Kitchen Pets

The Pet Door

It took us three years and the impetus of having a baby, but we’ve finally installed a pet door.

Pet Door

The kitchen door leads to the basement, which we’ve always left ajar for the cats. We had thought about cutting a hole when we initially moved in, but we were hesitant because we didn’t want to mar a 100 year old door. Recently though, I’ve become less afraid of ‘ruining’ our house in the pursuit of making it work for our family. Paint the woodwork? Yes, please. Cut a hole in the door? Don’t mind if I do.

And speaking of painting the woodwork, we’re getting there. All of the baseboards and doorways are done, one of the windows and one of the doors have been finished, and we still have one window and three doors to go.

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  • Hilary
    February 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I would definitely do this if I had a basement door! I would love to locate our litter boxes to the basement, but our basement actually has a hatch entry in our kitchen. I wouldn’t make a pet door outside though, I know a lot of houses in my area (Cincy) get broken into via pet doors.

  • Sarah
    February 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    THANK YOU for this idea/inspiration!
    My husband and I just bought our first house and have been at odds about what to do with the cat litter box and food- I REFUSE to have the cat box in our one and only bathroom, where my husband thinks it is best suited…GROSS!
    With a new puppy in our brood, we’ve been trying to figure out a way to keep her out of their food as well and baby gates are getting annoying.
    This is perfect!
    Thank you, Thank you!

  • cc
    February 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    where did you find your magnetic letters?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      Those came from Pottery Barn, years ago.

  • jessie
    February 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I want my next home to be a huge Colonial style or Victorian home,…and I will paint the wood work white if I have too!!! I love that you said “to make it work for your family”! That is what decorating is all about!! People can get over the painted wood work. The cat door is great also! I need to do this, but we plan on moving so that will also have to wait for our next home! I can’t wait to see your kitchen when its done!!! :)

  • ClistyB
    February 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Be sure to get a picture of Eleanor when she attempts to go thru the wee door. And you know she’ll try :)

  • Allyson
    February 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    This is great – we need to do the same thing with our basement door (which is also 100 years old). Did you install this yourself? How did you cut your door? Thanks!

    • Making it Lovely
      February 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

      Yes, we installed it ourselves. The door comes with a template which you cut out and trace. You drill holes at the four corners large enough to fit the blade of a jigsaw, and then you cut out the opening. Once the hole has been cut and tested for size, the pet door should fit snugly and it’s held together with four screws.

  • Audrie
    February 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    It looks great… very nice and neat. I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to do this when we have kids because there’s a loooong flight of stairs leading down to the basement.

  • Lauren
    February 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I’m also interested in those magnetic letters – they look DIY-able but I’d be curious to find out where they are from.
    And good for you on the pet door! I appreciate the history of a house (or a door), but you definitely need to make it work in a way that makes sense for your family. I hate when people are so afraid to do anything to their house that nothing ends up getting done!

  • Amy
    February 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    We’ve been on the fence on doing a pet door to the basement. Our door has stairs right on the other side so baby would just tumble right down if she went through the door. Did you guys consider this and if so, did you find any solution? Would love to know.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      We have stairs directly on the other side too, but the door is small enough that Eleanor can’t fit through it.

  • Sara
    February 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I’ve been wanting to do the exact same thing for the past three years! I always leave the door to our basement open so the cats can get to their litter boxes. I don’t mind it being open in the summer, but it also leads to our back door which leaks air terribly, so in the winter all that cold air goes directly into the kitchen. I’ve resisted cutting a hole in the door for fear of future re-sale value. You’ve given me a new way to look at the situation…perhaps I’ll put that pet door in after all.

  • Susan G.
    February 16, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I’m with ClistyB. you know Eleanor will stick her head thru the door as soon as she notices it. Be sure to get a picture to share! ^_^

    Ya’ll did a great job installing it. Very professional and clean looking. Congrats!

  • Erika
    February 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I would love to see some more pictures of your kitty cats! I hope they are enjoying their new door; it looks really nice!

  • Kelly B
    February 16, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Ha ha, we have the same kitty door! We also installed it recently since our 8 month old is a lot more active now and we were afraid of leaving the basement door open for the cats. Only one of the cats will use it unfortunately. We’re still working on our other one. :-D

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 9:54 pm

      We had to take the flap off so that they would get used to going through at first. Have you tried that?

  • amy
    February 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I want to see before and after photos of your woodwork so badly! I’m in the middle of painting over the very dark, dismal and dull woodwork in my house and love the results so far! It has completely transformed and brightened our rooms!

    love the pet door – great idea! You may also want to put a latch on the door – high up and out of where she can reach as she starts to walk and discover doorknobs.

  • marybeth @
    February 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I hate to say it, but my first thought was, “that is SO brilliant!” Then I thought, “Duh, it’s a pet door. Why didn’t I think of that?” :)

    Thanks for pointing out the obvious for me! I’ve been thinking and thinking of how to keep my babies safe from stairs while allowing the kitties to have access to their food and litter box.

  • Melissa
    February 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I keep contemplating the same thing but am also afraid to ruin a door. Does the cat use it? How do you train them to use it?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 9:56 pm

      We just nudged them through, and Brandon went downstairs and put some food in their bowls (the cats’ siren song). We did leave the flap off at first for them too.

  • Jane
    February 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    In regards to painting your windows, how did you get them not to stick together?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 9:56 pm

      I’ve only painted the casement window so far, not the double hung. I’m hoping that as long as I don’t glob the paint on too thickly, it should be OK.

  • Ayla
    February 16, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve never seen a dog door look so good!

  • CreativeButterflyXOX
    February 16, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    And you did it with such style too. I need to install one, but my dogs are huge, not sure if it’s practical or not.

  • Mandi
    February 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    That looks fine, I think – and I agree about the house needing to work for you, historical details or not. I don’t think what you did particularly detracts from the historical look of the door, anyway.

    This is a constant problem for us, as pet owners in the military – our housing is different everytime we move (every 2-4 years, depending.) In this house, we have a funny ultra skinny hallway closet, I suppose it’s for brooms and a vac. We have to leave the house exactly as we found it, so we bought a replacement door and put a cat door in that, then keep the litter box inside on the floor, it’s the perfect size. Cats have privacy, dogs can’t, uh, help us clean out the cat box. We’ll put the original door back when we check out of these quarters and head for a new assignment.

  • Jennifer Weber
    February 16, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    love this! would like very much to do same to very similar looking old-house door – the Husband is hesitant as he says the lower panel of the door “floats” and cutting into it could be a bad thing – did you experience this at all? – or have any idea what he’s talking about?! any thoughts would be great so that I can convince him and get the kitty litter downstairs!

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 9:58 pm

      No, we didn’t have any problems. I’m not sure what he means exactly by “floats”. The inner panel should be held in place by the surrounding wood in some way, right?

  • Diana
    February 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    You’re blog is so beautiful and I just love your shop!

  • Jeni @ Fruits/Roots
    February 16, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I just came to a very similar conclusion about painting woodwork in our bathroom. I keep resisting, thinking that someone down the line would curse my name while stripping the paint. But then I thought “This is my house, right now. I need to live in it the best way I can for me, today.” :)

    Love the blog!

  • Katie @ goodLife {eats}
    February 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I love those magnetic letters!

  • Amy
    February 16, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    We had a similar issue – not wanting to cut a hole for a cat door in our panelled door but needing to keep our two dogs out of the basement.

    We ended up installing a chain like you find on hotel or apartment doors. It opens enough for the cats to slip through but not enough for the dogs to fit.

    It is funny to watch the dogs ram their heads in the opening hoping that one day they will magically fit!

  • Natalie
    February 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Only you could make a kitty door look chic :)

  • Kim
    February 16, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Will you post tips/tricks on painting the baseboards? We need to do this in our house too and I keep thinking I need kneepads and a LOT of painters tape. I’ve also been told about a plastic guard like thing that keeps the paint on the baseboard and off the floors? Let me know what you have learned so that I can learn too!

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      I sat on my butt and scooted along (saves the knees!), and I only used painter’s tape along the floor. If you use a good quality tapered brush (2.5″ is my preference), it’s not too difficult to maintain a clean line without the tape. I just used it along the floor for a bit of insurance. ;)

  • Lisa
    February 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I definitely know how you feel about being nervous with painting woodwork and cutting into the doors. I was really scared to start painting our baseboards, windows, and doors in white, but I’m really happy with how it looks. I haven’t gotten the guts to add a cat door to our basement YET, but we do plan on doing it soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

    February 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Great job!

    Just another inquiry about your magnetic letters… and is that a magnetic wall, or did you paint it with magnetic paint? Do tell.


    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      That’s the side of our fridge.

  • Cindy
    February 16, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    While our house was being built, before we even moved in, this was one of the first things we bought. I am embarassed to say 8 months later, it’s still in the garage. We had good intentions of installing it, and even took it out of the box to look at it. When we discovered someone had broken the blade on the saw, it got put away until we purchased a new one… which of course we never did, and just got used to leaving the basement door open for the cats. Plus, we upgraded to fancy 5 panel doors, and realized it would ruin the whole door if we did it.

    Mind you, seeing yours, I’m tempted to try it and just admit defeat and buy a new door if it sucks bad!

  • samarahuel
    February 17, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Where did you get the magnetic letters, if I may ask?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      Pottery Barn, but they no longer sell them.

  • Amanda
    February 17, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Looks great – a very professional job. Would lvoe to know where your magnetic letters are from too :)

  • WES
    February 17, 2010 at 7:16 am

    I have friends that recently added cats to their Condo and had a solid wood door that they didn’t want to mar for potential resale value. They saved the good door and bought a cheap hollow core door to put up while they are living there to put the cat door in. Just another option for people if they see the pet door as necessary but don’t want to mar the wood details, particularly if they are interested in selling in the near future.

  • May
    February 17, 2010 at 8:04 am

    I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing with our basement door – right now we live with it closed and our cat “asks” to go down. We also keep her food in the powder room. A pet door would definitely be a plus!

  • Lynnie
    February 17, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Nicole, this is a very tidy job, well done! I actually don’t think it detracts from the door at all.

    Would love to be able to install something similar for our doggie but we’d have to put it into our outside door, and like Hilary I’d be worried about security. Also… our outside door is actually a pair of full-length glass sliding doors and I’m not sure if a pet door is even a possibility with them!, I could be wrong, but I think that’s the side of the fridge..?

  • Lisa
    February 17, 2010 at 9:14 am

    What color white are you painting your trim? I’m looking to repaint our ‘ultra pure white’ trim with a softer white and don’t know where to start.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 10:02 pm

      Swiss Coffee by Behr. It’s a nice white without being too stark.

  • Bailey@peppermintbliss
    February 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

    You have NO IDEA how difficult it was for me to convince our contractor to do this for us…He just kept looking at me like I was crazy or had a star-shaped head or something. It’s your house! Whateva works for you sista!

  • Gwendolyn
    February 17, 2010 at 10:10 am

    It’s safe for the baby and keeps kitty happy! My sister in law did the same thing since she has three young children and it works great.

  • jules @the diversion project
    February 17, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Good move – seems like the way to go with a little one around.

    You’re right, it’s funny how suddenly things you were precious about once become a non issue if it means little ones are safe and life is easier!

  • Jen
    February 17, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    where did you get those magnetic letters? my son is obsessed with letters and those would look so much better on my fridge instead of the classic plastic ones!

    • Making it Lovely
      February 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm

      Aren’t they cute? Those came from Pottery Barn several years ago.

  • minitoko
    February 18, 2010 at 5:54 am

    As a new mum, I have to do the same because of my 2 cats (their “pet door” is the window of the future nursery!) but I have no doors to ruin except the front one which is brand new (and expensive !) I decided my lovely cats will have to change their habits ! Quickly !
    by the way, I LOVE your blog. ;)

  • kk
    February 18, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    thanks for posting this. i was conflicted about making a cat door in our 100 year old door too… but you’re right. a house should work for a family!

  • DecorIAdore
    February 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I also was very respectful of our woodwork in our 100 year old house, but am very much wanting to paint over it now. My husband does not feel the same way though. :(

  • Ali Walsh
    February 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Per our recent Flickr photos of our studio kitty (, we wish there was a way we could install a pet door in our studio loading dock door. Hope your cats are loving their new freedom.

    Dolan & Ali

  • Erin
    February 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Love it! We did the same thing to our 100 year old farmhouse basement door for our kitties. I worried about wrecking our place too. By the way, our trim looked about identical to yours- and it wasn’t until the year before we moved that I got around to painting it all. Wish I had done it sooner!

  • Crystalyn Kae
    February 22, 2010 at 12:08 am

    I am impressed that it worked with the panels! We have a similar door to our garage that I’d LOVE to do that to, but I thought that with the varying thickness that it would be impossible. I am SO happy to see that it worked for you! Is there a gap or wonkiness that I should be careful of near the panel?

    • Making it Lovely
      January 5, 2011 at 9:49 am

      There is a little gap, but it’s not bad. The frame is plastic and somewhat flexible, so when you tighten the screws it molds to the door a bit.

  • Jennifer "Blueskysunburn" Williams
    March 8, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Is this not the best thing in the world? We went back and forth before we decided to add one in our garage door but now that we have it we love it!

  • Crypton Blog » Blog Archive » Randy Picks: Great Design Links
    March 10, 2010 at 5:57 am

    […] home.” She does so with fun photos and a keen eye for style. Check out her post on installing a petdoor,where she shares a few musings on adapting the ideals of home design for the needs of everyday […]

  • Karen
    January 5, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I know I’m a little late to the game, but I just came across this post. I need to do the same in my 100+ year old house (luckily the door we’re planning to cut is a replaced door). I saw all the questions above about where you got the letters, but I was wondering where you got the pet door. It has a wonderful vintage charm and most cat doors I’ve seen are pretty forgettable.

    • Making it Lovely
      January 5, 2011 at 9:49 am

      I linked to it in the post! We bought it on Amazon.

      • Karen
        January 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

        Fabulous, I see the link now ;-). Thanks!!