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Pet-Friendly Kitchen Tips

Curiosity actually can kill your cat. And an old dog’s new tricks may leave messes around your kitchen. So how do you make this hard-working space friendly for both four and two-legged occupants?

Keeping your pets safe

I asked Dr. Holly Trief, VMD, of San Francisco—a veterinarian for 24 years and my older sister—what kitchen-related injuries she sees most often in her patients. These are the first three on her list:

1. “Burns to cat paws from jumping on stoves.

2. “Digestive upset/obstructions from [eating] items in the trash, such as chicken bones, plastic wrappers, sponges, Brillo pads, and [eating] items off table and counter tops, most commonly seen in dogs but occasionally in cats too.

3. “Electric cord injuries, especially in kittens. Dogs will also chew on electrical cords.” 

You can reduce the chance of your cat burning its paws by changing from gas or electric cooking to induction. An induction burner will only heat up when there’s a pot covering it. It will also cool faster than an electric or gas burner. If changing your range or cooktop is not an option right now, and you have a curious cat, keep the burners covered when they’re not in use.


Protect your pet’s paws with a set of Burner Kovers from Range Kleen.

Our childhood German shepherd and my Lab stepdog both got into the trash on occasion. Both dogs’ kitchens had a tall, open trash can—an invitation to mayhem. Minimize the chance of this happening in your kitchen by moving the trash to a closed cabinet, ideally a base cabinet with a trash pull-out accessory. Often they fit below the sink, a very convenient spot. A two-can model will hold both recyclables and trash.


Stop your dog from trashing your kitchen with a 
pull-out like this one from

The simplest way to save your pets from electrocution is to unplug your countertop appliances when they’re not in use. This will also help save money and energy. However, some pets chew on appliance cords when they're in use. Dr. Trief recommends a baby gate to keep pets out of the kitchen while you’re cooking. If your kitchen entrance doesn't lend itself to being closed off, an appliance garage could be an alternate solution. Just be careful not to forget about the appliance yourself if it’s in use, and read the manuals for ventilation requirements! Appliance garages are most often installed during a remodel, and can be factored into your next update.


An appliance garage, like this one from Armstrong
can keep your cat from chewing appliance cords.

Designing around your pet

Pets, like babies, come with their own set of gear nature calls. Some dogs slobber. Pups chew like crazy. Cats jump onto any surface they can reach. Aging pets and cuddly youngsters alike have accidents. How do you factor all this into your kitchen design? 

For counters, select either Corian for its repairability or engineered stone for its durability and non-porousness, as a hedge against cat and large bird claws. Rectified porcelain tile flooring holds up against dog claws and has minimal grout lines, which also make clean-up easier.

I’d also choose a scrubbable wall paint to easily remove pet marks.

Easy-to-clean paint, like Sherwin-Williams’ Duration Home Interior Latex, makes living with a pet more manageable.

Just as you create spaces for your dishware, cookware and glassware, consider creating spaces in your kitchen for your pet and petware. Professional organizer Jessica Barna of
Kitchens Resolved in San Diego suggests organizing your pet cabinet to hold medicines and vitamins, toothbrushes and paste, flea and tick medicines, waste bags, grooming tools, treats, food and even your pet’s medical records. Locate their food and water dish nearby, too, she recommends. A professional kitchen designer can help you determine the optimum space allowance and location for your pet station.

A skilled designer can create an affordable pet center from stock or semi-custom cabinets, like this one using Merillat Cabinets.

If you are using custom cabinetry for a pet center, you’ll have more design options. Nadja Pentic of
Case 540 in Alameda, CA, recommends MDF core with a melamine finish for the cabinet’s construction. “I think MDF would be more resilient than particle board to constant spills and messes and give the cabinets more longevity," she says. “Melamine is also very easy to clean.”

For a contemporary kitchen, Pentic suggests glossy laminate cabinet exteriors. While laminate can be damaged by pet claws, it’s affordable to replace, she notes. It’s also very “in” right now for Euro style, I might add!

This Pentic-designed kitchen wall features a cat center, 
with space for feeding and storage.

Animal décor

If you're an animal lover, too, and want to honor your pet with a beautiful personalized kitchen element, consider a custom wood carving or mosaic to celebrate your beloved's fine, furry, finned or feathered self.

A fish-lover’s mosaic aquarium by New Ravenna.

For more pet-friendly kitchen design tips, including additional vet, designer and organizer suggestions, read the complete post on my blog, Gold Notes.

(c) 2011, Jamie Goldberg, AKBD, CAPS. Excerpted from
Gold Notes: Nuggets from the World of Residential Design. Jamie is an NKBA-certified designer in San Diego, CA, and offers Sensible Style for Home Seller consultations around the country. She can be reached at (619) 796-2217 or


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