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Ontario is an interesting place to live. We get to enjoy the full range of seasons, and we certainly get to experience the full range of temperatures. Just this year, we broke a 168-year-old record for the hottest day in July at 35 C, and in January 2014, parts of Ontario were quite literally colder than Mars.
The extreme climate in Ontario has played a massive role in how we construct our houses, but when it comes to design, most of the time we only consider our needs—our pet's often get forgotten or become an afterthought. Animals are adaptable, we think, they'll sleep anywhere: on a windowsill, on a concrete floor, in a dish rack, literally in a litter box (true story).
But surviving Ontario’s climate is a lot more challenging for animals, who are more sensitive to temperature changes than we are. So, in this article, let’s cover some ways to help your pet thrive in this strange province.
If you’ve ever owned dogs, you know what kind of damage they can inadvertently do to your floors. The good news is there’s plenty you can do to pet-proof your floors.
The easy advice is to stay away from hardwood. Tile and concrete flooring are going to withstand wear and tear much better, and they're also easier to clean.
Another benefit is cold retention. In hot Ontario summers, a cold tile or concrete floor (especially in a basement) is going to make it very easy for your animals (not just dogs) to stay cool. Cats especially love to lounge on cool basement floors in the summer heat. On the flip side, radiant heat flooring will help hairless animals like Sphynx cats or chihuahuas keep warm in the winter.
If you’re dead set on hardwood floors, we can give you one tip: choose a style that is “distressed” as it will help hide scratch marks, or pick a more affordable option like vinyl plank flooring.
Cats have a reputation for being a calm, lazy pet, but we cat owners know that isn't true. Cats have a ton of energy, and since they're diurnal predators (meaning, in the wild, they're most active during dawn and dusk), they often get their "zoomies” at inappropriate hours. The simplest way to help your cat avoid 5am zoomies is to make sure they get their energy out before then. How?
There are lots of ways to exercise your cat, but some living arrangements will limit you. If you’re designing your home, however, we highly suggest considering cat highways. Cat highways are tracks installed onto walls and ceilings for cats to lounge and run on. Cats love them, as they’re naturally inclined to seek out high places and climb, and it also provides an easy escape for them if they share the house with dogs.
Similar to the cat highway is the "catio," which is a portmanteau of "cat" and "patio." A catio is an enclosed structure built outside for indoor cats to lounge in. Many of them have cat doors, so your pet can use them at their leisure, but it's not required. And these structures don't need to be complex, and they don't need to be put on a patio either. Many are situated in the backyard or as a "balcony" at a window.
Catios are a great way to give your cat fresh air without having to worry about them.
As we mentioned before, the type of flooring you choose will greatly impact how hard your house is to clean, but there’s more to keeping your house clean than the floors.
But since we just mentioned floors, here’s one more tip: buy a Roomba—it doesn't need to be a brand name, and it doesn't need to be expensive. Even the inexpensive robot vacuums do the job (and they really do the job). In a house with more than one pet, especially if they're long hair, you're going to be sweeping every day. Why not pass on that responsibility to a robot instead, especially one that you can schedule to run daily?
A washing station is imperative if you want to keep your house clean, and you can be creative with the way you design your floor plan—you don’t need a designated washing room. A simple mudroom with a place to clean dirty feet and hang dirty towels will go a long way. This room doesn’t even need to be a “mud” room; if you’re limited on space, make it your laundry room as well. Slop sinks that are often found in laundry rooms will be useful on muddy days.
If you don’t have room inside, an awning outside and a hose can do the trick too!
Lack of sleep can lead to serious health problems, and it's very hard to get good sleep when you share the bed with a 120-pound bull mastiff—and maybe your partner (and maybe a couple cats). Any investment in getting a good night's sleep will pay itself off, so here are some tips to make sharing a bed with your animals a little easier.
The easiest way to get better sleep is to keep your dog off the bed, but that can be hard for you and your dog. It's nice to have company. An alternative is to ensure there's space in your bedroom for a second smaller bed. This will help your dog feel close to you without interfering with your sleep.
For small dogs and puppies, make sure there’s an easy way for them to get onto your bed, and make sure your bed isn’t so high they can hurt themselves if they fall off. Doggy staircases can help your dog go to and from the bed without needing to wake you.
For cats, consider installing more cat highways in your room. Comfy sleeping areas that are above the bed will naturally draw cats away from you and into those higher spaces where they feel safe.