Features that pet owners should look for when house-hunting

dog lying on the carpetAccording to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats in the United States. And the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association reports that approximately 35-38% of Canadian households have a dog or a cat. So, it’s no surprise that home designers and builders often plan homes with pet amenities in mind.

“It’s not just a matter of being pet-friendly, but rather a question of giving your pets environmental enrichment,” say The Cat’s House authors Bob Walker and Frances Mooney. Here are some pet environmental enrichment features to look out for:

Private spaces and play areas

As you walk through the home, take note of private areas that can be used to house a cat litter box. Rooms or nooks that are accessible to your cat but still isolated enough that odor won’t be an issue are ideal. And look for other areas around the house that can also be used for cat trees, shelves and roaming space.

For dog owners, private spaces will also be ideal for bed placement, and smart storage of toys and food.

Finally, look out for a laundry room with an industrial sink or a second bathroom that can double as a built-in dog wash.


Homes with flooring and surfaces made out of pet-resistant materials such as concrete or porcelain tile are ideal, however, you can always update this yourself if necessary. The Animal Behavior College also recommends stone, vinyl, laminate or cork, noting that durable and milder-resistant designs are best.

And as an added benefit, Cesar’s Way notes that “hard floors are preferable to carpet [because they] can provide a cool spot for your dog to lie on on hot days.”


A large backyard with space to run, play and dig is ideal for dog owners, although once again this isn’t a deal breaker if the home is near a dog park or in a walkable neighborhood. Similarly, a yard with a desert landscape or sparse greenery can be converted into a more pet-friendly area with a water feature, grass and shade.

Fencing is important for both cat and dog owners, and if you have an outdoor cat, consider walls that they can walk along over wire fencing.

Other things to consider:

  • If the home has a pool or hot tub, is it fenced off?
  • Is there a proper storage area for yard care items?

What about the neighborhood?

Consider the neighborhood as a whole while you’re looking for homes. Does it have sidewalks and is it easily walkable? Is there a nearby park and if so, does it have dog waste stations?

Walk around the neighborhood to see how the other animals are. Are they friendly, or do the dogs bark when they see you? Talk to any pet owners you encounter and ask them how they find the area. And the presence of local vets and groomers in the area is also a good sign and indicator that you’re in a pet-friendly neighborhood.

Finally, talk to your real estate agent and be frank about your needs. This should help him or her better identify potential homes with all of the key features discussed above.

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