As pet ownership hits an all-time high, homeowners are taking more steps to remodel their houses with their pets' needs in mind.
Pet-friendly remodeling has gone far beyond the basic doggy door to include features like dog-washing stations and custom kitty litter cabinets.
"We talk about multigenerational living a lot," says David Schmitke of Neil Kelly, a Portland. Oregon-based remodeling company. More often these days, pets are part of the equation.
"Now we have multispecies living," Schmitke says.
"Designing with pets' needs in mind creates happier pets who are less likely to dig and chew and have separation anxiety -- saving your furniture, your carpet, your walls," he says.
Pet-friendly design choices "benefit everybody in the household, resulting in a house that's going to last longer," says Nancy Chwiecko, author of "There's a Dog in the House: A Practical Guide to Creating Today's Dog Friendly Home" (Design Dog Press, 2010).
Flooring is an important consideration for homeowners.
Chwiecko likes hard surface materials such as wood, ceramic or concrete. "They are great because they are durable and easy to maintain."
Randi Reed, a designer at Neil Kelly, often uses an imported Linoleum-like product called Marmoleum, which is biodegradable.
Hardwood floors are durable, Chwiecko says, but can show scratches and wear, especially if they are stained a dark color or have a glossy finish.
To keep dogs from slipping on hard floors, Chwiecko recommends putting a washable rug on top of them and taking special care around stairs.
One feature that is making life easier for humans as well as their furry friends is the dog-washing station. In regions like the Pacific Northwest, where "most of the year you're coming back in the door with muddy paws," Schmitke says it pays to set up a system that's ergonomically easy on the washer's back.
Reed has designed several dog-washing stations using stainless steel shower pans with stainless steel walls and a handheld shower. When not in use for pets, "you can also use it for muddy boots and potting," she says. Reed's designs have been so popular that one client went out and purchased a dog after seeing a photo of her work.
"(The clients) didn't have a dog at the time, but they have since bought a dog and now have their own dog-washing station."
The ideal setup "depends on the size of the human and the size of the dog. There is a formula," Chwiecko says. Pet owners should do some homework before deciding on the best arrangement for their space.
When designing for pets, Reed says you should "think through a dog's head or a cat's head."
Peter Cohen, co-owner of a custom homebuilding company, Trillium Enterprises, in Santa Barbara, California, did just that, crafting an elaborate network of catwalks for his 18 cats.
Cohen began adding catwalks a few at a time during lulls in his contracting business. "I built them for the cats and me," he says. "I like to think about how it will look for the humans and how it will function for the cats."
His clients are now requesting some of the features he has perfected in his own home, such as a kitty litter closet that's accessible by cat door. Cohen takes his one step further, installing a quiet bath fan that runs 24-7 and vents outside, eliminating odors.
As Schmitke says: "It's important that our pets eat, sleep and live as comfortably as we would. It sounds a little strange at first, but if you make it easier for your pet to do their basic functions, you're making it easier for yourself."