Pet Connection

Haute Dog Decor

Modern pet furniture is stylish and sophisticated. Here’s why

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

My dogs have leopard-print beds scattered throughout the house -- although at night they sleep on our bed -- hand-thrown pottery water bowls designed to keep their ears dry, and steps up to the furniture in prints that complement my decor. If I were a more indulgent, or wealthy, dog owner, they might have antique pooch pagodas or spaniel-size Empire sofas, just a couple of examples of how pet furniture and accessories have become more sophisticated and attractive as dogs and cats have cemented their position as full-fledged family members.

Spending on pets has risen steadily every year, even during the last recession. After food and veterinary care, the third largest spending category is supplies, including items such as furniture, carriers and toys. Pet owners spent $16.01 billion on beds, collars, leashes, toys and other accessories, up 6% from 2017.

“Americans are radically changing in terms of how we understand the pet’s overall well-being,” says architect Heather Lewis of Animal Arts Design Studios in Boulder, Colorado. “They’re also concerned about their animals’ emotional well-being. Pet furnishings make sense in that context. We want to have more comfortable furnishings for our pets. We want to give our cats more options to be able to climb up the wall and get to high places. We want to have comfortable pet beds that are better for the orthopedic concerns our older dogs might have. We want to have furnishings that our pets enjoy using. I think all of those things are driving a certain amount of this.”

Human enjoyment and well-being are factors, too. It’s pleasurable to have a home that is comfortable and looks nice. That’s another reason pet product manufacturers have upped their game. Pets, unlike kids, don’t have their own rooms; they share all of our living spaces so their stuff -- beds, crates, scratching posts, litter boxes, toys -- is found throughout the house. If we can have nicer options for those things, especially if they meet our overall design aesthetic, we are happier and more content in our environment.

Take pet lover Betsy Clagett of Poulsbo, Washington, who lives with Labrador retrievers, cavalier King Charles spaniels and two Persian cats.

“I love products that are well-made and stylish,” she says. “There are so many new materials today that we never had in the past and also designs that work for your pet, but also fit into home decor. I think many of the products are much more functional than they used to be.”

Pet owners are also keeping pets in mind when they build or remodel homes. They may include a pet bathing area in the laundry room or mud room, litter boxes that slide out from cabinets or built-in crates, custom cat enclosures, dog doors framed with molding that matches the rest of the home, or stair elevators for pets who are elderly or have physical disabilities.

When we replaced the carpet on our stairs with wood, we had the installer cut one of the steps so that the top slid forward, allowing us to store leashes and other pet paraphernalia inside it. Lewis, who is currently building her own home, has designed a “garage” for her dogs’ crates.

Another trend that may be driving pet product design is minimalism. Reducing the amount of clutter in your home may make you take a hard look at what remains, whether it’s your own stuff or belongs to your pets. Is it attractive? Does it spark joy?

“In these beautiful, more minimalist homes, every object has to have its own design and purpose in the space,” Lewis says. “If you have a pet bed, you can’t just have something you picked up at Costco. You actually have to enjoy looking at it on the floor. So I think that’s driving it as well.”


How to build a

basic cat post

Q: I want to build a scratching post for my cat. Do you have any tips?

A: That’s a great idea. Building it yourself ensures that it suits your cat’s scratching style and size. Here’s what to think about.

For cats, a good stretch is an essential part of a great scratching experience. They should be able to extend their bodies full length when they scratch. A 1-foot post offers enough scratching room for a kitten, but an adult cat will prefer a post that’s at least 3 feet high.

Cats may not understand why it’s OK to scratch a post covered in carpet but not OK to scratch the carpet on the floor. Help them out by covering the post in a different material, such as rope or sisal.

Materials you’ll need to build a basic post are a 16-by-16-by-1/2-inch piece of plywood for the base; a post that’s at least 36 inches high and 3 to 4 inches in diameter; 100 to 150 feet of 3/8-inch sisal or rope; one small box of 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long U-shaped brads; two 1 1/2-inch wood screws; and a drill, drill bits and hammer.

Using a U-brad, attach one end of the rope as close to the post’s upper edge as possible. Wrap the rope tightly, attaching a U-brad at every quarter turn during the first wrap. Continue wrapping, pushing rows close together to avoid gaps and loose rope. Add a U-brad occasionally to keep the rope from slipping. On the final wind, tack the rope onto the post using two or three U-brads. Hammer U-brads into the post so your cat can’t pull them out. Using the drill and wood screws, attach the post firmly to the plywood base, making sure the post is centered. -- Kim Campbell Thornton

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Hotels help dogs

find new homes

-- Next time you walk into a hotel lobby, you might be greeted by a dog available for adoption. A number of hotels across the country work with shelters and rescue groups to place dogs for adoption, according to an article by Jen Reeder for They include Inn by the Sea, an oceanfront resort near Portland, Maine; the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, California; and Aloft Hotels in Asheville, North Carolina; Orlando and Tallahassee, Florida; and Greenville, South Carolina.

-- Frazzled by a flight delay, long security lines or fear of flying? Some airports have just the ticket to calm your nerves: therapy animals patrolling the terminal -- with their handlers, natch -- just waiting for an opportunity to give you some much-needed emotional support. At San Francisco International Airport, you might run across the 22 canine members of the Wag Brigade -- wearing blue vests that read “Pet Me” -- or Lilou the therapy pig, who also welcomes petting. Other airports with pet therapists on board include Los Angeles International Airport, San Jose International Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Miami International Airport, Denver International Airport, San Antonio International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

-- A cellist in Nebraska performs for a special audience: shelter dogs. After learning that music could help to calm dogs, Cheryl Wallace began visiting Town and Country Humane Society in Papillion to play for the pups there. Science bears out the belief that music has soothing effects on dogs and cats. Studies have shown that pets in kennels enjoy not just classical but also soft rock, reggae and music composed specifically to appeal to animals. Music also offers stress relief for pets at home or at the veterinary clinic. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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