Barkitecture: How to decorate your home with pets in mind

Forget cute blankies and doggie chaise longue and give pets more of what they naturally need
Barkitecture: How to decorate your home with pets in mind

Their world is not your world. Dogs might sleep a lot during the day, but as pack animals they deserve company and comfort when you’re with you and when they are alone. Picture: iStock

CUTESY accessorising and cringy interior trending like antique furniture made into pet beds means nothing to them. 

Sensations, behaviours and reactions are hard wired into cats and dogs by millions of years of natural evolution. Even after a few short millennia adapting to being infantilised idols of our adoration, the wolf and the tiger is there in your living room. 

Include features in their surroundings that answer their deeper, essential needs. Some of these pet products are free, some make the best of new smart home technology, while others are blessedly simple, effective and affordable.

FOUNTAINS 

Cats and dogs have a natural distrust of standing water — and they are right. Still, fetid water can contain parasites, viruses, and bacteria. Animals' vessels, rarely washed, are toxic to both pets and the humans handling them. 

Fountains encourage both dogs and cats to drink with the soft burbling noise of natural running water. They can enjoy purified water day long with a simple unit like this Catit Flower Fountain. Dishwasher safe (bar the pump), 38, suppliers include petstop.ie.
Fountains encourage both dogs and cats to drink with the soft burbling noise of natural running water. They can enjoy purified water day long with a simple unit like this Catit Flower Fountain. Dishwasher safe (bar the pump), 38, suppliers include petstop.ie.

They will therefore seek out freshwater from a dripping tap, a shower, even from the freshly flushed toilet bowl. Water bowls are generally placed against a wall — something cats dislike as they fear attack from the rear. Their whiskers, highly tuned sensory equipment, touch the bowl edge too, jangling specific blood vessels and nerves. 

Cats have quite vulnerable kidneys, and both cats and dogs can be encouraged to hydrate by the burbling sound and tempting scent of cool, delicious water from a pet fountain. Match the model’s capacity (in litres) and the drinking height, to the size of the animal, its noise rating (there’s a small batter fed pump), and finally the ease of cleaning – dishwasher safe models are ideal for a weekly sanitising. Stainless steel and ceramic elements are more expensive, but likely to last longer.

The Catit Flower Fountain is a pretty drinker for a cat or teacup-sized dog. Everything bar the pump can be put in the dishwasher. It’s easy to both fill and wipe-clean. Including an LED nightlight and water level indicator, it allows three different water flow settings, and if the battery dies, there’s still water left to lap off the petals until you come home, refill and recharge. €38. Another popular buy, The Cat Pixi features a cartoon style cat face in pretty candy colours. The triple-action fountain filter softens water and removes debris as it runs, purifying itself 24/7. If the cat prefers a bubbling source, both the Catit and Pixie have removable tops for a more energised feed; €44-€54, available from petstop.ie.

STRAYING SOLVED

Having explored the touchy subject of electric shock collars as a means to containing rambunctious dogs, I’m really excited to see a completely cruelty-free new product. 

Dogs and cats that stray or are stolen can be tracked using the Tractive snap in collar GPS. Priced from Ä49.99 for dogs and cats with regular 15 discounts (bringing it to Ä35.99 with free shipping). Thereís a choice of reasonable app based subscriptions from 4 a month, tractive.com.
Dogs and cats that stray or are stolen can be tracked using the Tractive snap in collar GPS. Priced from Ä49.99 for dogs and cats with regular 15 discounts (bringing it to Ä35.99 with free shipping). Thereís a choice of reasonable app based subscriptions from 4 a month, tractive.com.

Tractive is a collar mounted, subscription operated GPS system that’s useful for both cats and dogs. First of all, if your pet legs it — as long as their collar is still on their neck, you can locate them, or at least find out where they last were before the collar was removed. 

The Tractive will alert you via your mobile device that your pet has left their virtual safe space (like say the garden geofence) and with live tracking can tell you where they are every two-three seconds. It’s waterproof, so great for blustery beach walks. The location history can help you to understand where in the house and garden your dog is most active when you are away, gathering valuable information on their habits and health. The tracker snaps off the collar for USB recharging every seven days. Get the free app for iOS, Android or to use directly from your PC . Alexa users can enable the Tractive GPS skill via the Alexa app. Priced from €49.99 for dogs and cats with regular €15 discounts (€35.99 with free shipping). App based subscriptions from €4 a month, tractive.com

RUN, KITTY, RUN

The destruction wrought on our native wildlife by domestic cats is a hot topic. If you think this is mealy mouthed meows, the communities of Bendigo in Victoria and the Adelaide Hills in South Australia , have just brought in a curfew on household and feral cats roaming after dark. Exercising a housebound cat not tickled by toys, it’s not easy. 

Will he use it, will he not? Cat wheels can be great fun and superb exercise for any cat, but there's no guarantee they will entertain fairground entertainment. Canadian Cat Company Cat Wheel in foam, aluminium and plastic, 294.99, zooplus.ie.
Will he use it, will he not? Cat wheels can be great fun and superb exercise for any cat, but there's no guarantee they will entertain fairground entertainment. Canadian Cat Company Cat Wheel in foam, aluminium and plastic, 294.99, zooplus.ie.

Gadgets that challenge their brains is one thing, but moving that furry backside when you’re out? Cats walk alone. Only a few tolerant cats will even stroll out on a harness. I took to taking my late and beloved James up to a top of a hill. He was expected to walk back down. He often hurtled back like an unhinged, feline Orson Welles, propelled by the horror of being pried from his bean-bag and wickedly abandoned to the great outdoors.

The cat wheel is a growing obsession to get kitty bounding (bar a cat extension or “catio”). Given the snarky nature of cat’s, any spend over a tenner is a risk. They will either gambol heartily encouraged with a feather pinched in your bloody fingertips, or deem you impolite, and stalk off, tail high. The cheapest wheel I could find (and you could throw away up to €639 hand-made beech “Wheel of Purrtune”) is the Canadian Cat Company Cat Wheel, with its open back-friendly design and EVA foam surfacing for a good grip under nails. The cat can jump on the plastic and aluminium hoop from either side and the unit is extremely stable. It has ball bearing rollers to lessen noise and the makers assure me that cats unlike rodents do not become hooked on exercising. From €294.99 on special offer, zooplus.ie. For a depressed or older cat longing to bask, the K&H EZ Mount Window Bubble Pod, can be stuck on any window for a sunbathing, bird watching, snoozing, entertaining spot. From €36, Amazon.

SMART SUPERVISORS AND DE-STRESSORS

Pet tech doesn’t end at barking down a Ring smart camera when he flips his crate. Puppr is a lovely little app to carry around and use to train at home or during walk/park bonding time. Follow the video instructions and use the integral “click” tool to get your dog listening and enjoying some treat based training, Available free from Google Play for Android and Apple for iPhones. 

Sodapup Jigsaw Emat Licking Mat, 12.99, mutts.ie.
Sodapup Jigsaw Emat Licking Mat, 12.99, mutts.ie.

Cats can cope alone for long periods alone, but food and water are not an area for compromise. Smart feeding is an vital element of good barkitecture, and varies from simple timed units to brands that will manage your pet’s weight with feeding programs linked to their condition. We like this TX8 Smart Automatic Food Dispenser. It includes an integrated wide-angle camera with infrared night vision and motion detection to take pics, live-stream videos, or to use the microphone and loudspeakers to interact with puss. 1–10 portions (one portion = 24ml). From €199 for cats at a variety of pet shops.

When you’re away, a pack animal like a dog may feel isolated and genuinely desperate for rescue, which can result in anti-social and destructive acts. Apart from the most comfortable bed you can provide for their size and type, lick mats are a vet recognised inexpensive solution that enriches their canine environment. 

They allow the dog to carry out hours of their natural lick behaviour on a textured, tricky surface spread with some tasty soft grub like peanut butter. Sodapup Jigsaw Emat Licking Mat €12.99, mutts.ie. If your dog is clearly very upset every time you leave them, consult your vet for fuller advice. Along the journey you could try fake pheromones to self-soothe. An Adaptil Calming Collar releases an odour-less synthetic copy of the natural comforting pheromone of a mother dog reassuring her puppies, comforting dogs in stressful situations like going on journeys. From €22.99, zooplus.ie

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