Cats, Home Projects

Catio Access: DIYing a Cat Door Insert for a Horizontal Sliding Window

Originally we intended to buy an already made cat door insert for our dining room window in order to allow the cats access to the catio. Unfortunately, we discovered that while there are plenty of options out there for windows that open vertically, there were hardly any for windows like ours that open horizontally. The ones that did exist were very expensive.

Instead of shelling out $250-500+ for a horizontal opening window insert, we decided to build our own. It ended up being a super easy project that anyone can do in an afternoon.

We built ours using a 1 x 12 inch board, a cat door, and some weather stripping. We picked up this pet door from Lowes, although for the sake of better durability we bought metal screws the length we needed instead of using the trimmable plastic ones that came with it. We also opted to paint the wood of our insert to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Waiting for the paint to dry was literally the longest part of the project. Everything else can be done in under an hour.

Thinking ahead, we had already primed the board when we primed other parts of the catio to save time and effort later.

We cut the board a little longer than the length of the window opening, then tested whether we could get it in or not (better too long than too short if you’re not sure — too long can be adjusted, too short requires buying new materials). We ended up shaving a little bit off the end after our first attempt, but it fit great on the second.

We cut the hole for the cat door using the instructions that came with it.

Then we painted the door and waited for it to dry.

We finished installing the cat door.

We added weather stripping to the sides and bottom of the door.

We put it in the window. This took a little effort/maneuvering, but it’s a nice tight fit — we found it easiest to get it in coming from outside the window with top inserted first. We then put a dowel cut to length in the window track to keep the window securely in place.

That’s it!

The cost? Under $50. Much better than $250+!

The cats took to it right away and have enjoyed coming and going from the catio as often as they want. Unfortunately, they only got to enjoy it for a few days before the Northern California Camp Fire moved our air quality into hazardous levels. We get no discernible air leakage from the insert and barely any from the cat door, but we want to keep our indoor air as clean as possible and keep our cats out of the smoky air too, so we removed the insert for now and they are back to indoor only for a bit until things improve outside. Sorry kitties!

The wildfires in California have been so devastating these past couple years. My heart goes out to all those displaced and adversely affected by the fires. Here’s hoping for heavy rains in the near future.


Miss the catio post? Read about it here.

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