Seventy percent of all American households have a pet, with 38% having dogs and 25% having cats. The $4.54 billion pet products market has grown along with the popularity of pet ownership. So it’s not surprising that ‘pet parents,’ as many of them think of themselves, are increasingly incorporating their animal companions’ needs into home improvement, organizing and decorating projects.

Creature Comforts

“Consumers increasingly view their pets as family members, so designers are seeing more requests for home features that accommodate not just their pets’ feeding stations and accessories, but also their comfort needs,” observes Janice Costa. The Long Island, New York entrepreneur watches trends in both the design and pet worlds, as publisher of KB Designers Network and owner-operator of Canine Camp Getaway, a recreational program for dogs and their owners.

Years ago, she recalls, dogs weren’t even allowed on the furniture! Today, they might be sitting on custom upholstery pieces with pet niches so they can be close to their humans, but have their own space to curl up. “We’re seeing window seats with claw-resistant cushions for pets, doors with inset windows so pets can see what’s going on outside, ottomans with cutout interiors for napping, designer crates that are stunning furniture pieces lined with cushiony bedding, furniture to house litter boxes and help contain odors, window hammocks for cats to enjoy the sun, not to mention full-out ‘catios’ that extend from the window to give the family cats a room for themselves,” she shares. Some pet havens even have small televisions, she reports, declaring “Dogs don’t want to miss their favorite programs on DogTV!”

The Flipside

Not all pets get to lounge in luxury. Thousands end up in shelters every day, often because of their families’ health, financial or relocation issues. “For pet parents who are moving, they often tell us they are unable to bring their pet due to housing restrictions. That’s especially common for dog owners,” reports Amanda Kowalski, vice president of behavioral programs at San Diego Humane Society.

In order to adopt one of their shelter animals, no fancy features – even a yard – are required, she says. “We typically do not require any specific home elements for pet adoption. However, each adoption comes with an in-depth discussion with an adoptions counselor who can make recommendations about what each specific animal needs.”

Pet Accommodations

The basics you’ll likely be accommodating with your animal include its food, bowls, toys, treats, bedding, and a litter box and cat tree for felines, Kowalski comments. “Set up a confinement space, such as a bathroom, spare room or use gates and pens to block off areas of your home. With both dogs and cats, limiting how much space they have prevents inappropriate chewing or destruction, and it’s also a place your new pet can feel comfortable and retreat to. For young animals especially, this can help set them up for success in the process of house-training.”

Training in general is crucial, she notes, and training resources can be life-changing. “Behavioral challenges can be frustrating for both people and animals and can led to pets being relinquished to shelters.”

Accommodating a pet at home is not limited to having a housebroken animal and buying its gear, particularly if you are working from home or have a lot of activity in the house. “Good behaviors involve more than just asking to go out and sitting on cue. They include sitting quietly while you’re on a call, looking at you when they hear a noise rather than running and barking,” Kowalski observes.

It also entails having space for the pet’s needs. “People want their home organized and everything to have a place,” comments Robin Rigby Fisher, a Portland, Oregon-based interior designer. She suggests considering these issues if you’re planning to bring a pet home: “Are the pets allowed on the furniture? If you are creating a feeding station, how does the pet eat? Some dogs eat laying down; dogs with hip issues need more space. Is your pet a chow hound? A grazer? Is your dog like mine and take a few bites and walk around the house dropping food? Maybe we feed the dog in a contained area? Cats typically like to eat in private or at least in a place where their tails don’t get stepped on.” Fisher’s firm creates numerous feeding stations in cabinetry toekicks for dogs and quiet places for cats to eat in peace, she says.

“We see pot fillers installed above the pet’s water dish, often with a built-in water purifier, so they can have fresh, clean water on demand,” Costa adds. “Pets are also getting their own freezers in many homes,” she declares. This is being driven by pet food recalls, shortages and the wellness trend extending to pets, she notes.

Laundry rooms are a popular spot for pet features, Fisher points out. “We have done a few with built-in kennels. It rains a lot in Portland and having a place for the dog to dry off in a contained space makes a lot of sense,” the designer suggests. Costa sees grooming tables, showers and pet tubs tucked into laundry rooms, and jetted sinks being used as pet spas. She also points to dedicated drawers designed to hold pet supplies, cabinetry with an end cap that has a leash holder, and other storage accessories designed for pet owners. Those specialized areas are often in laundry rooms, mudrooms, kitchens or casual entry areas.

“We are doing a lot more luxury vinyl plank on floors, [as it’s] easy to keep clean with dogs,” Fisher shares. “We recently did a major renovation on a farmhouse with two St. Bernards. We put LVP throughout the main floor; she wants her dogs in the house and didn’t want her floors damaged. We also did an outdoor heated kennel with a water station, so the dogs would be warm when she wasn’t home during the day.”

Pandemic Effect

In the early months of the pandemic, isolated adults began adopting pets from shelters to keep them company. Many also began working from home at that time and some still do. Now, having moved past shutdowns, “You have people holding business meetings from home, and this may necessitate crating or gating pets. But unlike metal crates or the child gates you used to see, the newest options are much more aesthetically appealing,” Costa observes. “Metal crates have been replaced by elegantly designed furniture-style pet dens – I just saw a beautiful and durable vented dog kennel using material that blended so seamlessly into the design, you wouldn’t even know it was there if you weren’t looking for it.”

Costa also share that “Lucite pet gates are becoming a really hot ticket item, offering a much cleaner, more upscale look than metal or wooden gates while allowing homeowners to keep their pets in or out of certain rooms while cooking, entertaining, etc. Pocket-door-style gates that retract into the wall are also a wonderful option for homeowners who want to keep that clean, open look but still maintain the ability to section off areas of the home as needed.”

As many pet parents have started working away from home or traveling again, pandemic pets that have only known their humans being around 24/7 can get nervous. “Soothing music or voices from a TV left on can help,” Costa suggests, along with puzzle toys spread around the house that hide treats.

The Humane Society’s Kowalski recommends acclimating your pet to your leaving home with increasing amounts of departure time, while placing the animal in the space where you’ll keep them while you’re gone.

Older Pets

“There’s definitely a trend to considering senior pets in design – things like ramps to help dogs who can no longer do steps, cushioned or textured flooring to prevent older dogs from slipping, use of wall coverings and fabric to absorb sound since older dogs can be more sensitive to noise,” Costa says. “An older pet who needs to drink more might do better with a water fountain or a fresh-filtered water faucet right at the bowl. The key is to look at the individual pet and design your space to accommodate who they are, what they like and need and how they live.”

Last Words

“I knew a designer who used to get down on his hands and knees at dog height level to view the home from the dog’s point of view before coming up with a plan,” Costa recalls. “He said it helped him design with their perspective in mind. Thinking of the dog as an individual (family member), and then also thinking of the dog/human team doing things together, helps to create a space that will best accommodate everyone’s needs,” she concludes.



Costa, Fisher and Kowalski will be sharing their wellness design for pets insights in an hour-long Clubhouse conversation this afternoon at 4 pm Eastern/1 pm Pacific. You can join this WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS discussion here. If you’re unable to attend, you can catch the recording via Clubhouse Replays or the Gold Notes design blog here next Wednesday.