Lady Blackthorne was beginning to look a little spherical. But it took a vet visit for Vryce Hough to take matters into her own hands and help the feline conquer her battle of the bulge.


“I didn’t really think about it as a problem, but when the vet started talking about the risk of diabetes, I realized we had to do something,” Hough says. “Those are really scary words.”


Changing a cat’s diet can be risky, so Hough worked with her vet to gradually reduce Lady Blackthorne’s daily kibble intake. Unfortunately, there was another challenge to overcome. In a household with three cats, she wanted a way to feed each without setting up separate feeding areas.


Hough did a little online research and settled on a high-tech cat door called SureFlap. Like a virtual bouncer, the battery-operated door can be programmed to read your pet’s microchip, denying access to unapproved guests. Physicist Nick Hill created the device so that his cat, Flipper, could enjoy the great outdoors, then return home without a gaggle of freeloading feline friends in tow.


“The European market has a strong custom of letting cats come and go freely from the house,” says Judith Bank, marketing manager for SureFlap. “The U.S. market has been a very interesting market for us because it’s been used in a different way.”


U.S. customers like Hough typically use the device on internal doors, opting to separate cats or limit food access. At $139.99, the SureFlap isn’t cheap but Hough was willing to give it a try, and contacted the company with her idea. Then, she got handy, purchasing large plastic storage containers and borrowing a spiral saw to cut holes for three new SureFlaps.


In about two weeks, her crew adjusted to the new setup, which included a separate container large enough for each cat. Also, the doors currently come in only one size, so Lady Blackthorne had a bit of an issue squeezing through the tight space.


“She had to put her head and front legs through the door, then grab onto something with her claws and literally pull herself through; but she’s better now” Hough says, noting that Lady Blackthorne has dropped the excess baggage. “We don’t have to worry about that anymore.”


As this story proves, sometimes necessity truly is the mother of invention. To elaborate on that concept, here's a collection of pet gadgets and gear that make life easier — or at least a little more fun — for pets and their people.



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Photos (from top): Sureflap, Vryce Hough

How can I put only one of my cats on a diet?
A high-tech cat door called SureFlap works like a virtual bouncer. The battery-operated door can be programmed to read your pet’s microchip, denying access to