Happy to be in the Dog House
Creating a Pet Friendly Home
By David Leeson
Families that include one or many dogs or cats must learn to balance the fun and challenges of having our furry friends close to where we eat, sleep, and play. The good news is that we no longer have to face a decision between having a beautiful and inviting home, and one that is comfortable for our pets. By giving attention to a few special considerations, we can have both.
Ground Rules: Floors and Your Pet
This is it – the year you’re finally going to replace that tired, perpetually dirty no-wax floor that’s been around since the Carter administration. Since your pet will place twice as many feet on your new floor and live much closer to it than you will, let’s include him in the decision while considering the alternatives:
Pets love to plush carpet. Unfortunately, they also love to urinate on it, roll around on it when dirty, and use it as a landing place for the myriad of messes they’re prone to. With this in mind, look for carpet brands that are advertised as pet-friendly – they’re composed of fibers resistant to stains and soil, and usually have a protectant layer to keep pet hair from becoming a permanent part of the carpet.
A real hardwood floor adds genuine elegance to a room, but may not be the best choice. They are prone to damage from claws and easily marred by pet urine or water spills. If your heart is set on real wood, go with the hardest of the hardwoods, such as oak, hickory, or Brazilian maple; keep rugs or runners in heavily traveled spots; and have a good vacuum handy for the pet hair that will inevitably collect along walls and in corners.
Ceramic tile is strong and beautiful and easy to clean. It also tends to be a bit cold. So, consider adding washable rugs, a pet bed, or soft blanket for naptime.
Laminate flooring gives you the beauty of hardwood at a lower cost. It’s durable and resistant to water and stains, and certain brands even promote their ability to withstand your pets’ nails.
Claws and Effect: Furniture and Your Pet
As any pet owner who has lost his favorite recliner when the family dog or cat claimed ownership of it can tell you, pets in the home can add a whole new dimension to selecting and using furniture.
If keeping Fido or Fluffy off the seats is a losing battle, consider furniture covers that will protect your couch, loveseat, or recliner from stains and pet hair on an ordinary day. Most can be removed quickly and easily when company comes.
If the sofa is your cat’s new favorite scratching post, or the table leg is showing marks that could be matched to your dog’s dental records, a variety of indoor sprays are available with a scent or taste unattractive to your pet. Make sure to provide ready alternatives – pet beds and pillows, scratching posts, chew toys – and encourage pets to use them. Of course, it is entirely possible to give our pets their own furniture and accessories without detracting from the look we want to achieve in a room.
Give your dog or cat a permanent space in the room with a luxury pet bed that complements your own carefully chosen furniture.
Ditch the cheap carpeted cat tree for one with a modern design – or check out some of the notions tried by cat lovers for custom climbing shelves which complement their décor. Some have even built tracks allowing their cats to traverse the room from a higher vantage point. Multi-purpose furniture, anyone? The Web is filled with some truly amazing ideas for items that can simultaneously be enjoyed by homeowners and their furry companions. Spotted online: a coffee table that doubles as a dog crate, a kitchen island with a built-in feeding station, and bookshelves with added steps for feline adventures.
Windows: Let the Sunshine In
A window on the world can give your indoor dog or cat endless entertainment, natural light, and help with their job guarding the house. Try the following to make the most of it.
Be selective about window treatments. Keep them pulled back, and try styles and materials that are machine washable. Also keep cords, wands, and other hardware out of the reach of playful pets. Now that spring is here, open up those windows and get the fresh air moving through the house. But make sure that screens are secure and free of holes – especially on upper stories. Injuries and death from falls have become common enough that a new name was created to identify the trend: Feline High-Rise Syndrome. Would your cat stay by the window all day if you gave her the chance? Look for a cat window seat that attaches simply with suction cups.
Going Outside: Grounds for Enjoyment
Whether it’s an indoor pet who goes outside only for exercise, or a cat or dog who prefers the outdoor life, we want to make sure they don’t get too far from their home base. Keep them close to home and safe by:
Installing a pet door to give them easy access to the yard. Options today go far beyond the simple flap in the door, even including high-tech electronic doggie doors which will open only for your pet.
Inserting a microchip, and placing identification on your pet’s collar, just in case. The yard itself should be a safe and fun place for your dogs and cats to play, sleep, take care of business, and enjoy nature. If they spend a lot of time there, however, they can leave their mark on the landscape.
Here are a few ideas to make your yard and grounds a pet-friendly environment. Many dogs love to dig. If your dog is into detective work, always trying to find buried treasure, create a special digging area with sand and soft soils,m topped with wood mulch; then train him to use it by burying snacks or toys.
Place a border between your home’s foundation and planting beds. An easy way to do this is to place a 12-inch-wide strip of landscape fabric, top it with a length of chicken wire of the same width, then cover with decorative rocks. This will not only keep your dog from digging close to your home (which causes water to collect, creating foundational hazards), but is also effective termite prevention
You may be planning to remodel your home, or are just looking for ways to adapt to a new member of the family. A few simple changes can result in a much happier living space for your dog or cat, which, in the long run, makes it a much happier home for everyone living in it.