7 Tips For Keeping Cats and Dogs in a Tiny House

Guest post by Tristan Perry
Original photo by Paul VanDerWerf remixed by Creative Commons license.

Whether it’s financial savings or living a more minimalist lifestyle, there are many advantages to living in a tiny house. However some people argue that it is unfair to have cats or dogs in a tiny home, because they won’t have the freedom to roam like they can in a standard-size house. We disagree with this view, however, and so we have written up seven tips to successfully live with your beloved pets in a tiny house.

1. Make sure that each pet has its own “safe space”

Pets should have “safe spaces” to retreat to whenever they feel anxious or nervous. They’re pretty similar to humans in that regard. These spaces are their own personal sanctuary, a place where they can feel safe and comfortable whenever there are other people or dogs around.

For small homes that don’t have much room to spare, the space beneath furniture can serve as your pet’s safe space. Take a small basket or pet bed, place it underneath a coffee table, desk, or bed, then fill the space with your pet’s favorite blankets and toys.

It’s important to note that pets can get territorial when it comes to their spaces, so it’s best to have each pet have their own individual space. If you have multiple dogs and cats, better invest in multiple pet beds and have one bed for each pet as possible.

2. Eating areas should be kept separate

Another thing that pets get territorial about is their eating areas, especially when it comes to dogs. Dogs tend to follow a pack order during feeding time, so if you feed a “lower ranked” dog before the pack leader, chaos and confusion might ensue. Feed the “alpha dog” first- or if the other dogs are particularly unruly, keep the alpha’s eating area separate from the rest. Put it in another room, or use barriers like baby gates if necessary.

Dogs’ and cats’ feeding areas should also be kept separate too. For cats, you can try placing their food bowls on an elevated area where the dogs can’t reach them.

3. Socializing should start early

Socializing should start very early on in a pet’s life. An unsocialized pet that is kept in a small home will just cause stress and trouble for its owner, especially when you have guests and friends around. For dogs and cats, the kitten and puppy stage is the best time for them to get comfortable with other people, as well as other animals of all species, shapes, and sizes.

4. Consider getting a “catio” for your cats

If your cat is an indoor cat, consider getting a screened porch of some sort (also called as a “catio” —  like a cat patio!) so that your cat can enjoy the outdoors safely. With a yard, a regular fence might not be enough to keep other animals or an unfriendly cat away. If you do decide to let your indoors cat run freely in your yard (or if you don’t or can’t build a catio), make sure to cat-proof it by removing any obstacles and toxic plants or garden chemicals away, and to patch up any possible escape routes in your fence.

5. Cat’s litter boxes should be dog-free zones

The litter box should also be a safe space for your cat. Having a dog and a cat living together might present some problems, since some dogs love to mess around the litter box and make a mess or even snack on things they shouldn’t snack on.

To keep this from happening, place the litter box inside a small cabinet, closet or any small space where the cat can fit in (and the dog can’t get into). Another option would be to keep the litter box inside your bathroom, then have a cat flap installed on the bathroom door. Alternatively, a baby gate can also act as a barrier against the dog. The cat can just simply slink through the bars or jump over the barrier itself to get to the litter box.

6. Exercise your pets a lot (like, a LOT a lot)

For owners living in small homes, walking your dogs is especially important to get rid of all that excess energy. A short walk around the block is good not only for your dog’s physical and mental health, but is also great for your general well-being too.

Cats are more complicated though. Some cats are allowed to roam outdoors, but if yours is an indoor cat (and you have no yard or garden in which it can roam around ), it might be a bit tricky to get them their recommended daily allowance of physical activity. You could try getting your cat used to a leash…but most cats aren’t exactly that excited being put on a leash and walked around like a dog.

A great option for cats — apart from playing with them yourself, of course- is to invest in a cat tree (also known as a “kitty condo”, or “cat jungle gym”), which is a structure that they can climb and play around in. These things are usually elevated, and covered with a material that a cat can cling to; heights usually range from around a couple of feet, to impressively high structures that stretch from floor to ceiling. It’s also ideal to keep cat trees near windows so that your cat has a great view of the outdoors and the sunlight.

7. Clean up after your pets every day

Tiny house + multiple pets means that there’s a high chance that your condo would be smelling like your beloved pets after a while. You might not smell it at first (since your nose would be already used to their scent), but trust us, people- especially those who don’t live in your house- can definitely smell them.

To keep your home from smelling, make sure to clean up after your pets every day- even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Do the litter box, vacuum fur off the couch, throw their beds into the wash- these kinds of tasks won’t take up more than ten minutes and will keep you from feeling overwhelmed at the end of the week. Keep a stock of disinfectant spray or wipes (make sure that they are pet-safe first), and wipe down every area that your pets like to play around in. Investing in cleaning materials like a lint roller (especially if you have a very furry dog or cat that sheds a lot) and carpet cleaner is also a great idea.

Comments on 7 Tips For Keeping Cats and Dogs in a Tiny House

  1. My husband and I lived in a camper for about 6 months when we were first married, and had both a dog and cat. They were already friends, so that helped, but some other things we did were to give the dog an outside run with a sturdy dog house where she could stay during the day while we were at work (she was kind of old and incontinent, so outdoors was a good plan anyway). The cat’s litter box and food bowl was in a compartment under one of the dining booth seats; we carefully cut out a cat-sized doorway in the “wall” of the compartments so that the cat could get in, but the dog couldn’t. We also took the cat on leashed walks daily, weather permitting. Overall, things worked out fine.

  2. 296 sq ft, 2 cardigan corgis (3 yrs old and 2 years old), 2 humans. I took off the kitchen cabinet doors and cut out the wall between them to make an oversized “dog cave” for them to sleep/lounge/chill out in. There’s no playing in the dog cave, on the couch, or under the bed – so those are all safe spaces for them to get away from each other when they need it.

    Dog park trips and LOTS of training exercises keep them happy and content. I also buy two of everything when it comes to toys – two bones, two stuffies, two tug ropes. They share interchangeably once they’re broken in, but it’d be weird to give only one dog a new toy.

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