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I fell foul to a cat flap burglary, the only burglary I’ve ever had. We are a family of routine when it comes to home security and every night we lock up the doors and put the keys far enough away from the doors so that they can’t be reached via a letter plate or cat flap, but in a place which everybody knows about in case we need to get out of the house in an emergency.
One night our usual locking up routine was interrupted by something resulting in me leaving the key in the back door. Later that night (and it just had to be that night!) a burglar dismantled the cat flap and using a bamboo cane from the garden managed to turn the key in the lock and open the door. We discovered what had happened in the morning and fortunately we only lost a couple of items from the kitchen. Did I get my leg pulled by my colleagues!
So what’s the advice? Well, don’t leave keys in the lock like I did and if you have inherited a cat flap from the previous owners and you don’t or never intend to have a cat get rid of it. If you are thinking about putting one in then, if you can, put it through a wall rather than a door. I know they are designed for doors, but if you have a conservatory extension you might be able to give up a lower glazed panel for a solid one and put the cat flap through that. Most cat flaps have a lock on them, but this is designed to keep other cats out, not burglars.
The reality is that nearly all cat flap burglaries happen because the key has been left in the door and so it seems unnecessary to advise any further solutions. However, be very wary about the larger dog flaps. If a child can fit through it then it will be a security risk and one where you may not be covered by your insurance, because no damage would have been caused to enter your house. Sadly certain adults take kids with them ‘on a job’ for the sole purpose of using them like a ferret to steal or find the keys to unlock the doors. In these circumstances you’re going to have to consider limiting access for Fido to one or two rooms and have an alarm installed to detect access beyond them.
I have been asked more than once if it would be sensible to put a cat-flap in the front door. I think the answer to this is more about convenience than anything. The same rules apply about keeping the keys a safe distance away from the flap, but interestingly the front door is likely to be more open to view from the street and so arguably there is less opportunity for a thief to dismantle the flap in order to reach the keys and handles on the inside of the door.
A Crime Prevention Officer was just finishing a security survey of a large house in North London when he spied the most enormous dog flap in the back door. He asked the client if he had any concerns about the size of the DIY dog entry system and he said “No officer, none at all”. This was like a red rag to a bull and so the policeman thought he’d demonstrate just how easy it was for a burglar to crawl through the massive hole. He got about halfway through when the large Alsatian dog came in from the garden. Pulling his trousers up in casualty after the tetanus injection he swore that he would never attempt to crawl through such large flaps in the future.