Living with Pets in a Tiny House

A lot of people have pets and love their beloved fur balls, us included! So when we decided to downsize and go tiny, we thought it would be a challenge to figure out how we were all going to work in a much smaller space. It seemed to be more of a mental challenge than a physical one. We were already downsizing with all of our stuff from 1,300 square feet to 374 square feet. Was it practical to think that we could work two dogs into the space along with all of our junk? Was it going to drive us completely insane to have these two little fur balls by our feet all the time? Where would they sleep? Where would we keep their dog food, toys, bowls, etc.? We had a lot of questions rolling around in our minds as to whether we were crazy to think we could have pets along with us in our small space. Not having them wasn’t even an option for us; we knew we would find a way to make it work. The question was always about comfort. Not just our comfort, but as any pet parent knows, their comfort.. We were surprised to find out just how well and easily we adapted to having the pets in our small space with us.

One Of Our Bigger Obstacles

Everyone is different with their pets and habits. Each will also have different challenges when downsizing. One of our biggest challenges was figuring out how to keep them contained at times, such as when we’re gone or in and out of the house throughout the day. Letting them have free reign and sleeping in our bed wasn’t an option, as they were crate trained and are used to sleeping in a crate at night, as well as when we leave for errands. Another challenge in a small space was after a nice rain when they come in with muddy paws; there aren’t many options to keeping them sectioned off without having a large bulky gate that can’t be hidden or a big spacehog of a dog crate. This was a challenge when in our 1,300-square foot home and became an even larger challenge when we moved into our 374-square foot tiny home!

So what did we do to crate our dogs while we went out for errands or to keep them from muddying the house? Initially, we used a bulky baby gate that was unattractive and took up precious space. Since this clearly wasn’t going to work long-term, we had to find something else that would be slim, sleek, and tiny house friendly. We were then excited to stumble on a product called Retract-A-Gate. For starters, it’s attractive when in use and practically invisible when not in use. It comes in at 34 inches tall and can fit an opening up to 72 inches wide. The height fits right under a standard countertop. It has a tough and washable see-through mesh barrier, which helps the dogs not feel so closed off from us and the space.

We use ours to section the pups off to the kitchen area. It comes in several colors, such as black, white, and beige. We have the white one. The retractable gate is proven durable for dogs (or kids), and automatically and quietly rewinds to a small roll when not in use. It can be removed and reinstalled instantly to alternate locations with an additional universal mounting bracket kit. It has a child and pet safety lock that opens or closes with a childproof feature. In addition, it works great outdoors on decks, porches, boats, motor homes, and, of course, tiny houses. Having this gate has been our lasting solution to what was our single biggest challenge. With the biggest concern tackled and out of the way, what about all the other little challenges of having pets in a small space?

Adapting With Pets In The Space

Since the space is small and the dogs are sectioned off with their pet gate in the kitchen while sleeping at night and while we’re gone, how do they do in the space when we’re home? During the day when we’re home, it’s like musical chairs for us. Since our two dogs are small and they share a bed, it makes things a little easier. We tend to move the bed around the tiny house as we need to; since we do cook and need the kitchen, the dogs need to be out of that space for the majority of the day. So we do just that, and move them usually in front of the wood burning stove across from the couch in the “living room” area when the stove isn’t burning.

When we want to watch TV and get extra comfy, we move our storage ottoman over to put our feet up, moving the dog bed over to where the ottoman was. Wherever their bed goes, they go. They are very loyal to their bed and wherever it goes; we’re very thankful for that. When we need to get their energy out throughout the day, we let them play on the property while on extra-long leashes. In addition, we have a drone that they LOVE to chase to get their energy out. Since a large piece of land won’t be everybody’s situation, taking your dog on a walk or to a dog park will still be standard. Even being on a good-sized property, we still take them to dog parks and on walks so they can socialize with other canines.

Has Living In A Small Space Made The Pets Sedentary Or Lazy?

One thing we were concerned about with a smaller space was whether it would make our already sometimes lazy pets even lazier than they tend to be. It was a legitimate concern since they would no longer have the extra space to run around in the house and wrestle from room to room. What we have found, however, is that it doesn’t matter what size of a space it is— their habits will still be the same no matter where we go. We have seen this as we’ve traveled across the US and were in many different-sized spaces along the way, including lots of camping with the dogs sleeping in the tent with us. They still wrestle anywhere they can. They move all around the bottom floor of the tiny house, roughhousing and sleeping wherever they feel most comfortable in that moment, bathroom included. They still stick close by our feet, which was the case in our bigger house also. When it’s really rainy and they can’t play outside as much as we would like them to be able to, we improvise and throw their toys across the length of the tiny house. It takes a few more rounds than it would if we were outside playing, but we’ve been surprised at how well this works at getting their energy out while keeping them entertained. Pets are very adaptable and take the same amount of care regardless of the size of space you live in. The obstacle is usually a mental one for us humans, thinking our pets need a certain space or situation to be comfortable, when in reality, they just want to be near their humans wherever they live.

Pets And Stairs

Since we have stairs that lead up to our main sleeping loft, we often get asked if the dogs have any problems getting up the stairs and if they have problems with getting down the stairs. Unfortunately for us…no, no they don’t at all. We personally don’t like having our dogs in our sleeping loft and don’t want them sleeping in our bed. We make exceptions when they’ve just gotten a bath and if we’ve ended being out of the house longer than planned while they’re crated. In that instance, we will allow our fur balls to sleep in the loft at night so we don’t have to deal with one of them who has a bit of separation anxiety, barking all night and depriving us of any sleep. Our dogs aren’t perfect and neither are we at training, so sometimes one barking at night can be an issue when we’ve been gone all day. One day we’ll get it figured out; until then, that’s the arrangement we have in place from time to time. We have absolutely nothing against anyone who likes having their pets snuggle in bed with them; our pets, however, become bed hogs, and that gets annoying for us. So, we prefer them to be crated while we sleep and are gone. When we first moved into the tiny house, the dogs were not to use the stairs and didn’t even attempt going up. This was a blissful several first months for us, as we wanted the loft off limits anyway. Our dogs are small at 20 pounds each, so we imagine that larger dogs or even cats will have no issue of figuring out how to climb up and down those stairs instantly. Once our dogs figured out going up and down was a breeze, it was a challenge to keep them from trying to climb them every second we weren’t looking. More dog training to be done, yay.

After some time, we’ve got them mostly trained to not go up there when we’re home and not looking. Since our master loft is open without any railing at the edge, we have also often gotten the question of whether they fall off the edge of the loft. The answer: no. Pets are much smarter than we give them credit for, and just as they can detect when something is hot and shy away from it, they also can detect when a ledge is too high to jump off of. Our dogs don’t even lie too close to that edge; they are smart enough to know it’s too high. From the edge of our bed to the edge of the loft, there is 5 feet in-between, giving them plenty of space to stretch out without getting close to the edge. If you plan on having your pets in your loft with you and are afraid that they might fall off the edge, then you can certainly add a railing or half/full wall to ensure their safety. It hasn’t been an issue for us, but they also are only allowed up there when we are, so we can keep an eye out for them just in case. If you really don’t at all want your pets in your loft, then you can always go the ladder route. That will ensure your pets can’t get up there, unless you have amazingly trained pets that are skilled enough to climb a ladder; in that case, we would like to hire you to train our pets.

Washing A Dog In A Tiny House

We’ve always liked the option of washing our dogs at home in-between grooming. It saves money and time. Maybe you have pets who don’t need to be groomed at all; we envy you if that’s the case. For us poor souls who picked pets that have forever growing hair and need some regular TLC, it’s a nice option to be able to wash your pet at home rather than having to take them elsewhere. But can it be done in a tiny house? This will be dependent on the size of your pet and the type of shower or tub you decide to go with in your tiny house. Since we decided to go with a shower, it proved to be a bit of a challenge at first. In our previous house, we had a bathtub, which made it easier to give the dogs a bath in. When designing the tiny house, however, we decided to do a shower with a glass enclosure for optimal space in the bathroom. We chose a good sized corner shower that is 39 inches, which gives us plenty of room to wash up while in it. However, we didn’t even think about the dogs when we were designing the bathroom. So we came up with a couple of options to wash them depending on time and even season. When it’s nice and warm outside, we have the option to just bathe them right outside; even just on the deck works well for us since we can leash them while we bathe them. The option apart from grooming is taking them to a pet store; some have self-dog washes that tend to run about $10 to $15 for so much time. We’re able to wash and dry both of our dogs in that time slot. The last option, if it’s not so nice out and when we simply don’t have time to get to the pet store to wash them, is washing them in our shower. Sounds tricky, right? Well, it was at first, then we figured out a way that works for us. Just a heads up, this way might not work for everyone—it’s all dependent on your pets and their size and demeanor. What’s proved to work really well for us is each of us taking a dog and washing them in the shower with us being in there and the glass door closed. Yep—we have to hop in and just close the glass door, otherwise they try to walk out with the door open. Sounds weird, we know, but it’s actually been quite easy and fast. Since we have a handheld shower handle, it makes it much easier to wash the dogs thoroughly and quickly with the spray nozzle. We wash the dogs and turn the shower head off and towel dry them, then let them hang out in the bathroom and shake off while we shower ourselves after. We put a couple of dog towels down so they have something to rub on while we shower. After they’ve air dried a bit, out comes the blow dryer. Since the bathroom is small, cleanup is a breeze and takes very little time to wipe down. These are a few ways that have worked for us personally with bathing dogs in the tiny house.

When A Tiny House With Pets Does Feel Small…

There have only been a handful of times when our place has felt very small, and those few times have been related to each other. Now, this is a very rare situation, but we figured we might as well share the experience anyway. Since we live in a country setting, our neighbors consist mostly of wildlife, and with that, some of these wildlife neighbors happen to be skunks. Now, both of our dogs really get along with cats and other dogs quite well, and we genuinely feel that they have mistaken those little stinky mammals on several occasions for friendly kitties in the same way Pepé Le Pew mistakes Penelope Pussycat for a skunk like himself. On two separate occasions while letting the dogs out at night, they have both (a different dog each time) discovered a skunk, and knowing the personalities of these dogs really well, we know they likely tried to play around with the little skunkies and their advances were not welcomed. The worst of these instances was on a stormy night, and our smaller cockapoo June could not be found and, when we located her, we smelled the problem immediately. We took appropriate action and bathed her the recommended way according to the SPCA which helped a ton, but the smell lingered for quite some time even after many baths. This stinky episode really made our little home feel way to small. After all, it was winter, and the dogs needed to be inside—and when they were inside, you just couldn’t escape from the smell! Now, we wish we could offer some advice to help with this, but it is what it is sometimes. Situations come up you don’t expect and you just adapt to make due with what you have. No matter the square footage, there will be situations that will make your home feel small or cramped. We had cabin fever in our old house during the winter months, and that was 1,300 square feet; only if we knew then that we would be comfortable a few years down the line in only 374 square feet. Granted, if the dogs ever get skunked again, we may just have to ship them off to a doggy spa until they are clean.

Other Types Of Pets

So, what if you have a cat or another type of pet that you want to have in a tiny house? Can it be done? Since we only have two dogs in our tiny house, we can mainly only speak from the experience we have with them. However, when we were going tiny initially, we had both an outdoor cat and indoor/outdoor cat. We still have our outdoor cat and she does great. She is very quick and loves the outdoors. We tried making her an indoor cat at one point in our previous home, but that did not go well, at all. We also had an indoor/outdoor cat that we were planning on incorporating into the tiny house and design. Because she was a very domesticated cat that was used to the suburbs and not very fast at all, and we were moving to an area where there was more wildlife, we knew trying to keep her only indoors would be a big challenge as we had already tried and failed. So, we ended up giving her to family. However, it did have us planning and thinking in the beginning as to how we could incorporate an indoor cat. We’ve seen many people with tiny houses have cats successfully in their small spaces. Since we didn’t end up having to plan around having a cat, we’ll just be speaking in hypotheticals. Now living in a tiny house and interacting in the space, we can’t help but think how we would have had an indoor cat work. One of the first things we thought about was where a cat box would go so that it wouldn’t be messy and smelly. Originally, we wanted an enclosure to be built out on the tongue off the bathroom for a cat box with a flap that they would have to go through to keep the odor and mess separate. We would still choose to do a cat box off of the bathroom if we ever decided to get an indoor cat. We’ve seen many with cubby storage stairs incorporate a litter box into one of the cubbies that have had good success. Since a tiny house with lofts is tall and kind of like a tree house anyway, those with cats seem to not have much of a problem with a need for a cat tree since they have stairs to climb and sometimes upper storage areas to hide in. The only time we have had to bring our cat in is on some rare occasions in winter when temperatures dip down too low. In that case, we bring her up to the second clothes loft where she can snuggle up and feel hidden. In those few cases, we still let her outside to use the bathroom since that is what she’s used to. There are many ways to incorporate pets into your small space, and if you already have pets, you’ll know what they already like and will be able to get crafty in your design to make it work for them and, more importantly, work for you. We’ve been pleasantly surprised as to how well the pets work in the space, and it doesn’t feel at all cramped with them. Pets are very adaptable, and you too will be surprised at how easy of a transition it will be. Just figuring out a few key things that work for you and your living situation will be helpful for you and your pets to live in a small space without any frustrations. There’s always going to be a little trial and error getting into a routine in any new living situation, regardless of the size.

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