Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

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Tiny Houses and Pets

One of the first questions my friends and family asked us when we announced our intention to build Big Red was, “What about Angel?”

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Angel is our 50 lb pit mix, and as you can tell from the question, everyone who meets her becomes a big fan. She’s a rescue, who came to us as a foster with six puppies, all since successfully adopted, and is now a certified therapy dog. She’s the sweetest, most lovable… sorry, I’m sure everyone thinks their dog is the best dog. Angel has papers that say she is, though! She passed tests and everything!

I digress. And I will take this opportunity to post as many Angel pictures as possible.

Pet ownership poses a special challenge for Tiny House aspirants. How do we best accommodate the needs of a pet or pets who did not actively choose the tiny life, the way we did? Possessed of both cats and a dog, I see the challenges of both audiences. Not owners of birds or reptiles or rodents, however, but seeing as how those are mostly stationary animals, all that entails is carving out a single location for them, and perhaps a single trade-off: Bird or Fridge? Snake or Toilet? Fancy Rat or Fancy Wine Cooler? Dogs and cats (and, I suppose, other larger mobile companion animals such as pygmy swine) need room to roam.

Now, I’m mainly addressing urban and suburban pet owners, like myself here. I’ve lived in the country and met many a wonderful yard dog in my time, so if your pet is mostly unfamiliar with the inside of a house, there really isn’t too much to adapt. Also, I make the assumption that the owner and pet are separated for part or most of the day, similar to my situation. If you get to be or plan to be home with your pet, it will be easier to accommodate mid-day walks.

phooIn the same vein, our two cats are semi-outdoor animals (that’s Phooey to the left; Shucks is camera-shy). Please don’t be mad at me. I’ve had many friends, back when I was a park ranger, who insisted all domestic cats should be strictly indoor animals due to both documented increased cat health and feline avicidal tendencies. Domestic and feral cats kill a shockingly large number of songbirds every year. I kept them indoors as long as it was just me and the cats, but Alan does not enjoy rambunctious felines at 3 am. Since my marriage is apparently more important to me than all of bird-dom, out they went.

I’m not too worried about how they’ll adapt to Big Red, since they’ll have regular, unsupervised access to the Great Outdoors, where they will hopefully adapt to using the Great Outdoors as the Great Litter Box. Otherwise, I’ll place a litter box under the house for occasional use, because Big Red is too small for stray litter to be flying around. I think it’s important to accustom all pets to eating on a schedule (I’ve had a vet tell me this), so there won’t be food left out for raccoons, either. I can have them in when I want a snuggle, or when the weather is bad. I don’t think they’ll have trouble with the confinement for short periods of time, as they also enjoy tight spaces and the security of cubby holes when indoors.

Angel, on the other hand, spends the majority of her day indoors, preferably on our bed where where she is absolutely prohibited. Angel-shaped divots in the comforter reveal she does not observe the prohibition. However, this also tells me that she doesn’t spend her day wandering the house, taking up space. The key is, she’s a low-energy, almost zen-like dog. She’s The Dude of dogs.

Breed and personality is critical here. If you have the choice, and you are considering a joint dog-and-tiny-house project, please think about the type of dog that would enjoy small living spaces. Often, it’s not the size of the dog, but the energy level that dictates it’s space needs, and energy level can vary within breeds, so get to know your new friend before deciding your lifestyle will be a good fit.

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If you already have a dog, and that dog needs 2 miles of running and 3 hours of ball-chasing a day to stay sane, you might want to consider alternative daytime arrangements for your pooch. I will not personally advocate outdoor kenneling, because many more experienced dog experts have told me it’s bad for them, but the most luxurious kennel probably beats many places I’ve lived myself, so I’m not sure I can judge, given some thought to climate control and socialization. However, dog sitting and doggie daycare are other possible options.

Outdoor  fencing is also important for your dog’s safety during supervised playtime, especially if you are near roads or other hazards. Angel is not the type to go more than 50 feet from the house, unless the neighbors are grilling, but if your dog is the adventurous type, put some thought into containment of a physical sort. The size of one’s house does not necessarily dictate the amount of outdoor space you might have at your dog’s disposal, but adequate play-n-poop, non-concrete ground is pretty important, and that area should be fenced off if at all possible.

Food storage will also be an issue. Just like tiny house dwellers have to think creatively about buying other staples in bulk, pet food is most economically found in large quantities. I’m not yet sure how we’ll tackle this problem with both cat and dog food, but it may involve Rube Goldberg (dog food falling from a ceiling hopper through a feeder tube? Via remote control?).

P1060266Many people have planned for their pooches’ sleeping arrangements to be under a window seat or chair, but Angel has yet to ever sleep in a planned spot. She’s had a number of beds given to her, from my parents or from the rescue group, that she has politely ignored. Therefore, we plan to not have a plan and let her find her favorite spot via her patented decision process of, “Am I allowed to sleep here? No? Ok, perfect!”

We’ve found Angel to be an excellent Tiny House ambassador in our neighborhood as well, so she’s contributed to our house-building efforts by making friends and influencing people. For example, it turns out one of our neighbors is an independent construction contractor who happens to also own a pit bull mix just like Angel. So he’s always happy to see us and answer the occasional question about framing. Tiny house building is community building, even for people who are not actually building a tiny house, it seems.

Pets are a wonderful addition to any life, no matter the size!

Your Turn!

  • How does your pet like tiny living?
  • What changes have you made to accommodate a simpler lifestyle for your pet?
  • Where do you store your pet’s food and supplies?
  • How cute/smart/awesome is your pet?

Observations Of Living In A Small House

I was able to get my hands on a copy of interview transcript with a town planning consultant who is all about Tiny Houses.  He has just moved into a Tiny House and has learned some critical lessons that I’d thought I’d share.  He now lives in a Katrina Cottage, which I have a special affinity towards, it reminds me of the older style of a shotgun style house; I talked about them in this post. Here is what he had to say, remember he is talking some specifics about the Katrina houses.

Dropped randomly into acre-lot subdivisions and diminished by surrounding McMansions, they look eccentric and experimental. They need small-lot site-planning and the company of friends.

Here he talked about how things need to be somewhat uniform in size, the human condition likes patterns, to have a house that is dwarfed by others leaves us unconsciously unsettled.  So there is more to us wanting a Tiny House community, it will allow us to bring in honest proportions.

Here’s the second lesson confirmed by my life in 300 square feet: The space has to be beautifully designed and the construction detailed perfectly. Otherwise you’ve got exactly what Katrina Cottage critics warned against – a tricked-out trailer.

When you compress the volume, the first thing to go is wiggle room for sloppy decision-making. Compromise on design and construction quality, including material choices, and you’re off to the race to the bottom. That’s why Cusato, Tolar, Steve Mouzon and others fight so tenaciously against cheaping out on ceiling heights, window selections, flooring, roofing, and trim details.

That’s bad news for workforce housing advocates committed to driving prices per square foot down. Better to achieve the savings by intelligently compacting the space, as opposed to competing with production builders who amortize prices per square foot over thousands of under-performing square feet.

There is more to good design then just being high quality, in a small space, its impact is magnified as the space is reduced. I am often asked by people”what is the difference between a Tiny House and a trailer/mobile home?”  I am quick state: “a high level of design and attention to aesthetics”.  I firmly believe that Tiny Houses must maintain a high level of design to not follow in the steps of mobile homes.  (On second glance, this sounds almost elitist, what do people think?  Does the Tiny House Movement have a sense of elitism?)

The Art Of Living In A Small Space

Here is an exert from a great piece called “The art of living in a small space”  It give some great advise and another view point

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Long ago, I read that to live in the country you must have the soul of a poet, the dedication of a saint, and a good station wagon.  Today I suppose you’d have to update the station wagon to an SUV, but the fact remains: To live successfully anywhere outside the mainstream of life you must have an unconventional spirit coupled with down-to-earth practicality—a combo that can be hard to find and harder still to balance.   I live in the country, but my latest life choices have also involved living in miniature spaces—which presents an additional set of challenges, both to the soul and to practicality. For the last three years I’ve shared a one-room cabin with a pack of dogs and one outnumbered but boldly unflappable cat. The cabin has an exterior footprint of 409 square feet—nine feet above the minimum my county requires for a residence. Its interior space is about 360 square feet, including closets and cabinet space.

I work as well as live here, so I’m in this one room 24 hours a day, except when the critters and I are out dog walking, running errands, picking blackberries, or otherwise adventuring.  On winter days, when I’m tripping over tails, wiping up muddy pawprints for the umpteenth time, and having accusatory canine noses stuck into my computer (“Mom, we’re booooored!”) the cabin sometimes feels as small as a shoebox. On summer afternoons, it’s luxuriously spacious with its glass door thrown open to sunlight and all its denizens sprawled on the deck.  In fact it seems so large that I’m currently contemplating spending part of my year in a structure about one third this size. Think dollhouse (or rather, converted garden shed).

I’m hardly alone. Even as the size of the average new American house has more than doubled (from 1,100 square feet during the post-WWII housing boom to more than 2,225 by 1999), more and more people are also exploring small-space living. These include, most visibly, RVers spending months in their cleverly designed rolling homelets, simple-living advocates wanting to use fewer resources, homeless camper-dwellers, folks living on boats, and country newcomers (like many readers of this magazine) who are camping out in garages, trailers, cabins, or sheds while building their dream homes. Finally you’ve got people like me who’d rather have 409 paid-for square feet than 2,225 square feet of mortgaged luxury.  RVers and boat dwellers have built-in advantages. Literally built-in. RVs and boats, with their endless crannies, hidden storage spaces, and double-purpose furnishings (like tables that turn into beds) provide the construction model for the rest of us.  But there’s more to small-space living than just clever design. Living well in tiny spaces has four parts:
•    Coping
•    Building
•    Gadgeting
•    Decoratingd
Let’s take a brief look at all four. Oh, and before we do, I’ll confess that a lot of my knowledge comes from what I-didn’t-anticipate, or I-didn’t-do when I built my cabin. It was a learning experience.

This is just the intro, Read more of the Article here