An estimated 73 million dogs and 90 million cats live in U.S. homes, and Americans are increasingly remodeling not only for themselves but also for their four-legged friends.
“People want to live comfortably in their home, but they also want their home to be a safe haven for their pet,” says Charlotte Reed, a pet expert and author in New York. Creating such a pet sanctuary can include some small — and a few large — renovations.
Here are 10 smart ideas on how you can make your home friendly and safe for your pet — and what impact these changes might have on your home if you decide to move out.
Linoleum flooring is becoming popular among designers because it has anti-microbial properties, it’s easy to maintain and it is more environmentally sustainable than vinyl flooring, says Nancy Chwiecko, associate professor of interior design at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., and author of the book “There’s a Dog in the House.”
Wood floors, too, are easier to maintain than carpet if you have a pet. Pick light to medium finishes, lower-luster glosses or distressed woods to help minimize scratches from pet nails. Keep your pet’s nails rounded and short to prevent scratches.
If you prefer carpet, consider modular floor-carpet tiles from companies such as Flor because they can be replaced easily in case of accidents, Chwiecko says. Flor will recycle any returned tiles.
Dog-hosing stations are popular in custom homes in locations where pets can track in sand, dirt and mud.
You can give your pooch a quick rinse before he comes inside, in a washtub with a spray hose and tile wall in your mudroom or garage. Such a station can be built for about $750 to $1,000, says Mike Whittington, an independent subcontractor and building estimator in Floris, Iowa. Be sure to have hot and cold water and water-resistant flooring.
A cheaper option might be to put towels by the door and teaching your dog to wait outside until you clean its paws and fur, says Mychelle Blake, president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. A child gate can help block off sections of your house near the back door, she says, so mud doesn’t get tracked all over the house until the dog is clean and dry.
If you work long hours or spend a lot of time away from home, pet doors can be a great way to make sure your dog isn’t stuck inside the house for hours on end.
Pet doors can be pricey, costing between $80 and $500. But there’s an array of options, says Jon Mortensen, owner of Seattle-based PetDoorStore.com, which sells thousands of pet doors each year. There are doors for walls, screens, windows — even sliding-glass doors. Some doors are activated by microchip for more security; others are built to withstand 50 mph winds.
Latches on cabinets and toilets
Childproof latches can be useful when you have a puppy or kitten that is fascinated with drinking or playing in the toilet or getting into cupboards. It’s important to keep pets from getting into food, cleaners and medicine. Lysol-type cleaners, chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts and xylitol sweetener in gum can be toxic — even fatal — for dogs. Spinach leaves, potpourri and acetaminophen, the key ingredient in Tylenol, are extremely toxic for cats.
“Pets can chew through plastic bottles, so keep medicines away from your pets,” says Dr. Patricia Olson, chief veterinary adviser for the American Humane Association.
Remember, too, that cats and dogs like to chew on electrical cords, so tuck them away, unplug them or use plastic covers that snap over them. Child gates are an easy way to keep your dog away from certain areas of the house.
If you live in a high-rise with open windows, screens are vital to keeping your pets safe, especially cats.
“People have the misconception that cats have good instincts and won’t jump out,” says Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in Manhattan.
During warm months, the hospital sees two to four cats a week that are hurt or killed in falls. She says that many people think that bars or child window guards will help, but cats can get through them. Cats will also jump from balconies and fire escapes, she says.
If you rent and do not want to spend money on permanent screens, you could buy inexpensive, accordion-style screens that fit various-size windows.
Cabinetry for litter boxes
More cat owners are sprucing up their pet’s litter box with specially designed wooden cabinets that can cost anywhere from $30 to $300. The cabinets conceal litter boxes, offer privacy for cats and keep other pets out.
This is a bathroom cabinet purchased at Ikea; the owners cut the hole themselves.
Before you buy one, consider the personality of your cat, Blake says. Some cats may refuse to go in them because they feel too confined and trapped. Ensure, too, that you do not put your cabinet or litter box near loud noises that can scare your animal. Blake says that she had a friend whose cat refused to go in the litter box because it was placed next to a furnace.
“I think good fencing is vital,” Chwiecko says. “You’re going to have a happier dog, a happier family and happier neighbors.”
Invisible fences can be a good option for people whose neighborhoods do not permit physical fences. But many pet experts do not recommend them because they can inflict pain, and some dogs test the fences every day. Some dogs also have also become more aggressive because they associate the shock from the fence with passers-by, Blake says.
If you have a physical fence, ensure it is in good condition and free of loose boards or metal that could hurt your pet or allow it to get out. Another tip: Keep benches and big rocks away from fences; they can be launching points for a dog to jump the fence.
Many common plants, including baby’s breath and crabapples, can be toxic to cats and dogs. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, Murray says. If you have a cat, be sure to remove any lilies from your flower arrangements.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ website lists plants that are poisonous to animals. See a list of safe plants here.
If you fertilize or spray for weeds, remember to remove food dishes from the area, and keep your pets away for at least 24 hours. If you have an exterminator or lawn service come regularly to spray, keep pets inside until it is safe to let them back out. The Environmental Protection Agency‘s website includes information about poisonous lawn-spray chemicals.
Paint your walls with satin paint because a drooling or wet dog can stain walls painted with flat paint, Blake says. If your dog is a chewer or a licker, pick paints that are pet-safe. Benjamin Moore’s Pristine Eco Spec is low in volatile organic compounds, for example.
If you have a dog that is prone to chewing, watch that it does not ingest drywall, which will make it sick, Blake says. She found that out firsthand when her dog got sick after a wall chew. Consider if your dog is stressed or bored, and keep it away from walls using baby gates and plenty of chew toys, she says.
Pet overlook or porthole
If you have a cat and a second-story apartment window, you can find nifty window extensions for $40 that let your pet get outdoors in a safe environment. The extensions can be installed like an air-conditioning unit and offer windows on all sides. They can be removed just as easily.
You also can cut a window into your fence so Rover can get a good look at passers-by. Pet Peek is a window you can install in your fence for $34.98.
“You place it down on the fence, so your dog can be comfortable and see what’s going on,” says Caroline Best, founder of Best Friends Care LLC, makers of Pet Peek.
There are you 10 ways to improve a home to make it more friendly for pets…