From Spotlight: Make Life Easier for Your Pets (and You!)

10 Home Design Features for Pets

With these amenities, your fur babies will make themselves (more) at home.

home design for pets tabby cat with green eyes sitting inside a vintage dollhouse
Image: Cyndi Monaghan/Getty

For most of us, our pets are family. We let them sleep in our beds, ladle nutritional supplements on their organic kibble, and throw birthday parties for them. In fact, we love our animal companions so much that we even choose a home and a home design for pets.

These numbers tell the story. Forty-three percent of pet owners say they’d move to accommodate their pet, according to a 2021 study from the National Association of REALTORS®. What’s more, 68% of pet owners surveyed by realtor.com® say they'd pass on an otherwise perfect home that didn’t meet their pet’s needs. According to the same survey, nearly 95% of pet-owning respondents say their furry companion plays a role in selecting a home.

Real estate agents are seeing the numbers play out IRL. “Our pets are pampered and adored. That's really translating into how people are buying real estate and what amenities they are looking for,” says Nicole Prince, an agent with the Figueroa Team in Orlando. “I get clients who bring me a list of features they want in a home or neighborhood that are for their pets — from dog parks nearby to no carpet in the house.”

Here are some pet-friendly features that will make a home more welcoming for animals. Whether you’re shopping for a new home or upgrading your space to suit your fur baby’s needs, they'll make the place a pet paradise.

#1 Pet Bathing Station

home pet bathing station a golden retriever being sprayed with a showerhead in a stainless tub
Image: ArtistGNDphotography/Getty

Washing a dog in a normal bathtub can be miserable. Even if your pup is groomed regularly, you still need to clean them up after they romp at the dog park or roll in mud in the yard. One solution is to build a grooming station in your home for quick cleanups.

“I've shown homes lately that have grooming stations built in,” Prince says. “It’s super cool — a utility sink that doubles as a place for you to wash your dog.” For larger dogs, you can install a commercial grooming tub with a hand sprayer or a walk-in shower that will accommodate your pet. The location is flexible: A grooming station can go in a laundry room, mudroom, or garage.

#2 Chicken Coops

designer chicken coop hidden in a residential backyard
Image: Cavan Images/Getty

Backyard chickens are chic. Driven by the pandemic, ownership of backyard chickens increased from 8% in 2018 to 13% in 2020, according to the American Pet Product Association. Why? Fresh eggs, says Amanda Terbrock of Manna Pro Products, quoted in Pet Business. More chickens means more fancy chicken coops, because we would never put our beloved backyard hens in shabby digs. You can build your own or buy a chicken coop that looks like a luxe she-shed or child’s playhouse. A nice coop can set you back thousands, but hey, it’s for our darling animals. Also, fresh eggs!

#3 Pet-Proof Flooring

durable tile flooring covered in dirt with two dogs
Image: dageldog/Getty

Accidents happen, even with the best-behaved pets. That's why floors with a hard, impermeable surface make your life easier. Think tile, hardwood, terrazzo, cement, or laminate, Prince says. Stay away from wall-to-wall carpet. “Carpets soak up pet stains, so they're a bad idea," Prince explains. Adding wood floors to your home increases monetary value, too. The National Association of REALTORS® "2022 Remodeling Impact Report" says new wood floors bring a 118% return when it’s time to sell the house.

#4 Build-in Pet Beds

home design for pets indoor cat bed built in on the wall and living room furniture
Image: © copyright 2011 Sharleen Chao/Getty

Pet beds tossed about your house are unattractive and consume valuable floor space. The alternative is building pet beds into cabinets, shelves, and other pieces of furniture. You can build a pet bed into the bottom shelves of a bookcase or into a kitchen or mudroom cabinet. Or tuck it under the stairs. If hiring a cabinetmaker or carpenter to build a seamless pet bed isn’t in your budget, you can also buy pet beds that look like furniture. You’ll be happier with the way your pet bed looks, and your pet will have a permanent space.

#5 Built-in Pet Gates

built in dog gate matching interior design in a home
Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

You don’t want your pets to go into certain places in your home, and most of us keep them out with baby gates. Plastic baby gates are flimsy and unattractive. A better option is a built-in gate. You can hire a cabinetmaker to build a custom pet gate for a door that’s mounted to a door jamb on hinges. Or you could make a pocket door-style pet gate that slides into the walls. Can’t afford custom work? Consider premade upscale pet gates that you can mount to a door jamb or staircase.

#6 Outdoor Ramp

custom design outdoor wood deck ramp for pets with a bulldog climbing up
Image: marcoventuriniautieri/Getty

Just like humans, dogs and cats can get too old to easily navigate stairs. If stairs are separating your pet from the outdoors, build a ramp from the door to the yard to make your house accessible as they age. You can hire a carpenter to construct the outdoor ramp for dogs. Be sure you design it at an angle they can navigate. Small or short-legged dogs — like basset hounds and corgis — may need a ramp to navigate stairs even when they’re young.

#7 Enclosed Cat Patio

home pet patio tabby cat looking out from a balcony catio
Image: Simona Weber/Getty

Also called a catio (cat + patio,) these outdoor enclosures provide a safe place for your cat to play outside. The structure, with a roof and four walls, keeps your cat safe and unable to harm wildlife. Catios can range from window-box sized ones to lanai-sized ones large enough to enclose a patio with human seating.

#8 Built-in Pet Doors

home design built in pet door blue tabby cat passing through glass door flap
Image: Nils Jacobi/Getty

Those pet doors with the rubber flaps and plastic frames that you hack into a door can be flimsy and straight-up ugly. Fortunately, sturdier and more aesthetically pleasing alternatives are available. You can get exterior doors with built-in pet doors. Or, consider glass inserts with built-in pet doors that replace sidelights on an exterior door. If you want to spend more, you can get heavy duty pet door inserts that fit into your home's exterior wall. Integrating a pet door into your home’s design is better for you and your pup because it’s more permanent, secure, and lovely.

#9 Built-in Pet Feeding Station

home design built in pet feeding station with food and water bowl under a stairway
Image: ArchiViz/Getty

Food and water bowls are messy, so upgrade your setup with a built-in pet feeding station. You can build a dedicated space for pet bowls into the cabinets in your kitchen or laundry room. That means no more tripping over bowls. A built-in station organizes the space, turning pet bowls from clutter to part of the furniture. Consider installing a faucet near the feeding station so you can easily refill or rinse bowls.

#10 Fenced-in Yard

fenced yard for pets with two shetland sheepdogs playing with a stick
Image: Deb Perry/Getty

A meadow-like grassy yard enclosed by a secure fence is the holy grail for pet owners. An outdoor area for their beloved animals to play safely is why pet owners leave lofts in the city for single-family homes in the suburbs. “A fenced-in yard is near the top of my clients’ list when they’re looking for dog-friendly features,” Prince says. “There’s no substitute for a safe place for your animals to spend time outdoors.”

A headshot of Leanne Potts

Leanne Potts

Leanne Potts is an Atlanta-based journalist and serial home remodeler. She's tackled five fixer-uppers and is working on a sixth. She's written about everything from forest fires to dog-friendly decor and spent a decade leading the digital staff of HGTV.