Expert Tips for House Hunting With Your Pets in Mind

Dogs might come with a list of requirements, and there are also plenty when it comes to cats. Kate Benjamin, co-author with Jackson Galaxy of Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You)and founder of Hauspanther, has a number of suggestions.

First, consider a catio. "Look for a house or condo that has a porch or patio, ideally that's connected to the house so the cats will have easy access through a door or window," Benjamin suggests. Think about how you could safely enclose it (keeping your kitties in and other critters out) or add climbing shelves to make it a perfect room for your cats.

Windows are important, too, Benjamin says. "Look for a home with nice, deep windowsills for kitty to perch on. If the windowsills are narrow, think about how you might be able to hang a shelf... or even strategically place a table or bookshelf under a window to create a surface at just the right height."

The types of walls in your potential abode can be a factor if you plan to hang cat shelves. "It’s important to make sure that any shelf that a cat will be climbing and jumping on is securely fastened to the wall, either in the studs or with heavy-duty wall anchors," Benjamin says. "Plaster walls, as are found in some older houses, aren’t the best choice because they can crumble when you try to hang things. Block walls are also a challenge and will require special fasteners."

With both cats and dogs, you might also want to look for a home that's not on a highly traveled road or busy intersection, just in case your pet gets loose. "I cannot tell you how many times I've heard, 'But he never did that before,' and then a nasty accident occurs," Sutter says, referring to pets who have bolted after moving into a new home. Whether you have an energetic young pup or a confused, blind cat, the farther your front door is from traffic, the safer your pet could be.

And location can also be important in terms of how close your home is to your place of work, Downing says. If you need to come home to let your dog out or feed your cat, it might not be practical to live on the opposite side of town, even if everything else about a home seems perfect.

Step 3: Look at the Potential

If the bones of the house are good and you love the neighborhood, don't be discouraged by things like carpet on the floor or windows that seem too high for your kitty to enjoy. Flooring can be replaced, and, in fact, there are some high-quality, durable, laminate floors that give the look of a hardwood floor at a fraction of the price. And catwalks are all the rage, so you can always create a cat-friendly highway above your head to give your cat a bird's-eye view. Benjamin suggests looking at open floor plans with existing surfaces like ledges and tops of kitchen cabinets if creating such a superhighway ranks high on your list.

Roomy laundry rooms or mudrooms can provide ample space for cleaning off muddy pups or storing a litterbox, and backyards can be fenced (assuming there are no restrictions with the homeowners association). Look at empty corners as potential spots for stylish storage, keeping all your pets' belongings accessible and your home free of clutter.

And don't forget: The items that will really make your new house feel like home have four feet and will be moving in with you.

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