How to design a pet-friendly home that humans will love too

man and dog high fiving
(Image credit: Getty)

Are you a proud pet owner looking for ways to design a pet friendly home? If so, you have come to the right place. 

New research of the nation’s cat and dog owners commissioned by ManyPets revealed that 49% of pet owners said their pet is the head of their household so if that rings true for you, our house design ideas centred around living harmoniously with animals is just the ticket. 

We have been busy pulling together some top advice on the best ways to create a pet friendly home so that all members of the household – both four-legged and two-legged – can live in pawfect union together. 

Our home design advice covers everything from what type of flooring will make life with pets easier to how you can design your layout to ensure day-to-day life with your furry friends runs smoothly.

So, whether you are keen to minimise mess caused by mucky paws or have a needy pet who likes to keep an eye on you at all times, read on to ensure everyone is kept happy. 

What is a pet-friendly home?

While living with pets brings plenty of happiness and joy, things do not always run totally smoothly, as most pet owners will testify. 

"For many of us our pets are another member of the family and we willingly make space for them in our homes,"says Gemma Holsgrove, Associate Director at interior design specialists Sims Hilditch. "This can often come at the expense of our interiors." 

They key to creating a pet friendly home lies in designing spaces carefully and using materials and finishes that not only take into account the needs and nuances of the animals you are sharing your home with, but which are also stylish and reflective of other members of the household too. 

1. Choose low-maintenance flooring

Your choice of flooring is perhaps one of the most important factors when designing a pet-proof home. 

In short, you need a floor that is really hardwearing in the face of claws and dirt, easy-to-clean and low-maintenance. You should also bear in mind that opting for something non-slip will make life easier for your pets.

Thankfully, there are several types of flooring that tick all these boxes.  

"Flooring is an important factor to consider when creating your pet hideaway," says Dave Johnson, Head of Technical at The Underfloor Heating Store. Laminate flooring is typically a great option for those with pets as it is easy to clean, maintain and hides scratches well." 

In general, hard flooring tends to be best, with wood, tile, vinyl, laminate and poured concrete all being sound choices. 

Both engineered and solid timber floors are suitable for use in homes with pets, although solid wooden flooring can be sanded and refinished more times than engineered. That said, engineered timber floors tend to be a little more structurally stable when exposed to moisture from wet dogs. 

"Timber flooring looks wonderful and is a really good option for those with pets," agrees Gemma Holsgrove from Sims Hilditch. "However, dirt can build up quickly so a regular mop with a soapy wood floor cleaner and minimal water is a good way to clean it."

“Prevention is always better than cure so its best to add a good finish, depending on your floor," says Jon Ashbrook, head of product development at luxury wood flooring specialists Ted Todd. "An oil and wax-based matte finish conceals dust, dirt and small scratches made by pets by penetrating the wood without forming a thick surface. 

"Oils will give the floor a much darker look, whereas water-based finishes such as satin lacquer gives a more medium to dark tone," continues Jon. "A satin finish is also a popular and low maintenance choice as it is more resistant to splashes and scratches caused by pets."

Of course wood is not your only option. The trick lies in choosing the materials that require minimal maintenance in the face of paws, fur and dirt. 

"Natural stone floor not only looks fantastic, but is incredibly durable and easy to clean," advises Gemma Holsgrove. "If possible avoid opting for dark coloured tiles — contrary to expectation they tend to make muddy paw prints more visible, especially when they dry.

"It is worth noting that a stone floor can be sealed and this should be done every few years for the best results," continues Gemma. "It acts as a protective layer, especially for porous styles like French limestone. Finally, a mid tone grout is a great choice when laying your flooring to avoid visible dirt collecting."

grey non slip porcelain tiles on patio and in kitchen

Dunsen Grey Anti Slip tiles from Tile Mountain are made from hardwearing porcelain and are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. £21.99/m2. (Image credit: Tile Mountain)

2. Don't rule out carpet completely

Which brings us nicely on to the subject of carpet. While you might love the look and soft underfoot feel of carpet, it can spell heartache for pet owners. 

"A loop pile wool carpet can be problematic as its fabric is easily snagged by claws," says Gemma Holsgrove. "Sisal is extremely unforgiving for pets as it is not easy to clean. You can take steps to protect it, but this isn't a permanent solution. A more formal cut pile carpet design is also fairly difficult to clean when subjected to dirt and damp."

Polypropylene carpets are best for homes with pets, offering good resistance to dirt and you might also want to take a look at a product called Unnatural Flooring. This is designed to look just like natural flooring types such as seagrass, wool and jute yet is made from woven vinyl and and polyamide making it fully washable and really durable. 

hardwearing carpet on stairs

Unnatural Flooring is a good carpet alternative for pet owners as it is easy to clean and hardwearing.   (Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

3. Opt for washable finishes

Face facts: Animals can make messy housemates. They shed, they shake, they sometimes slobber and they have zero time for the doormat. Reduce the stress this can cause by opting for surfaces and finishes that are easy to wipe clean and are resistant to stains. 

There is a huge range of washable paints now available that can be scrubbed down of mud splatters and the like without fading or looking any worse for it.

In addition, if you have pets that are prone to chewing skirting or licking walls, you will be relieved to learn that there are many paint companies out there offering products with this in mind. 

Little Knights, for example, do a range (including gloss) of paint that is not only easy to clean, but also antibacterial and 100% VOC free. It conforms to Toy Safe legislation too meaning that any skirting nibbling your pets might indulge in will do them no harm. 

white washable paint on a living room wall

Safe Play Paint from COAT Paints hides bumps and imperfections and has a flawless matt look that’s highly durable. All COAT paint is water-based and low VOC. (Image credit: COAT)

4. View a utility room as non-negotiable 

Never underestimate the life-saving role a well-equipped utility room can play in pet-proofing your home. Having a large additional sink in your house will prove invaluable when it comes to washing off dirty dog-walking footwear, muddy leads and collars, pet bowls, bedding and even dogs of a certain size. 

Utility rooms should provide storage that has been tailored to your exact needs. Include tall cupboards and a range of shelves, hooks and pegs. Think about what space you will need for pet food and all their accessories and consider making room for pet beds they can use while they dry off after a long wet walk. A heated towel rail is a great spot for hanging wet items.

pale green utility room with built-in dog bed

This boot/utility room from Olive & Barr ticks so many boxes, featuring a built-in dog bed, large ceramic sink, plenty of cupboards and shelves as well as a spot to sit while pulling off wet wellies.  (Image credit: Olive & Barr)

5. Go for broken plan over open plan

While open plan layouts can really foster a sociable feel in a home, they are not always practical in busy households, where it can be nice to have the option of closing off spaces for some quiet time ocassionally. 

While you might like the idea of open plan living, in the case of households with pets, having the ability to make some spaces pet-free zones some or all of the time can really make life easier. This is where a broken plan layout can make more sense.

Think about using clever methods of closing off certain areas of your home as and when you need to. Sliding or pocket doors that simply disappear into cavities within the walls are a fantastic idea, as are internal bi-folds.  

split level open plan living room with sliding doors and full height windows

This living, kitchen and dining space, designed by Norsu Interiors, features sleek pocket doors that mean it can be shut off from the rest of the house.  (Image credit: Norsu Interiors)

6. Build in pet beds to maximise space

Incorporating your pet's bed into built-in furniture not only creates a cosy hideaway for them to snuggle into when they fancy a quiet dose, but it also saves on floor space. So, what are the best ways to create a built-in bed?

"Firstly, size matters, right? So ensure your space has enough room for your companion to be comfortable in," says Dave Johnson from The Underfloor Heating Store. "A simple way to figure out how much space your pet needs is to draw (or measure) the space around them when they are lying down — this will give you the desired surface area for your hideaway. 

"The location of your hideaway will depend on the amount of space you have available," he continues. "In some homes, you may have to resort to repurposing existing furniture, but a favourite location among pet owners is a cupboard under the stairs. 

"Renovating cupboards and under-stair spaces is a great way to give your pets a designated safe place without having to compromise the current setup or design of your home."

Some fitted kitchen companies now offer designs that take the needs of pets into account and have ranges with built-in space for your furry-friends to snuggle down in the heart of the home. 

red kitchen units with built-in dog bed

In this kitchen, The Haddon, from Kitchen Makers, space has been provided within the base units for a cosy little dog bed.  (Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

7. Create good connection with stable doors

If you have a pet that likes to know exactly what is going on at all times and can't bear to be shut away from the action, then a split or stable door could be just thing you need. 

Although traditionally thought of as exterior doors, using stable-style doors internally can be a good compromise for pet owners who are keen to create some form of barrier to keep pets out of certain rooms at certain times of day, but who want to be able to keep an eye on them too.

kitchen in renovation project with stable door

In this renovated Cotswold cottage, a smart and subtle split door separates the corner utility room from the rest of the open plan kitchen diner — handy for when the owners wants to keep her dog out from under her feet.  (Image credit: Mark Ashbee)

8. Aim to include a boot room

Although built around a similar theme to the utility room, the best boot room ideas take the concept of a decompression space between inside and out to a new level. 

While utility rooms are traditionally spaces to carry out laundry and such, the boot rooms offer solutions to storing muddy boots and shoes, space for sopping wet coats and bags and hanging storage for leads and collars. 

A boot room can also make the perfect spot for your pet's feeding station and sleeping quarters.

If you don't have the space for separate boot and utility room, combine the two together for the ultimate practical space.

boot room with small dog

Take inspiration from this well kitted-out boot room, featuring Garden Trading's Chedworth Welly Locker and Aldsworth Bootroom Unit. Take note of the sweet under-unit dog bed too with cosy curtain.  (Image credit: Garden Trading)

9. Choose smart home gadgets to make life easier

It isn't always possible to take your pets with you every time you leave the house, but it can be hugely reassuring to see what they are up to while you are out. 

This is where the best smart home gadgets can help. Indoor cameras that allow you to see, hear and speak to your pets from your phone, tablet or other devices not only make it possible for you to keep an eye on your furry friends while you are out and about, but also to talk to them.

Ring indoor camera

Products such as the Ring Indoor Cam from Amazon let you keep an eye on all the action at home even when you are out and about. (Image credit: Photo by Neil Godwin/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

10. Try to create a separate entrance hall

If you have a dog who likes to rather over-enthusiastically greet visitors to your home, or a cat who fancies themselves as a bit of an escape artist, then the ability to shut them off from your entrance hall and front door when guests come calling will be something that probably appeals to you.

When it comes to hallway ideas suitable for pet owners, ensure you have doors that can close off the hall from other rooms, or create a self-contained porch in which to take deliveries or allow visitors in without being pounced upon before they can even take off their coats.

red entrance hall

Create a self-contained hallway with seating and space for muddy footwear. (Image credit: Benjamin Moore UK)

11. Zone your outdoor spaces

While your garden will undoubtedly be one of your pet's favourite places to spend time in, there may well be certain areas within your exterior spaces that you might prefer to remain no-go areas for your four-legged friends.

Perhaps you have a pooch who likes to helpfully pull up your plants, or maybe you want to limit those areas where they can carry out their daily 'duties'. Whatever habits you are trying to contain, choose fence types and boundaries that not only add to your overall landscaping scheme, but which can also perform the function of keeping pets in their place. 

dog digging up flowerbed

Fences provide instant barriers within gardens that can zone the space to reflect the various uses of the overall area.  (Image credit: Getty)

12. Keep dog and human washing facilities separate 

Unless you have really hit the jackpot when selecting your pet and have miraculously ended up with one who avoids mud and puddles at all costs, it is likely you will need, from time to time, to give your doggy a good hose down.

While the garden hose can certainly come in handy here, in the dead of winter, on a dark night, the last thing either you or your pet is likely to want to do is stand in the garden spraying freezing cold water around.

Having a dedicated doggy shower or built-in dog bath located in your utility or boot room can make life so much easier — and save your beautiful bath tub from being destroyed too. 

"We are now installing many more dog showers within boot rooms for our clients," says Gemma Holsgrove. "This functional addition will protect your home from muddy paws after a long countryside walk. The shower doesn't have to be reserved for your pets either — why not use it to rinse your wellies too?

"In one of our recent projects, we laid the same hardwearing and minimally porous Dijon tumbled stone tiles on the floor and wall and added a drainage slot to transform the space into a wet room that is easy to mop. These same tiles appear in various other locations throughout the rest of the house, creating continuity and flow."

boot room with dog shower and cream tiled stone floor

Sims Hilditch designed this doggy shower into one of their recent projects — stylish and practical.  (Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

13. Keep pets safe with driveway boundaries

Even with the best intentions, pets can be sneaky escape artists from time to time so it really does pay to ensure you secure your outdoor spaces properly to ensure you can put paid to their bids for freedom.

Although you might have given careful thought to securing the boundaries of your rear garden, don't forget to pet proof your front garden or driveway too. 

Your driveway design should obviously take into account any vehicles you are going to want to keep there, but pet owners need to give consideration to incorporating suitable gates and fences too. Choose the right height to keep your pets in their place and, if you are going to need to pull in off a busy road, opt for automatic gates that you can control from your car or house. 

Victorian semi detached house with gated driveway

Sturdy metal gates at the front of this house ensure dogs can be kept out of harms way should they shoot out of the front door unannounced.  (Image credit: Getty)

14. Choose heating with your dog in mind

When it comes to choosing the best heating solution for your home, do spare a thought for your pets. 

"If your pets are getting older or have osteoarthritis (which affects four out of five dogs over the age of eight), consistently warm temperatures will be a priority in order to make sure they are as comfortable as possible," advises Dave Johnson, of The Underfloor Heating Store.

“We recommend keeping your pet spaces and their surroundings as comfortable as possible as the winter months approach. Pets struggle to regulate their body temperatures as they age, so installing underfloor heating could be a good option. 

"It ensures that you have complete control over the heating levels in your house and can help ease your furry friends into the colder seasons, as well as offering many health benefits for more senior pets.”

If you have an open fire or log burning stove, be sure that your pet won't be able to harm themselves by getting too close.

dog in yellow dog bed in front of log burning stove

Underfloor heating can be a welcome addition for both older dogs as well as cats, who love nothing more than a warm spot to nestle down on.  (Image credit: rucomfy)

15. Think twice before fitting a cat flap

Whether you are trying to create a highly airtight energy efficient home or are aiming for Passivhaus standards, installing a cat flap could cause issues. 

Traditional cat flaps, particularly those installed quickly on a DIY basis, can be draughty additions, so if you are seeking to up the energy efficiency of your home, you may need to do your research.  

"Think very carefully about where you put cat flaps and how they affect the performance of your home," says Paul Testa, Director of HEM Architects. "We designed a through-wall cat tunnel for our low energy retrofit, with an airtight outer flap to prevent unwanted heat loss. We paired that with an internal microchip flap to prevent unwanted visitors." 

Happily, there are now products out there designed with this in mind, some of which have been installed in Passivhaus projects – take a look at The Petflap – although they're not cheap.

cat flap in energy efficient home

Architect Paul Testa used a Shield Cat Door for Walls to retain the energy efficiency of his home.  (Image credit: Paul Testa)
Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.