Keeping the Cat In and the Bugs Out ~ Those Really Stupid RV Doors. (Updated)

It seems that all travel trailers, fifth wheelers and many other recreational vehicles are equipped with these really poorly designed latches. I have yet to meet anyone who likes these stupid doors. Approached from the outside, the latches have a handle you need to pull down and then you need to pull the door out without putting any pressure on the latch. From the inside you need to recognize the long white thing has a square you push to one side and then you push the latch down. You have to push the door outward without exerting any strain on the latch. If you put strain on the pushing out or pulling in, either the latch itself will break or the black plastic face plate on the latch will crack and fall apart. Try explaining that to an exuberant grandchild. The only people who seem to benefit from this really poor design are the owners of RV shops where the replacement parts are sold for anywhere from $9 to $30 dollars depending on how much of a local monopoly the place has and how far from a big city they are.

And then there is my cat. It took him about a week to figure out how to work that sliding white latch cover to let himself out. He doesn’t worry about the latch, slide that cover over and you have a lovely cat sized door. He watched us intently every time we went in or out and then he just started playing with the door. I don’t think he’s all that clever, it’s just that being a cat, well what else has he got to do all day between cat naps? That sliding white latch cover when left open by departing cats and grandchildren also provides the perfect opening to let mosquitos, no-see-ums, wasps and other pests fly in. And so with some ingenuity, and a few kludges we have fixed it.

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To prevent breakage of the cover on the black latch, my husband took a bit of leftover steel sheet metal and some heavy duty metal scissors and reinforced the latch cover. (He called that latch plate cover the Rudlatch since the first adult to break our door was none other than the late scientist naturalist and writer Anne Rudloe.) He added a small kitchen cupboard handle to grab and pull on which prevents the latch from being broken. It is situated exactly where the hand of grandchildren naturally grabs and pulls so the latch itself does not get broken off. To keep the cat in and grandchildren from leaving the white slide open so it lets in bugs, we use a small bungie cord. These small bungie cords are hard to find so stock up when you see them. Hubby dearest drilled a tiny hole to keep the bungie cord in place on the outer side after the cat figured out how to send the bungie cord flying before making a break for it. With the bungie cord in place, the inside latch cover can be slid over to reach the latch and exit but it automatically pops back into place without a reminder to grandchildren that will just be ignored anyway.

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The bungie cord defeated the cat for a couple of years but he did eventually figure out how to open the door by throwing his weight against the bottom corner. The door is flexible enough it would pop open. The dogs soon figured out his trick would work for them too. After a few wild chases through the poison ivy, we developed the fourth modification. This was the installation of a wing nut on a bolt that can be turned to secure the door. It is placed in a spot where it is easy to reach in and spin it from the outside. The cat is getting old, and took him a couple more years to figure that one out. Once he learned how to spin the wing nut we added a second bungee cord. He seems to be able to either spin the wing nut or dislodge the second bungee cord but not both before we notice and chase him off.

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And then there was the puppy. Our two older dogs crossed the bridge and we got a puppy. Misty is now nine months old and 70 pounds, she wasn’t about to let something as trivial as a wing nut or a bungee cord get between her and whatever she was excited about. If the door wouldn’t open, well who needs a screen anyway? So what if we were left with lots of no-see-ums and a puppy off chasing the neighbour’s chihuahua. I’m pretty sure the cat played a part in that plot but I haven’t figured out what except that he always bolted out after Misty. And so we had the next modification. We now have a new puppy proof lower grill on our travel trailer door. Misty shredded the old screen so we replaced it with a new one before mounting the grill. We used a metal grill designed for barbecues, pets cages and home security with two strips of trim and some bolts. Thanks Ace Hardware for helping us figure out how to do it.

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The cat sign was a gift from our friends Joan and the late Ed Carriere and has some very fond memories.

ATTENTION RV DESIGNERS! PLEASE STEAL THESE IDEAS AND MAKE THEM A STANDARD PART OF DOORS! I AM BEGGING YOU PLEASE!!!!

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