Guest author: Isabella Caprario

It’s no secret that we love our pets: whether it’s dogs, cats, or any other furry friend, Australians spend roughly $12.2 billion on their pets each year. We’re also a nation of DIY and home improvement enthusiasts, so it makes sense that there’s also a growing trend toward building backyard dog houses, cat houses and pens, aviaries, and other pet homes that complement and reflect the design aesthetic of our houses.

Backyard Inspiration - Building a home for your pampered pet | Australian Outdoor Living
Let’s be honest: all pets deserve a special place to call their own.

How to get started 

It can be challenging to know where to start when you want to build a pet house. Answer the following questions to give yourself a road map for how to build the best home for your special friend. 

Is there enough space in my backyard for a pet home? 

The very first thing to consider is how much space you have and where to place your pet’s new palace. If you have a backyard, the most logical site is somewhere out back, such as on a backyard patio or other convenient space that’s close to the rest of the family. Once you know the size of the space you’re working with, then you’ll have an idea about what you can build. There are great backyard ideas for pet homes of every size on Pinterest and around the web to find inspiration. 

It’s a good idea to carefully plan what you want before building a home for your pet.

What is my pet home budget?

The next thing to consider is cost. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the price of a pet home, and costs can differ depending on what you have in mind. For example, you might choose a standard dog house or enclosed cat patio (sometimes called a catio), or you may want to include more elaborate features like dog runs, heating, multiple stories, and more. 

Does my pet have special needs?

Sometimes it’s not enough to build a standard home for a pet. Perhaps you have an elderly pet that needs a ramp instead of stairs or requires electricity for a heated bed. Or maybe you have a blind dog or cat that can’t easily get around their pet home. Rescue pets may also require special accommodations to make sure they feel safe and secure so they don’t feel anxious and act out or bark excessively when outside. Therefore it’s wise to consider individual needs to determine the best design layout for pets before you get started. 

What to consider and features to include

Once you have a general idea about where you can build your pet house and the specific needs of your pets, you can then hone in on the design features you want to include. Here are some design considerations you should keep in mind:

How to build a home for your pampered pet | Australian Outdoor Living - Outdoor blinds & outdoor home improvements
Consider what type of home would be best for your pet.

Choose climate-resistant materials

Make sure whatever materials you use are weatherproof, waterproof, or water-resistant, as well as mould and mildew-resistant. This will ensure that your pet stays dry in wet and cold weather. Also, make sure a dog house roof or catio roof protects your pet from the elements.

Plan for year-round use

This means you should consider your climate. It’s especially important to make your pet comfortable in hot climates and in the summertime, as dogs and cats can quickly get dangerously overheated. Cat pen or dog house air conditioning or cooling is a must if you live in a hot climate and expect your pet to spend any significant time in their abode. It’s also important to consider whether you need any heat in your dog or cat house for colder months, too. 

Think about your pet’s individual needs

Helping your pet stay well-behaved is also an important consideration when planning a backyard pet home. Don’t neglect the needs of proper dog and cat hygiene: 

  • Use wipe-down materials when possible
  • Be sure to wash bedding and disinfect your pet’s home when needed
  • Clean up messes as soon as possible
  • Make sure food and water are fresh and properly stored to keep vermin and other unwanted critters away
  • Treat your pet, their bedding, and the areas in and around their house regularly for fleas and ticks
  • Since your pet will be outdoors, make sure they’re up-to-date on all vaccines and immunisations

Also, be sure to keep an eye out for pet hazards, such as electrical wires and exposed outlets, poisonous plants, and dangerous chemicals. Pet safety is paramount, and you want to make sure your dog or cat is safe in their home when you’re not around. 

Australian Outdoor Living
Pets need to keep cool in hot weather, just like us!

Have fun decorating your pet home

Now onto the fun part: decorating for pets! There are loads of cute cat and dog accessories, such as blankets, sweaters, beds, dog food trays, and toys on the market today that will keep your beloved companion comfortable and happy. 

Toys and other stimulating or comforting items are especially important to keep in a pet house. When your pet is adequately stimulated they’re less likely to misbehave. After all, no one wants to listen to a barking dog all day and night.

Along with stimulating toys, enough exercise, and lots of love and attention, building a cat or dog house that helps minimise and avoid noise will keep you—and your neighbours—happy. 

Building your pet home

Once you have a clear idea about what you want and what your pet needs, it’s time to think about building your pet home. Depending on the complexity, it’s completely reasonable to do a DIY build yourself. 

Choosing the right materials

You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to building a backyard dog or cat house, but if you’re taking the DIY route it’s wise to consider starting with a prefab structure. There are a number of different types of homes available, from multi-story structures to simple shelters.

Materials vary as well, and you can choose from wood, fencing, plastic, and more. Be careful with some plastics, however, because they can emit harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are especially dangerous for cats. Engineered wood is a good material to consider, because it’s relatively affordable and is made to withstand the elements. Whatever materials you choose, make sure you’re also using insulation that’s appropriate for your climate to help keep your pet comfortable in both hot and cold months. 

How to build a home for your pampered pet | Australian Outdoor Living
You can build a special home for pets of all shapes and sizes.

Know when to call in the pros

If you want your dream pet home to include features like electricity, stairs, or plumbing for running water, you may want to consider calling in a pro to take care of some aspects of the job. 

Putting it all together

When you put some time and effort into thinking about what’s best for your pet, you’ll be poised to create a great backyard home for them. Planning ahead before you take action will also save you time and money in the long run and will make it easier to build the pet home of your dreams.

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