Guest author: Isabella Caprario It\u2019s no secret that we love our pets: whether it\u2019s dogs, cats, or any other furry friend, Australians spend roughly $12.2 billion on their pets each year. We\u2019re also a nation of DIY and home improvement enthusiasts, so it makes sense that there\u2019s 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. 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.\u00a0 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\u2019s 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\u2019s close to the rest of the family. Once you know the size of the space you\u2019re working with, then you\u2019ll 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\u2019s 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.\u00a0 Does my pet have special needs? Sometimes it\u2019s 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\u2019t easily get around their pet home. Rescue pets may also require special accommodations to make sure they feel safe and secure so they don\u2019t feel anxious and act out or bark excessively when outside. Therefore it\u2019s wise to consider individual needs to determine the best design layout for pets before you get started.\u00a0 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: 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\u2019s 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\u2019s also important to consider whether you need any heat in your dog or cat house for colder months, too. Think about your pet\u2019s individual needs Helping your pet stay well-behaved is also an important consideration when planning a backyard pet home. Don\u2019t neglect the needs of proper dog and cat hygiene: Use wipe-down materials when possibleBe sure to wash bedding and disinfect your pet\u2019s home when neededClean up messes as soon as possibleMake sure food and water are fresh and properly stored to keep vermin and other unwanted critters awayTreat your pet, their bedding, and the areas in and around their house regularly for fleas and ticksSince your pet will be outdoors, make sure they\u2019re 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\u2019re not around. 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\u2019re 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\u2014and your neighbours\u2014happy. Building your pet home Once you have a clear idea about what you want and what your pet needs, it\u2019s time to think about building your pet home. Depending on the complexity, it\u2019s completely reasonable to do a DIY build yourself. Choosing the right materials You\u2019re only limited by your imagination when it comes to building a backyard dog or cat house, but if you\u2019re taking the DIY route it\u2019s 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\u2019s relatively affordable and is made to withstand the elements. Whatever materials you choose, make sure you\u2019re also using insulation that\u2019s appropriate for your climate to help keep your pet comfortable in both hot and cold months. 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\u2019s best for your pet, you\u2019ll 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. Australian Outdoor Living is passionate about helping people love their life outdoors. We offer a range of products, including: Outdoor blindsArtificial grassRoller shuttersConcrete and fibreglass swimming poolsCarportsTimber deckingPergolas, verandah and patios Have you been thinking about renovating your home? Fill out the free measure and quote form at the top of this article and a member of our dedicated sales team will be in touch.