by Diana Bocco
Tiny houses have become extremely popular in the past few years. While some people still think of tiny living as something reserved for the young and adventurous, the truth is that a lot has changed as the tiny house movement has evolved.
“I think when the term Tiny House is used, people tend to envision the homes built on trailers that are usually 8′ by 20′ and are able to be moved easily,” says Ryan Thewes, a licensed architect and a member of the National Council of Architects Registration Board. “However, any structure that falls in the 500 square foot range and includes the basic necessities of a typical house (sleeping, eating, bathroom) belongs in that category.”
Thewes points out that one of the reasons for the big increase in Tiny Home interest lately is increased exposure on TV and Internet.
“Also, the cost of housing is rising and people are searching out more affordable options,” Thewes points out. “Not having a mortgage is a big draw for a society that has been long accustomed to being in debt.”
But what exactly is it like to share a tiny home with a pet? Turns out, it’s a lot easier than you might imagine.
Big Dogs and Tiny Homes on the Go
Think tiny houses and big dogs don’t mix? Think again. Alyssa Pelletier shares her tiny home with her partner Will and their 85-pound 2.5-year-old Bernese Mountain dog, Hilde. “Our house is a 208 square foot school bus that we’ve converted to an RV,” Pelletier explains. “We work on the road so that we can spend as much time trail running and mountain biking as possible, so we outfitted it with everything we need to comfortably work and live from the backcountry.”
According to Pelletier, this includes enough solar power to operate their computers and other household appliances, 65 gallons of water, a water heater, shower, toilet, fridge, and even a fan forced air furnace.
The secret to making things work in such a tiny space? Pay attention to the small things.
“We were very careful when designing the bus to make sure that Hilde had plenty of space to lounge on our full size couch and on the floor behind the driver’s seat,” Pelletier explains. “We also know she likes to lie on a cool, hard floor, so we left extra floor space up front, and we added extra steps going up to our bed so she can access it, too.”
Another key to successfully sharing a tiny space with a dog? Always take advantage of the outdoors.
“The bus is comfortably spacious for the three of us, but we definitely try to make the outdoors our home by parking in scenic spots and setting up our outdoor rug, Hilde’s blue bed, and our camp chairs,” says Pelletier. “We’ve never lived in a house with a traditional yard, so we have always had to get out and about to get her exercise, which means that she spends most of her time in the bus resting.”
Making It Work
Cats present their own challenge when living in small spaces.
“When you have limited space, providing for a cat can be difficult, as cats need a place to climb and perch,” says Josh Feinkind, president of RefinedKind Pet Products. “Not to mention a tiny house has no room to display unattractive beige shag carpet cat trees or hide plastic litter trays.”
The solution? Cat furniture that doubles as art or blends in effortlessly. For example, Feinkind recommends cat shelves, which can be placed at various heights along a wall to create a unique cat walk. In fact, the biggest issue with tiny homes for pets is their ability to move vertically, according to Thewes.
“Pets tend to like to hide away and find secure places to rest, so providing nooks and spaces for them is comforting,” Thewes adds.
Recently, Thewes designed a small cabin for a client with cats and paid close attention to the litter box location and allowing the pet access to it while keeping it sealed off from the main space.
“We had planned for a small entryway that was only accessible by the cats (like a dog door) and was hidden out of sight,” Thewes explains. “It led into the bathroom where they would keep the litter box in a niche under the cabinet.”
Being in the bathroom allowed them to use the exhaust fan to get rid of any odors, which can be a very large issue in small homes, Thewes adds.
For cats, it’s also possible to extend your home space by adding a “catio,” a type of safe outdoor enclosure that can be added to a window or placed freestanding in the yard. Window-type catios allow cats to get a taste of the outside without the risks, but they also can make a tiny house feel larger for the furry ones living there.
When asked about the biggest struggle of sharing a tiny home with a pet, Pelletier says you might need to resort to sweeping, vacuuming, and cleaning a little more often.
“There is really nowhere for Hilde to go when she’s filthy (which is often) so my couch cushions and the rest of the bus are definitely showing some extra wear and tear,” Pelletier says. “We could keep her off the couch… but what is life without dog snuggles?”