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How to Make the Best Backyard for Your Dog or Cat

As cozy as your home may be, your fur baby longs to be in the great outdoors. These ideas will transform your backyard into a pet paradise.

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The Australian Shepherd Aussie dog catches a flying discOlgaOvcharenko/Shutterstock

Why your outdoor space needs a pet-friendly makeover

Our pets are our babies, and just like with human children, we want them to be stimulated, active, and happy. The backyard is the perfect place to make that happen. “By making a safe, fun environment, we can help to add mental and physical stimulation to our pets’ lives,” says professional dog trainer Nicole Ellis, an expert at the Dog People on Rover.com and author of Working Like a Dog. Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, there are several easy ways to transform your backyard space into a fun, welcoming haven for your pet.

01_Install-a-cat-fencevia amazon.com

Install a cat fence

Dogs aren’t the only pets who should get to play outside. One great way to make the backyard welcoming and fun for your favorite feline is to secure it with a fencing system made especially for cats, such as the Kitty Corral Cat Fence Conversion System. “This keeps other animals out and keeps your cat in—giving you the freedom to set up the yard for fun,” says Mikel Delgado, a certified applied animal behaviorist and a cat expert on Rover.com. “It also gives your cat the security that no strange cats will be coming into their turf.” If you already have your backyard fenced in, this cat-proof fence topper will keep your cat contained and content. How safe is your kitty? Here are 12 dangerous mistakes cat owners should never make.

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02_Add-an-invisible-fencevia amazon.com

Add an invisible fence

If the idea of an actual fence makes you cringe, you can set up an invisible fence for your cat or dog. It gives them the outdoor freedom they desire and the safety they need—without compromising your backyard aesthetic. The PetSafe Wireless Dog and Cat Containment System is made by the same company as the Invisible Fence, but it’s a fraction of the price and you can set it up yourself. It covers an adjustable circular area of up to half an acre and is completely portable, meaning that there are no wires to bury.

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03_Construct-a-'catio'via amazon.com

Construct a “catio”

If you live in an apartment or a condo with a small patio, you can still give your cat some territory to reign over. “A catio, or outdoor enclosure, is another way to give your cat safe outdoor time,” suggests Delgado. For the truly devoted cat aficionado, check out the Purrfect Playhouse Outdoor Catio. If you’ve got a curious cat (and you’re feeling ambitious), you don’t have to stay on the patio. Believe it or not, you can train your feline to walk on a leash—or even use a toilet.

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04_Shield-your-pet-with-shadevia amazon.com

Shield your pet with shade

Cats and dogs love lounging in the sun, but like humans, too much sun can take a toll on them. Delgado urges you to make sure the backyard has shaded and protected areas for them as well. This will ensure that they don’t overheat and that they have somewhere to go if it rains. You can either hang a big tarp or sunblock shade in your yard or purchase your little pal a cot with removable canopy, like this one from Floppy Dawg. This indoor/outdoor pet bed is lightweight, portable, and comes in a variety of colors, sizes, and patterns.

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05_Plant-some-cat-friendly-herbsvia amazon.com

Plant some cat-friendly herbs

Make sure to avoid using toxic plants and products that could be harmful to your furry family members. And if you have a green thumb, think about planting some pet-friendly plants. Delgado suggests cat grasses (like these from Perfect Plants), catnip, and cat mint. “Some cats really enjoy rolling in warm dirt, so think about giving them a little bed of dirt they can roll in,” she adds. Ever wonder what it is about catnip that makes your kitty go crazy? This is exactly what catnip does to cats.

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06_Get-an-outdoor-fountain-for-your-catvia amazon.com

Get an outdoor fountain for your cat

Cats might not like to swim, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love playing around in water. A fountain, like this Bamboo Accents Zen Garden Water Fountain, can provide hours of entertainment for your cat, as well as dress up your outdoor space. “Try putting some ping-pong balls in a fountain,” suggests Delgado. “Many cats can’t resist the bobbing toy in the moving water!” And in case you were wondering, this is why so many cats seem to hate water.

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07_Give-your-dog-a-place-to-do-the-doggy-paddlevia amazon.com

Give your dog a place to do the doggy paddle

If your dog likes to swim—or just chill out in shallow water—Ellis suggests getting him a shallow pool of his own. This Jasonwell Foldable Pool is sturdy enough for dogs (and even kids) and easily collapses down for your convenience. It is also available in a variety of sizes, ranging from 32 inches up to 63 inches. If you feel like leaving the comfort of your backyard, here are 12 dog-friendly beaches across the country to visit.

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08_Encourage-your-pup-to-mark-his-territoryvia amazon.com

Encourage your pup to mark his territory

Instead of letting your dog pee all over your plants and even your house, Ellis suggests providing him with some “fun and easy” items to mark in your backyard. Since dogs love to pee on vertical structures, large stones can do the trick. Or you can buy this awesome Mayrich Dog Fire Hydrant, which isn’t actually a fire hydrant but a resin statue made to look like one.

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09_Give-your-cat-a-place-to-scratchvia amazon.com

Give your cat a place to scratch

Delgado says that anything cats enjoy inside, they will likely enjoy outside, too. Since scratching is one of their favorite pastimes, simply bring their scratching post outdoors—or invest in one that’s a little more outdoor-friendly. The Ultimate Scratching Post from Pioneer Pet SmartCat has amassed a near-perfect score on Amazon, with more than 8,500 glowing reviews. If scratching is an issue in your house, don’t miss these tips on how to keep your cat from clawing up your furniture.

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10_Construct-a-sand-pit-for-your-dogvia amazon.com

Construct a sand pit for your dog

Just like little kids, dogs like to dig! A sand pit won’t only keep your pooch active and happy—it will also prevent him from digging in places that are off-limits. Just make sure to keep the sand pit or box covered when your pup isn’t playing in it to discourage other animals (including cats) from using it as a giant litter box. This Step2 Play and Store Sandbox with Cover may be made for kids, but your canine child will enjoy it just as much!

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11_Invest-in-outdoor-toysvia amazon.com

Invest in outdoor toys

Keep a bin of weatherproof toys outside so your pooch can play all afternoon under the sun—and you don’t have to worry if you forget to bring them in when it rains. Rocco & Roxie’s line of nearly indestructible toys are made out of seriously durable materials and are perfect for outdoor chewing enjoyment. Want to splurge on some more stuff for your pooch? Here are 15 things your dog wishes you’d buy from Petco.

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12_Create-a-pooch-playgroundvia amazon.com

Create a pooch playground

You don’t need to go all out with permanent slides and structures to provide your pooch with hours of endless entertainment as well as exercise. But adding a ramp or some fun play equipment, like this collapsible Houseables Dog Tunnel, are easy and relatively inexpensive ways to make a fun playground for your pooch, says Ellis.

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13_Provide-a-pool-float-for-Fidovia amazon.com

Provide a pool float for Fido

Just like humans enjoy lounging on a floating device in the pool, so do many dogs. Luckily, there are pool floats made especially for our furry companions. This SwimWays Spring Float Paddle Paws comes in two sizes, accommodating dogs of all sizes. It is constructed out of a paw-and-claw-friendly fabric covering and puncture-resistant construction, ensuring that your dog will be able to enjoy hours upon hours of floating enjoyment. What other activities does your pet enjoy? Here are 50 secrets your pet can’t tell you.

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14_Get-a-pet-gazebovia amazon.com

Get a pet gazebo

Looking for a modern, stylish, and high-quality alternative to the traditional (and sometimes ugly) dog crate/kennel? The Advantek Pet Gazebo is great for full-time use in your backyard, and it assembles in just a few minutes without the need for any tools. Dog owners love it because of its superior quality and also the shade it provides dogs on hot days. There are a variety of modular configurations, sizes, and color/finish options available.

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15_Construct-a-cat-condovia amazon.com

Construct a cat condo

What cat wouldn’t love an outdoor playhouse? This Petsfit Outdoor Cat House is made out of solid wood, has a weatherproof roof, and is raised off the ground to keep it dry when it rains. It also features a front door for easy access, as well as an escape door under the ladder that helps cats get away from predators, if necessary. It accommodates one to three cats, making it the perfect gathering place for all of your feline friends. Another bonus: It’s small enough to fit on your patio or balcony, so no backyard is needed! Now, learn the things you do that makes your pet tick.

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Leah Groth
Leah is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, mother and product junkie. Her obsessions include old houses, home design, fashion, beauty, books and anything that makes her life — which includes working full-time and taking care of two "spirited" children and a Vizsla puppy — a little bit easier. Her work has appeared on a variety of publications and websites, including Glamour, Prevention, Business Insider, Livestrong, Mindbodygreen, Fatherly, Scary Mommy, Wonderwall and Cosmopolitan.