PetPorte SmartFlap – Microchip Cat Flap Review

The PetPorte as seen from the inside and outside

Automated Home reader and contributor Ant Skelton takes us on a tale of intrigue, mystery love and automation as he installs a microchip controlled pet access system.  Read on for the CCTV hilarity as the local feral population’s attempts to break and enter are foiled once and for all…

[Update] Make sure to check out our review of the SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap too.

Submission by Ant Skelton : A couple of months ago I returned home to be greeted by what can only be described as a most unwelcome aroma. An acrid feline funk permeated the premises, and it took practically an entire bottle of Febreeze to expunge it. Our family cat was subjected to rigorous cross-examination, but protested her innocence. I had to face the fact that the scant security offered by our basic Staywell off-the-shelf catflap had been compromised by one or more of the neighbourhood toms.

Like any true Automated Home reader, my first indignant instinct was to head to the shed to jury-rig some sort of death-dealing automaton the likes of which the local cat population had never seen. I vowed that the micturating moggy would rue the day that he had set paw over my threshold. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and I had to content myself with intelligence gathering, so the rather excellent Y-Cam Black CCTV camera was hastily pressed into surveillance duties.  At first, not all of my friends and family took this entirely seriously, but I persevered.

YCam false target#1  YCam false target#2

Eventually I was rewarded with clear footage of the miscreant in action

 The enemy appears  He enters with impunity

Now my foe had a face! A giant bruiser of a black and white tom, coming and going as he pleases, spraying with impunity, and helping himself to our cat biscuits. I designated this target ‘Bad Kitty’. By this stage I was well along the path to a good visual cat discrimination algorithm, but didn’t entirely trust it to drive the sort of industrial hardware I had in mind lest it lavish its attentions on our own friendly puss. Those sorts of repercussions might make me mildly unpopular.

I was forced to interrupt my machinations by a holiday, but I left the camera connected up and religiously checked it over the usual kinds of one-bar-of-3G-ah-no-it’s-fallen-back-to-GPRS internet connections.

The Ginger Miscreant

Slowly, like a bad Spectrum loading screen, a new player entered the arena. I designated this adversary ‘The Ginger Miscreant’. I know he looks like some sort of ghostly laser-eyed cat apparition under the harsh glare of the YCam’s battery of infra-red LEDs, but trust me, he’s ginger. I’ve seen him hanging about, looking shifty.

Upon our return from holiday, I announced my intention to buy a crossbow off eBay and mount a series of all night vigils armed with the timecode information from my security footage, but this approach was vetoed at a higher level. I imagined our poor cat Pan terrorised in her own house, her Whiskas crunchies divied up among the yowling hordes. It was pointed out that it was more likely that she was the hostess of a string of wildly popular fully-catered cat orgyes, but I can’t imagine that’s the case.

I searched the net for a humane solution, and discovered that there are broadly two camps of feline access control technology: the cheap and cheerful variety where the cat must wear some sort of token on its collar, be it magnetic or infra-red, or the far more expensive kind that scans a subdermal microchip in the cat itself. Having had some experience of trying to get the cat to wear a collar for longer than a couple of hours, I decided that that wasn’t really an option. In the microchip catflap world there are basically two contenders: the PetPorte SmartFlap as reviewed here, and the SureFlap.

Astonishingly, there seems to be a great deal of rivalry online between the two. Accusations of copying and intellectual property theft abound, and vociferous supporters of both camps go to great lengths to besmirch the opposition. There are even YouTube videos, I kid you not. Our local vet advised that they had previously promoted the SureFlap, but had been disappointed by the results and switched their allegiance to the PetPorte, so that’s what I went for. The tantalising promise “coming soon – computer interface!” closed the deal for me.

The PetPorte as seen from the inside and outside

The PetPorte comes flat-packed, and requires a modicum of self assembly. It is available in white or mock-wood finish. I am reliably informed that there is a ‘limited edition’ black version available, presumably highly sought after by collectors of electric cat flaps. The PetPorte is suitable for fitting in a wooden or glazed door, and comes with an internal extension tunnel of several centimetre’s width for thicker doors, but I didn’t need it. Further extension tunnel sections may be purchased if you want to install it through a wall.

The Pet Porte fits snuggly into the opening used by our previous Staywell cat-flap, which is handy as I’d had to have it made specially by a local glazing firm. PetPorte advise that you assemble the catflap on the bench before installing it, so that you can check that the receiver will detect your cat’s microchip. This involves a hilarious Tesco-checkout style rigmarole to which your cat will not take kindly, but eventually you’ll have it programmed in. PetPorte claim that they recognise the vast majority of modern microchips, and have a Microchip checker on their website to be on the safe side, along with a comprehensive FAQ. I’ve not yet had recourse to their support service, but it is allegedly excellent. Incidentally, the PetPorte will recognise up to 31 cats, thus catering to even the most hardcore cat enthusiast.

The two sections of the PetPorte bolt through the flap opening using a couple of hefty supplied bolts. The exterior section has a ‘porch’ perpendicular to the flap itself, which contains the big coil that does the microchip detecting. The wire from the coil requires some fiddly threading through the casing and plugging into the main circuit board, but it’s not especially onerous. As you can see from the photo, the PetPorte also requires permanent mains power via its wall-wart adaptor. You get a generous few metres of cable, but if that isn’t sufficient they will sell you a 5m extension cable. Luckily the door in which mine is installed isn’t regularly used as a throughfare and has mains power close by, but this may be an issue if your door is used often. About the best you can do is run the cable securely over a hinge. The power connector plugs snugly into the circuit board inside the plastic housing, and is routed via various plastic channels to a small opening at the bottom, which means that there’s no chance of curious paws accidentally disconnecting it.

This new PetPorte model, unlike its predecessor, also includes a battery backup facility. You can install a 9 volt battery so that your cat won’t be locked out in an emergency, although some of the more advanced features aren’t available in this mode. The PetPorte has a minimalistic two button / two LED user interface, which coupled with its many tens of user configurable options leads to a complicated ritual of holding buttons down for different lengths of time and deciphering various flashing LED patterns to achieve the desired results. This is mostly a one-time affair though, and these sorts of UIs seem to be endemic to consumer electronics so it’s unfair to single the PetPorte out. Just don’t lose the manual.

We use our PetPorte in its most basic selective entry mode, but other options are available. You can program it so that it will allow your cat to leave only during daylight hours, keeping kitty home at night. The light level is programmable. You can also set it to ‘vet mode’, which allows the cat in, but not out again. This enables you to fully enjoy the experience of chasing the cat round the house and fishing it out from under the bed preparatory to a visit to the vet’s, without the cat spoiling it by bolting for the great outdoors.

During normal mains powered operation, the PetPorte is continually scanning for both your cat’s microchip and to measure the ambient light level. When in battery backup mode, it elects not to do this. The Night Mode becomes unavailable, and ingeniously it only scans for the microchip when your cat pushes against the flap to trigger a microswitch. There is no indication of how long the flap will work on battery only. The latching mechanisms and the solenoids which drive them are fairly substantial, which is good news for me as Bad Kitty is a bit of a bruiser.

One aspect of the installation process which isn’t mentioned in the manual are the various feline psychology traumas you will have to deal with before the whole system is bedded in. Cats are an autistic lot, and view anything new with great suspicion. I proudly demoed the new setup to our cat Pan, expecting an affectionate outburst of gratitude and delight, but she greeted it with horror and suspicion and was having none of it. We manually hoofed her through it a few times, but that didn’t really help. In the end we were forced to be quite cold-hearted about the affair, and ended in a stalemate with the cat on one side of the flap and her dinner quite visibly on the other side of it. Hunger won out, and after a couple of days the cat was nonchalantly breezing through the flap like it had never been a problem. When a valid cat is successfully detected there’s a fair bit of noise both from the clatter of the solenoid and the beep that the PetPorte emits, but this doesn’t seem to put Pan off.

I was never scared of this, honest!

The proof of the pudding, of course, is in the eating. Having installed the PetPorte, I left the YCam in place to monitor its performance. I wanted closure. I wanted justice. It wasn’t long before the results were in:

 Access Denied!   On your bike, Bad Kitty!

Look at him! Futilely bashing away with his paws. In your face, Bad Kitty! He’s not the only one to come a cropper either:

Ginger prevention   Nipped in the bud

That’s the Ginger Miscreant on the left, and some new interloper whose larcenous intentions were shot down before he could even get started. Obviously word has got around that our house is a soft target. No more!

In summary, the PetPorte is an expensive solution, but one that is well made and very effective. The mooted computer interface is total vapourware as of the time of writing, it turns out, but the images of those furry little faces indignantly pressed up against the plastic vainly trying to gain entry is worth the price alone. However, this battle may be won, but the war is far from over. Unable to gain entry to give our carpets a good once over, Bad Kitty has taken to urinating up the outside of the PetPorte instead. But his heart doesn’t seem in it. I think he knows he’s beaten.

PetPorte SmartFlap   :   SureFlap   :   petporte.com

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37 Comments on "PetPorte SmartFlap – Microchip Cat Flap Review"

  1. Excellent article – those last few shots of flat faced cats is brilliant

    Well done !!

  2. Not only a useful review but a brilliant executed operation. Hannibal Smith would have been proud. Screw that fricking skany cat. Might have to get one of these myself as my two incomplete boys can’t seem to deal with their skanky counterparts.

  3. Brilliant (funny) review and the pic of the vanquished, laser eyed mog with his paw up in surrender made my day.

    My poor cat is a flat cat 🙂 She doesn’t get out as when she does she has to sit at the door of the communal stairs and moan until one of the neighbours takes pity (or get’s fed up) and lets her in. She’s resigned to her fate and now no longer makes a mad dash for the door when I get up. 😀

  4. Leave it up to a cat owner to come up with a way to have their cat wreck havoc in the neighborhood at will, while dog owners are held in contempt if found roaming.

    Still funny and well written.

  5. I have the orginal pet porte flap and it great. Going to upgrade to the new one when theres more info on the computer interface.
    We have 5 cats and they all seem to use it with no problems at all.

  6. I’ve had the new Pet Porte flap pretty much since it first came out, which I think is over 9 months ago.

    There were at least 3+ illegals partying in my 6-cat house. When those street mogs go on the piss, they really take it and then leave some for good measure.

    But the PP has performed extremely well. Not one break-in or mugging (or should that be mogging?) since it went in.

    Some caveats though. It really is a tight squeeze for the bigger cats. They manage it (just) although they get better at it with practice. I would avoid using tunnel sections (if at all possible) for large cats and getting the right mounting height is also pretty important.

    Secondly, my 6.5 kilo mongrol Siamese disagrees with any lock-downs and will bust his way out if the vet, or night, modes are used. This is just a matter of enough force being applied and the plastic locking tab will give. It doesn’t do any damage, but it does not hold back a determined feline trying to get OUT. I imagine that a determined enough cat could get IN, the same way, but I do not see (and have not seen) it happen yet – a fact I attribute to the amount of noise and aggression that would need to be applied to overcome the lock. Outside cats don’t have the confidence needed to do it, in the main. This is speculation on my part, based on what I have, so far, experienced with the flap.

    Final caveat is that if a cat is very shy, you are going to have to work hard on training them to use it. Out of my 6 cats, 4 were born domesticated and had no problem using it after being tempted through it with tasty treats. The mother was a street pick-up and is very timid and required much, much, more training (months instead of minutes). We did not try the hard-as-nails approach though, since she has issues when she gets stressed and gets easily stressed. the sixth cat, was another street pickup and will go out the flap, but is very often reticent to come in. It’s not the solonoid click, nor the beep (the latter which can be turned off) – it is the hood over the outside of the flap which he views with the greatest of suspicion.

    To finish off; yes, it was expensive since aside from the cost of the flap I had to chip 6 cats that I had no other reason to chip, but it has been worth every penny so far. My cats can freely and reliably come and go and no more dealing with unwelcome smells and mess. The “pride” is also much less stressed within their home.

    Shame about the computer interface not being available. That would have made the gadget more fun for the owner 🙂

  7. I have a similar story but without such a happy ending…

    I spent a hundred quid on one of these bad boys a week ago and the big black neighbourhood tom bashed his way in last night.

    I was awoken by a mighty crash at 2am, thinking it was a burglar I ran downstairs only to see the 4-legged odour fountain making a retreat back out of my (Now obsolete) Pet Porte.

    My girlfriend is now so angry she is reconsidering my original plan to subdue my nemesis my darker means!!!

  8. I hope E May that you wouldn’t consider harming the the Tom . I had exactly the same situation 3 years ago with a huge viscious feral ginger tom. He would continue to tear another cat apart for 30 seconds or more and the night would be torn with the most terrible heart rending screams for minutes long as he tore into some poor cat.

    Well he started to spray in my house and one night I heard the most dreadful screams of my life and it took me over a minute to get downstairs to rescue my cat because of my disability. There was hair absolutely everywhere and my cat needed surgery. He was traumatised for months.

    I felt i’d failed to protect my cat and I vowed to kill the tomcat. I trapped it in my kitchen but couldn’t hurt it even then so I trapped it took it to the vets who neutered it . The CPL rehomed it and its now a well behaved lap cat.

    Pet portes have saved my cats and my sanity.

  9. James Winsoar | November 28, 2010 at 10:31 am |

    Fantastic detailed review. I’m very pleased that the Pet Porte has worked for you and made a difference to your cat.

  10. Nigel Oakland | April 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    Hi,

    My cat will not use the flap when turned on, infact she goes mad and will not go near the door. I turn the power off and no problem.

    Can my cat hear the scaner? Does she feel the chip?

  11. One of our cats totally refuses to use the Pet Porte to come in (he will go out through it) although he has always used an ordinary one before. It seems to be the click of the button going down that frightens him. We have tried pushing him, tasty treats etc but he is now so stressed out about it that he won’t come near it.Even starvation isn’t working!! and we now have a miserable anxious cat. Any ideas?

  12. We have just ordered one of these cat flaps, but haven’t received it yet. Our male cat is a “paw through first” animal whereas the female is a “head butter”. We shall see how they get on once it is fitted…….. so watch this space!

  13. Oh dear! I can’t make the scanner recognise the chips (although I did check that they were the correct ones)! There are dark mutterings and expletives coming from the kitchen where husband is sawing away at the skirting board! Both cats have now gone out in disgust so I’ll have to wait until they come back before trying once again to scan the chips – perhaps they’ve slipped down their legs or something…….

  14. Well, we’ve finally managed to programme the cats’ chips in and have mounted the cat flap on the kitchen wall. However, our male cat, Rommel, is a “gently put the paw through first” sort of cat. Because our flap is wall mounted, I don’t think he’s quick enough and it locks again before he has got through! I don’t know if Lily has done it or not, but she’s a “head butter” and bursts through the old flap so she should be OK. I’ve now programmed it to be open all the time during the day in the hope that both cats will get used to it as an ordinary flap and when they are confident, I will put it back to reading their chips. Again, watch this space…..

  15. Eileen Grant | May 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm |

    I’m thinking of getting one of these microchip catflaps, we haven’t decided yet as its quite a lot of money. I’m being driven crazy by at least 3 interlopers coming into our home and our 2 cats don’t like it one little bit. One of these strangers is so huge he has recently broken our cat flap for a 2nd time trying to get out – it wasn’t locked so I don’t know what his problem was!!! The 1st time he smashed it was when I had it set to ‘in only’ cos my boy cat was recovering from surgery so it was for my girl to get in but to stop him from getting out. This huge thing obviously got the shock of his life when he couldn’t get back out and literally smashed the catflap leaving the inside section hanging off. We were woken up in a panic with the noise and if I hadn’t seen its scraggy a*&£ disappearing into the hedge, I would’ve thought it was a fox. I think this microchip flap would solve our problems but I’m concerned that some people have said cats can possibly break in.

  16. Both cats have now got perfectly used to the new flap (still on ‘open’ without reading their chips), including dragging a couple of very lively mice through! I have covered the green flashing light with tape and silenced the click. I have also extended the time lapse between chip reading and re-locking (to allow for Rommel’s gentle paw pushing and the fact that its through a wall). This weekend I am going to set it to read their chips. I will be in touch again…..

  17. The flap is now fully operational, reading the cats’ chips. The use it quite happily for going out, but they use the other one (normal cat flap) for coming in! Actually this is handy because it means that they bring their “gifts” into the conservatory, instead of onto the rug in the hall!!
    That’s all for now……..

  18. David Smith | August 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    Help please. I have original flap and it seems to have got upset, just keeps beeping.

  19. Julie Johnson | September 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm |

    Installed and working, my 2 females are in and out all the time, but my really large wimpy tom will not come in through it. He goes out, no problem, but flatly refused to come in through it. We left him out thinking that he will come in when he’s hungery, but no…….when I went to the loo this morning I could here him meowing at me from the patio, he had been out all night. When I look outside he is just sitting with his back to it. Stubborn or what! Its stopped the cat burglar/burglars though, no more smells.

  20. David,

    Ironically I came on here about the same beeping issue. You can turn on a high security mode which reduces the sensitivity with radio interference.

    From Pet Porte themselves before Staywell bought them:

    > 1) Ensure that no cats are near the porch of the cat flap
    >
    > 2) Press and hold both buttons simultanuosley and keep holding them for
    > about 30 – 40 seconds until you hear three beeps. After about 5 seconds the
    > cat flap will beep and the green light will start to flash, please ignore
    > this and keep pressing the buttons.
    >
    > 3) When you hear the three beeps, let go of the buttons and then switch the
    > cat flap off, wait 5 seconds and then switch it back on again.
    >
    > This should solve the problem completely but if you have any questions or
    > are unsure about the proceedure then please do not hesitate to contact us
    > and we will be very happy to help.

    It worked fine for us for 3 years. Unfortunately now even in this mode ours has begun to beep again.

  21. I am having real problems with my new flap. The red lock is fine, but the green one keeps dropping down and not coming back up when one of the cats enters. It is normally in normal mode which lets them in clicking the green button down and it then comes back up with the red one being continually down. Why is this happening? Is it faulty?

    If it carries on this way then they will be house cats and no more cat flaps, not spending all that money for it to fail

  22. I just bought a sureflap, programmed and installed it, only to find it’s just a little too small for the cat! I wonder if the petporte has a bigger door? The cat manages our existing manual Staywell with no problems.

  23. Can someonew PLEASE advise in simple format how to programme the ruddy thing before fitting it in the door.
    Mine seems to work in reverse. What buttons do I press before the 30 seconds are up to scan the cat. I have had a hole in the door for the past 3 weeks ’cause I just can’t understand it.HELP

  24. Rafarhubarb | August 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm |

    I have had a petporte smart flap for a couple of years now and it has been amazing, however after a recent visit from my folks, Dad thought he was helping and letting the cats out, by messing around with the buttons, I nam now stuck as to what to do.

    I thought I was doing the right thing and have been holding different combinations of red and/or green buttons and now I have confused the heck out of it and I don’t know what to do??

    I too have had many visits from big tom cats and have had them spraying everywhere and I can’t cope anymore!!!!!

    Pls help me and let me know where I should start because I have been reading the online instructions but it is just not doing what I am told is expected?

    Thanks

  25. Rafarhubarb | August 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm |

    Ooh, forgot to say that the green light is permanently on and the red one is flashing! I have gone outside and just put my hand through the cat flap and it is not locking me out, I really think I have, unfortunately, broken it!!!!

  26. We have just moved house which included dismantling our Petporte Smart Flap cat door.
    During the move, the wire from the porch that connects through to the inside part has been snapped.
    Now I cannot tell which of the two wires has to be partnered with the corresponding two wires on the broken off section.
    Please can anyone offer advice?
    Thank you.

  27. I bought the petporte smart flap to keep out an intruder. He soon discovered he could tailgate my cats which scared them. We took him to the vets to see if he was chipped as we thought he was stray and reunited him with his owners. He had been missing for 10 months. He came back to live with us and now we have programmed his chip to let him in with his previous owners consent. Now I have 3 cats!

  28. Great article. We just bought this cat flap. Can you tell me how we program it to:

    – only let our cat in and out (we scanned her microchip but are concerned that other moggies will get in once we start letting our cat use the cat flap – she’s still getting used to our flat after being rehomed, so hasn’t been outside yet.)

    – to be locked both ways (in and out). I can only program it so that the cat can get in but not out or out but not in.

    Thanks.

  29. No good. we have a fereal tom that has just broken the lock. Petporte admit the lock has a “break point” as they put it. Self defeating. Does not do what it says it does ie keep out unwanted cats.

  30. Really excellent article!!
    I’m currently in the process of deciding which microchip flap to buy for my 2 cats, this Petporte one or the Sureflap one.
    Everything considered, having also read several reviews on other sites too,I think I’ve decided on Petporte. Just seeking some reassurance though about the size of the opening – have I got this right that its 6 inches x 6 inches plus about an inch extra at the base where it dips down? My youngest cat Sooty will fit through there OK, but not sure about my older cat Beccy who is plump around the midriff – although shorter than Sooty in height & weighs 5.5kg. Any advice on whether or not it will be ok for her?

  31. sureflap do a ‘pet flap’ which is about 30mm bigger than their standard cat flap

  32. Just had the fright of my life to see another cat coming in through our petporte! Took it apart to discover the green lock is broken. It has taken a battering over the three years we have had it and we had a house smelling of cat wee before we bought it plus one of our cats was pulling his fur out through stress. So def worth it and just about to purchase another one!!

  33. have petport on silent but cat is afraid of the click, tried coaxing him with treats etc, but he wont come in, has any one had this problem? how did you solve it, thanks for any help, getting desperate

  34. I bought this flap to give my 5 cats more freedom to do their own thing and didn’t want any visitors hence going for a microchip flap. Managed to program them all in, even managed to set it to silent mode as the beep was freaking them out and also extend the unlock period to allow them enough time to get through it. After a lot of coaxing and determination they appeared to have cracked it!!!! Yaaaay much joy!!!! Until one day I noticed my youngest female was getting locked out????!! Her microchip had migrated and was out of range of the scanner!!!! Grrrrrrr!!! It really upset me as I didn’t want her losing the confidence using it?????!! So I have had to set smart flap to open mode which of course means any cat can enter???!!!!# kind of defeats the object of getting one of these. Anyway, to save energy I unplugged it whilst set to open mode. Today I thought I would plug it back in and retry in the hope her chip may have shifted back into range. However now it appears that it’s not picking up any of the cats chips????!!! So, at last!!! my question is……do I need to reprogram them all again. Does the fact it’s been unplugged delete their chip numbers??? I didn’t really want to get daisy chipped again as I don’t want her to go through the trauma of that particularly when her current chip was implanted when she was spayed so wouldn’t have felt it!!! I think these flaps are brilliant so am in no way complaining about them just after some advice please!!! Thanks in advance xx

  35. Incase anyones interested using a N3rd interface I now have my pet porte fully controllable via the internet and my iPhone.
    Also using microswitches the flap also reports back the status.

  36. After not even 2 months of operation,
    the “terrorist cat” from the neighbours managed to break the green lock last night 🙁
    Is this something the warranty covers ?
    It should as its designed to keep cats out….

    Does anyone have a detailed technical picture of how the lock mechanism looks inside ? I think it just got undone and may be repairable… ( I had to do this once with my old magnetic staywell flap)

    Thanks in advance

  37. I have had a Petporte for a couple of years and it has worked fine. However, now the green lock seems to have slipped down into its slot and no longer sticks up to catch the flap and lock it. It still seems to move when activated but no longer is effective, and I can’t see where it is broken, if at all. Is there a way of fixing the green lock mechanism as I think that is all that is required. Our two cats still come in and out OK, and it still clicks as before before and after entry, so think it has just slipped out of position. If you have a working drawing of this mechanism I am sure I could mend it OK. I just need to know what it should look like. Can you help?

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