How to make comfortable spaces for dogs, cats and pet friends at home

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They are our best friends and confidants as we spend this time at home during social distancing. And the fact that they are furry, warm and full of unconditional love makes them essential workers in our lives.

It’s fair to say our pets are earning some major points in the spoiling department. 

Jennifer Wolch, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design who has long studied the relationship between humans’ and animals’ co-existence, said all this at-home interaction among people and their pets could likely lead to a “fuller appreciation [and] greater accommodation” of the animals’ wants and needs.

  • The Scandinavia crate bed from Ultra Modern Pet is a stylish alternative to the old wire crates. (Photo courtesy of Ultra Modern Pet)

  • A cat lazes away on a Catastrophic Creations wall-mounted bridge. (Photo courtesy of Catastrophic Creations)

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  • Ultra Modern Pet’s Abstract bed comes in a couple of colors. (Photo courtesy of Ultra Modern Pet)

  • The Spaceship Gamma wall mount bed from Ultra Modern Pets lets cats peer around the room from a bubble window.(Photo courtesy of Ultra Modern Pet)

  • Sharing the experience of Ultra Modern Pets’ CurvyNest cat climber. (Photo courtesy of Ultra Modern Pet)



“For most people, companion animals are considered family members or friends with whom they share their lives,” Wolch said. “We know that affective interspecies bonds promote our health in normal times — lowering heart rates, promoting physical activity, and so on. They are even more important during a crisis like COVID-19, when we need reasons to get out and about to get some exercise, want nonjudgmental solace and affection, and need our spirits buoyed by the intelligence and sociability of another creature who shares our lives and world.”

She notes there are many residential design features that promote comfort, stimulation and interest for companion animals. 

The Difference Between Dogs and Cats

“Dogs not only like to see the action, they want to be in the middle of it,” Wolch said. “So hangout locations where dogs can see the kitchen, dining room and living room, for example, or can track who is going through the front or up/down the stairs, are perfect and can be incorporated into residential design.” 

HGTV personality Jasmine Roth, who lives in Huntington Beach, has featured several dedicated dog spaces in the triangular spaces under staircases in her renovations on “Hidden Potential.” She first came up with the idea for her own home, not wanting that space usually filled in with drywall to go to waste, and has come up with various interpretations since. 

As Roth put it on her blog about one special project in a Huntington Beach home for Ginger the Frenchie: “By now, you all know how much I love a good dog cave. This one, though, really takes the cake. Hence, the nomenclature has been elevated from Dog Cave to Puppy Palace.”

If building-in a spot isn’t an option for you, you might consider the Lucidium crate from online retailer Ultra Modern Pet. It’s a different type of crate slash enclosure, with clear acrylic walls through which dogs can take in all the action while staying contained, a must for any excitable pooch who doesn’t understand “down.”

As for cats, it’s not so much about containment as it is about their finicky natures.

“Cats love to perch at different levels and have views to the outdoors, so wall shelf systems where they can hang out and see the action while remaining aloof from it, and/or can see out a number of a home’s windows, are modest but welcome modifications for felines,” Wolch said.

Michigan-based online retailer Catastrophic Creations offers what it calls “a space-conscious alternative to the traditional cat tree.” Its wall-mounted cat furniture features shelving, bridges and hammocks that can be connected or stand-alone. Planters and feeding bowls are included on some pieces, and the effect of several pieces on the wall is one of architectural interest. 

Catastrophic Creations Chief Executive Officer Mike Wilson said the company has definitely noticed his company’s offerings are in higher demand.

“Since the coronavirus hit, a lot of people helped out by either fostering or adopting a new pet from a shelter,” Wilson said. “At one point, we saw a report that a shelter had stated that for the first time ever, they had no pets available for adoption. I think between all those adoptions and everybody being stuck inside is what’s caused the large increase in orders.” 

At Ultra Modern Pet, the Spaceship Gamma is a wall-mounted cat perch that offers a cat’s eye view through a round acrylic dome so kitties can survey their kingdom. For a more whimsical perch, the retailer’s Luna crescent moon and twinkle star cradles cats aloft while also serving as fashionable wall décor minus the felines.  

Other cat designer furniture at Ultra Modern Pet like the CurvyNest and the Katris are a far cry from the original cat climbers but offer the same function with their fashion while boasting modern materials like fiberglass, acrylic and stainless steel.

Catching Their Zzzzzzs

Then there’s the thing that cats and dogs seem to do best: sleep.

“Most companion animals need quiet time, away from human noise and commotion,” Wolch said. “Again, residential and interior design can provide a range of spots — in sun and shade — to nap over the course of a day.” 

Ultra Modern Pet dog and cat beds come with a specific design twist like the Scandinavia, the Abstract or the Tide to fit into the overall design scheme.       

Ikea, the Dutch-based Swedish furniture retailer, recently expanded its Lurvig line for cats and dogs to include items like a cat-dog bed that looks like a smaller version of an Ikea couch and a cat house with a sleeping pad and viewing hole that fits into a shelving unit. Of course, Ikea hack devotees had been modifying the ready-to-assemble furniture long before that with their furry friends in mind, including a dog sanctuary bed crafted from the BESTA TV unit. 

Whatever the frame, the key to making sure your dog or cat is surrounded in comfort is choosing the right padding for their bedding. Luckily for them, there are newer pet-resistant fabrics, heated beds, cuddle caves and a vast array of beds made of supportive memory foam for pets with orthopedic issues, including the wildly popular Casper dog bed from the makers of the Casper mattress.

Pet Suite Inspiration

The Avignon at Blackstone development in Brea made waves a few years back when it offered a “pet suite” option to new-home purchasers, said to be the first of its kind. The largest of the options was a 170-square-foot room with a step-in wash station, water station and automated feeders, a bunk-style bed, cabinets for toys, treats and food, a door that opens to a dog run and a flat-screen television.

While luxury pet suites might be purely aspirational for many, specific built-in features can be incorporated into your (and your pet’s) living situation during a remodel or a new build. These include the puppy palaces like Roth designs and builds, as well as washing stations and dedicated cabinetry, drawers and nooks. 

If you don’t have the room for a custom dog washing station during a remodel, another option is an integrated unit, such as the pet spa available from MTI Baths. The dog-sized, acrylic-shelled bath features jets and an optional whirlpool, molded shelves and a non-slip tub floor surface and is installed just like a bathtub for people.  

There are also the built-in pet feeding stations frequently featured on Houzz. Built into kitchen islands, as a specialty insert in lower kitchen cabinets or drawers, under a sink in the laundry room and other dedicated spaces, the best of these mimic the room’s overall aesthetic while remaining unobtrusive and easy to access and clean.

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