Dogs and cats – also known as Fur Kids – are changing what we look for in a property and even a suburb. While it might seem over the top for Paris Hilton to hire an interior designer to craft a luxury doghouse for her Fur Kids (that’s Paris’s Twitter pic of her luxury dog kennel, above), more Australians are preferring to pamper their pets
In fact, with the rise in single-person households, pets will become an even larger influence in the type of property we look for and the amenity of the suburb around us. Leash-free parks, cafes that serve Pupaccinos (don’t laugh, there’s one here) and well-planned pet-friendly apartment developments are set to become tres desirable.
“I’ve had clients who moved house so their cat would have a bigger backyard,” says prestige agent Jennine Leonarder-Collins, saying most pet owners no longer banish their beloved animals to the backyard but allow them to sleep in bed with them. Inner city suburbs are also becoming home to doggy day care centres where professionally pampered pooches can spend the day being entertained, and their owners can watch them via a web-cam.
Politicians like Clover Moore say pet-friendliness is the hallmark of quality suburbs, in much the same way that good schools, playgrounds and parks with councils supporting pet ownership, dedicating more off-leash areas and even free obedience classes and supported vet services.
“Humans have a whole lot of love to give, and if they don’t have kids, they give it to their pets,” says demographer Bernard Salt, who says the importance of pets is only going to grow in the next decade.
“For now, people might laugh and just think it’s the gays or the very rich that treat their animals like children, but by the 2020s it will hit the middle market in a big way,” he says, pointing out that ageing households of single people will adopt animals for companionship and personal security, challenging local governments, legislators and urban planners to adapt quickly or lose a powerful political constituency.
So what makes a property pet-friendly? Urban planning specialist Virginia Jackson, a director of Harlock Jackson, says there are easy ways to improve your home to make it more enjoyable for pets, including:
DOG-FRIENDLY HOME DESIGN TIPS:
- ideally allow some outdoor space, although some breeds of dogs can be kept happily in apartments provided they are exercised and offered outdoor stimulation play
- have a window from which the dog can view the street — Jackson even suggests cutting viewing windows into solid fences to allow pets to see the street
- dog-friendly additions include tiled or lino floors that remain cool on hot days, or shaded outdoor areas
- self-closing gates that ensure dogs can’t escape without you knowing
- plenty of natural ventilation and — obviously — access to clean food and water.
CAT-FRIENDLY HOME DESIGN TIPS
- make sure cats have window sills wide enough to sit on or areas high off the ground for cats to climb.
- people like Cat Walk City founder Steve Tarrant build secured outdoor cat runs for pet owners that want to confine their cats yet give them outdoor space to exercise.
- adding pull-down screens that can be secured to the ground around al fresco dining areas can also create a low-cost confined cat run, which prevents cats escaping into neighbours’ homes or attacking wildlife.
The biggest problem with being pet-friendly is that it causes problems in apartments — not all buildings are happy to allow barking dogs or screechy cats into their hallowed halls.
But real estate agent says pet-friendly apartment buildings are worth more than those that prohibit pets. “Any small apartment block that doesn’t allow pets is crazy,” Leonarder Collins says. “Owners are just doing themselves out of money.”
Australia’s strata rules governing apartments vary from state to state, but most apartments create their own regulations about pets with some allowing cats or dogs.
It can take a lot of work to fight a strata and have rules changed to allow pets but some of the best tips to beg apartment buildings to allow pets include:
- writing a letter to the board or executive committee in charge of the strata body corporate to ask what the current rules are governing pet ownership.
- propose changes that allow the keeping of pets with the board or committee’s approval.
Pet-loving apartment dwellers are then advised to compile a ‘pet resume’ in their letter of permission outlining:
- a description of the pet, including size, age and appearance
- the pet’s disposition and whether it has had obedience or other behavioural training
- attaching details of registration, microchipping and vet records to prove responsible ownership
- references from previous landlords, neighbours or other strata schemes vouching for the behaviour of the pet.
Phew! It sounds like harder work than house-hunting or even emptying a litter tray.Are we ready for a property market dominated by pets’ choices as well as humans? Or should our furry friends be relegated to the outdoors and forgotten about?