Give Your Pet Space

Associated Expert

Hopelessly Devoted to Our Pets
Pamper Your Pets with Simple Home Improvement Projects

Our pets are more than just loyal friends—they're members of our families. As J. Jerome wrote in 1889, "There are many families where the whole interest of life is centered upon the dog." More than a century later, the same holds true for our dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and other pets and now we have scientific verification of the value of loving an animal. Studies have shown that having a pet can be good for your health in terms of lowering your blood pressure.

But as much as they love us, even pets need a little time to themselves. You want to be sure there is a place in your home that you pet can call their own. Whether it's a dog house, a cat bed, a cage for your iguana, whatever—you want to give your pet retreat to that where he or she can relax and feel safe.

Put Fido in the (Luxury) Doghouse
Remember when a doghouse consisted of four walls and a roof? Doghouses have come a long way. Nowadays dog houses come in all sizes, even duplexes for more than one pet. Many companies are willing to sell you custom-made dog houses. These can run anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars into the thousands. Many people custom their dog house by breed; for example, a Swiss chalet for a Bernese mountain dog, a Spanish mission for a Chihuahua, etc.

If you really want to lavish your dog with the best, consider doghouse amenities. Floor length windows, air conditioners and marble floors are all available in a custom made doghouse. With that kind of opulence why not throw a housewarming party?

You can always design and build your own dog house. If you do, make sure it's twice the size of your dog, the wood is finished, and the flooring is durable. Simple dog house kits can be ordered starting at about $150.

Consider the location of the doghouse as well. If your dog sleeps outdoors in cold weather you want to be sure to provide as much insulation as possible. Your pet may be good at keeping themselves warm, but you want them to be comfortable. Carpeting is great, but it attracts insects and is an ideal flea breeding ground. So, you might want to consider using a foam pad instead with a washable vinyl cover.

Cat Enclosures
Many animal-rights organizations endorse the practice of keeping cats indoors, but how do you keep them entertained? Pampering your cat can come in the form of introducing them to the great outdoors with a cat run or enclosure.

Like doghouses, cat enclosures come in the luxury variety. These large, fenced-in rooms come with a variety of plants, secret hideaway tunnels, even a koi pond! Enclosures can be an add-on to your home, similar to a screen porch, or it can stand alone in the yard, like a giant bird cage. Again, enclosures can be built by a professional for a ton of dough or you can build your own according to your cat's preferences.

Jane Tip: Consider adding a doggie door for your cat. A cat might need a quick escape hatch from a dog, coyote or other animal, or just might want to come and go as she pleases. These are easy to install and quite inexpensive and you'll never have to remember to let the cat out again!

Another option is a cat run. Remember those plastic tunnels at the playground? This is essentially the same idea, though the tunnel is made of mesh. Cat runs allow your pet to explore your backyard without falling prey to disease, automobiles, or the dog next door!

Cat Trees
Not only will a cat tree keep your cat from scratching your favorite furniture, it can also be a great place for your cat to hang out. Usually covered with carpeting, cat trees come with all sorts of features that cats can't resist; the height of the structure is just one factor. Nowadays cat trees come outfitted with feathers, specialized scratching posts, enclosed hideaways and catnip trays.

Amenities and the number of "stories" will ultimately determine the price. Expect to pay $50 and up for one, though they are frequently on sale, so shop around.

Devine Divans
A custom-made bed for your pet is not only an indulgence, but it may also keep them off your furniture! Even if you don't consider yourself a seamstress you can easily build your own dog bed. Get your hands on a pillow pattern, buy some sewing essentials, and you are on your way. Sewing your own bed allows you to match the material to your decor, or the luxury doghouse you have just built!

If you aren't too keen on building Fido's bed yourself, custom made beds are available in virtually any style or fabric. Although you can find a simple dog bed at any pet store, why not go for an oak trundle bed with 300-thread count sheets? Cabana, antique, and four poster are among other bed styles available for the taking.

Hammock Time
Cat hammocks are easy to install and a feline favorite. Some can be mounted onto a windowsill to allow your cat to laze in the sunshine and while keeping an eye on the neighborhood. Other cat hammocks are freestanding or can be placed on the radiator. If you have ever discovered your cat asleep on your laptop, this may be the item for you! They are priced at under $50, and can usually be found at any pet store.

Reptile Retreats
If your pet is of the reptile variety, he or she needs a good home too. The most important factor in the health and happiness of your pet is temperature. The temperature of the cage or habitat will depend on the animal but if you are in the market to adopt a reptile, make sure his or her home is built first. Keeping a reptile in the cold too long is very bad news.

Though heat is important, don't forget to also provide shade. A place where your pet can escape the light is essential. You may also want to provide a branch that he or she can climb—reptiles love surveying their surroundings!

Jane Tip: Make sure your cage is big enough to accommodate your pet(s). For smaller animals, a 10 to 20-gallon tank will usually do, but always err on the side of caution (and comfort) and go bigger, when in doubt.

Substrate is the substance which lines the reptile habitat, and similar to the temperature, it depends on what kind of pet you have. It can consist of ripped strips of newspaper, bark, sand or soil. The most important thing is that you keep the living space clean! You wouldn't want to live in a dirty house, so why should your pet? So, be sure the substrate is easy to change.

Finally, make sure the lid is secure! You don't want to find your pet crawling around the house unattended!

Though we love our pets and want to be around them all of the time, they need a place of their own. Too often we find ourselves yelling at them to get off the furniture, the bed, the window sill, etc., but this can easily be combated by giving them their own retreat. The space needn't be elaborate or expensive, and in the end it will benefit both of you!

See Also:
Ask Jane: Removing Pet Odors from Flooring

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