pet door

Photo: amazon.com

So far, we love it. The latch was easy to install, requiring just a few screws into the door jamb. It’s simple to operate from either side of the door: To release the latch, reach up with one hand and push the springy steel away from the door. To close, just push or pull the door back to engage the latch. You can even shut the door completely if you push the latch out of the way. We have ours mounted high, about 6 inches from the top of the door, so it’s not in our way as we go in and out. Putting it this high makes it even less obtrusive, which means that although our basement door is in full view of the front door, visitors don’t notice the latch.

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Words to the Wise

While the DoorLatch was the best solution for us, is it right for you? A few caveats: It won’t work in situations where your dog is the same size or smaller than your cat. As well, it shouldn’t be used along a fire escape route. Finally, if you have young kids, the latch needs to be mounted high enough so they can’t reach it, and the opening must be set small enough that they can’t get their head through it.

Door Latch pet door for cats

Photo: amazon.com

One Month In

Although we’ve been pleased with the DoorLatch, I do have a few nits to pick. First of all, the product information says that the latch adjusts between 3½ and 4½ inches, yet with the latch fully extended, our opening is only about 4⅛ inches. Our cat still has more than enough room, but just in case you, like us, live in an old or quirky house, you should be aware that the size of the opening will be affected by the thickness of your door and the depth of the jamb. Secondly, the kit comes with a strip of transparent adhesive UHMW polyethylene to mount on the door to protect it. Despite the tape, our basement door has started to get slightly scraped. The damage is minor, and I’ll admit that we’ve been closing the door with force, but it’s worth noting. In general, though, the DoorLatch is my favorite kind of purchase: an inexpensive problem-solver that makes everyday life just a tiny bit better.

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Door latch blocking dog from entering room

Photo: amazon.com