Way opens for cat flaps

Queen's Awards
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The Independent Online
Brian Kerr, managing director of a company which claims the last word in cat flaps, has a particular soft spot for the animal-loving Dutch, who stock its products on the shelves of their supermarkets. But it is the rich Swiss who have rushed to buy the pinnacle of the Reilor range: the Staywell 31, a unique programmable cat flap which runs on mains or battery.

"It can cost up to pounds 180 over there because of the margins, although it sells for pounds 70 here," says Mr Kerr, a former Berger paints man who is now Reilor's managing director.

It was a British voice, however, that inquired about whether there could be a lethal effect on a cat if the Staywell 31 were incorrectly wired to the mains. "He wanted to do know whether, if he wired it up wrongly, it could damage a cat that kept coming in," Mr Kerr said. "I told him we couldn't have anything to do with that."

The Staywell 31 is one of 20 different Staywell cat flaps, from plain grey opaque to the most popular, see-though, four-way-lock. Along with dog flaps - much more popular in the United States than Britain - they enable Reilor to turn over an annual pounds 5.8 million, 46 per cent from exports.

The biggest market is the Netherlands, which fits into Mr Kerr's thumbnail definition of a country which favours animal aids. "You can draw two bands round the globe, defining the temperate regions. If it's too cold or too hot they don't want to know.

"Japan is a strange market. The law is that you cannot allow cats to have free roam within the public domain. They tend to have patios or verandah balconies and the cat flaps allow access to the fenced-off area."

Reilor has existed since 1937, beginning in stainless steel door handles and springs. It moved into cat and dog flaps after a director visited the United States more than 20 years ago but discovered fast that stainless steel, Mr Kerr remarked, tended to slam down on tails.

Having adopted various plastic compounds, it now dominates the British market (80 per cent). It took a decision to export during the recession, taking on multi-linguists and adapting its packaging. This is Reilor's first Queen's Award for Export, marking its efforts in gaining sales in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.