Living in a Tiny House with Pets Takes Planning

Our dogs enjoy sunning on a warm afternoon, but they are all inside pets


When we moved to Our Little House in 2007, we arrived with 4 dogs and 2 elderly cats. Living in a small space with pets is not easy, just like with everything else in a tiny house, it takes a lot of planning.

After watching the third episode of Tiny House Nation on the FYI channel on Wednesday night, let’s just say I was more than disappointed.

As the host was looking at the pile of clothes on the bed to be donated, he said, “As I look at this pile to donate, I can’t help but notice there is a cat sitting in the middle of it. Have you decided what you’re going to do with them? Because that is a big concern.”

The couple, who was downsizing to save money so they could travel the world, had one dog and two cats. The 8-year-old cats didn’t get along with the dog and they had them separated in their large house by keeping them on separate floors.

I was disappointed in the show, but not surprised. After the host asked the family last week if their dog could “become an outside dog” I knew it wouldn’t be long before someone on the show gave up their pets to live their tiny house dream.

(The family in that episode said that their dogs could not stay outside due to the rural location and they were afraid for their safety. This is just one reason a pet conditioned to living inside should not suddenly be exiled to being an “outside” pet).

The BIG thing I have a problem with in this last episode was that the cats were being presented as things that needed to be dealt with like the clothes and the guy’s home brew operation that he had to give to a friend.

As a matter of fact, the show’s host even called both the home brew operation and the cats a “sacrifice” that was going to have to be made.

PETS ARE NOT DISPOSALBE inanimate objects. They are living, breathing beings.

The couple featured in Tiny House Nation ended up giving their two 8-year-old cats, pets that they said had been with them throughout their entire relationship, to friends.

That doesn’t even honor the spirit of tiny house living which is to live with what you truly love.

I guess we can be glad that they didn’t dump them in a shelter as over 10 million animals are abandoned annually.

As an animal lover, pet journalist and a person who has worked in animal rescue, I can tell you that one of the top reasons people give for abandoning the millions of pets each year is that they cannot take them with them when they move (typically, they say, because their new rental will not allow pets).

I realize the focus of the show is not pets and I’m aware that these reality shows have to create some kind of drama (one thing I hate about them), but Tiny House Nation had such a great opportunity here to educate people on responsible pet guardianship.

These points should have been made in the show:

  • Pets are a 10-20 year commitment. If you’re not in a position to take on that responsibility that could last a whole generation, don’t do it, wait until you are.
  • Why was a dog brought into the family without first knowing if the cats and dog could get along. Was proper socialization and training given a chance here?
  • You have the cats now, so a lifestyle change for the sake of a lifestyle change is not a good reason to give them up. Several things could have been done without making the cats “sacrifices” to this couple’s wants.

This couple did not lose their job or their home. They weren’t experiencing a financial hardship or a serious medical issue. They didn’t have a child who suddenly developed an allergy to their 4-legged family members.

They were moving so they could do what they wanted to do, travel the world. Damned be the lifelong commitment they made to the cats they took responsibility for.

They decided to give up their cats because the home the show designed for them could not accommodate their special need to keep their dog and cats separated.

For that, I call bullshit, because it shows people that any reason is a good reason to give up your pets.

They had originally thought of designing the space with a loft, why couldn’t a loft space be designed especially for the cats? Homes with special dog/cat rooms are becoming quite vogue.

It takes a lot of planning to live in a small space full time, especially if you have children or pets. You wouldn’t give up your kids to live tiny, why would you abandon your responsibility to your animals?

The show left me wondering where this couple will decide to leave the dog when they begin traveling?

Did you see the show, what did you think about the couple giving up their cats?


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34 Responses

  1. Susan says:

    This is a comment about a different pet than on the show you mentioned. Parrots. We get them in the rescue all the time. One lady gave up her little parrot after 10 years. It was a delightful and loving bird. She was not moving to a new place or experiencing financial hardship. As for me, I will gladly give up my TV (living room does not have one anyway) or some piece of furniture to keep my lifelong avian friend. I dislike when people suddenly decide a pet does not fit their lifestyle anymore, like some pair of shoes that you are tired of!!

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Susan. Any living thing we take responsibility for, be it a lizard, snake, turtle, bird, rabbit, hamster, etc. has the right to have a stable home for the rest of its life. I did a story once on a bird rescue in KC. That is just as heartbreaking because birds live much longer.

  2. Miranda says:

    I absolutely cannot believe how easy it is for some people to throw away their pets – their family! My boyfriend and I have house rabbits and are planning our tiny house to fit their needs. Pets’ comfort and happiness is a priority that we vow to see to the minute we bring them home. It isn’t acceptable to get rid of our pets when that becomes an effort.

  3. JALYNNE says:


    • Kerri says:

      Thank you for your comments, Jalynne! Yes, pets are a part of our families. I’m so glad that at 9 years old, you recognize how important it is to make a lifelong commitment for them. Way to go!

  4. Lauree says:

    I just found your blog and am enjoying my coffee as I read through it. I saw this episode and I simply don’t have respect for those people. It makes me sad that people just give up their pets like that. The guy had the one cat since before her, if I remember right. When we moved a year ago and had to rent, we would only look at houses that would take animals because our pets are a part of our family.

  5. stef says:

    We live in a small place, and now have a 12 year old cat who was abandoned by her owner, with the excuse that “the new apt will not allow cats”. Twelve years! Can you imagine? There would be such a bond after twelve years!How people can throw away a an animal like they donate clothing is beyond me.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Stef. It would be like abandoning a child to me. I’ve had fosters for 12 days and cannot imagine getting rid of them!

  6. Christine says:

    I was also extremely disappointed in this episode. I was looking forward to seeing how they would come up with a creative solution which would allow all of the pets to live together. I once saw an episode of the Dog Whisperer where he was able to get the family dog to get along with cats and to stop chasing around other small animals, and I just assumed that they would be doing something along those lines. I was so horrified that they gave their cats away!!

    • Kerri says:

      I’m with you, Christine. I kept thinking, “Surely, they will find a trainer or find a solution,” but they didn’t. We had a dachshund with a high prey drive and she chased our cats for days before we finally got her to quit. No one had to go anywhere. 🙂

  7. Vicky says:

    I was so disgusted by this episode, I won’t be watching this show again. Those cats deserve better humans than these two, and I have my doubts that they were giving the cats to “friends.” The host of the show infuriated me when he said, “It’s best for everyone,” when they decided to throw away their cats in favor of the dog. I’m done with the FYI network. They have another show, Rowhouse Renovation, where the contestants act like amoral, boastful jerks. Not a pleasant viewing experience.

  8. Kelly says:

    Hello! I’m so happy to read your and others attesting their commitment to their pets. I agree that pets are not disposable. It’s disheartening to hear people give up their pets for what is believed to be unmanageable.

    As someone who plans to downsize to tiny house in the next few years, do you have any insight or suggestions on what I might include in our tiny cottage-home to accommodate a dog? Perhaps a dog cubbie? We currently have two cats who are comfortable pretty much anywhere as long as we are near. I hope to foster dog(s), even if we live in a small home. Any ideas you have would be welcomed!


    • Kerri says:

      Hi, Kelly! Welcome to Living Large and congratulations on your planned downsizing. Thank YOU for your commitment to your pets and to homeless ones as well. Do you know how small you’re going to go? We’re in 480-sq. ft. We have 5 rescues and have had as many as 7 here (all inside) with fosters. Ours do not stay in crates and so they’re just spread out all over the floors with their beds. If your dog is crate trained, I would say to plan a space in your house where the dog can be comfortable in his crate. Many homes are being designed these days with “pet rooms,” so I would say a cubby for your dog wouldn’t be unreasonable. The only thing I did like about that show the other night was how they designed the island with a dog food drawer. Since you have cats, don’t forget to design a space for that cat box! Good luck!

  9. Kristie says:

    I am glad to find someone who shared the same feelings towards this episode as I did! I was simply horrified! There is no way I’d ever, every give up my cats. When I adopted them, it was for their entire lives. And I also questioned why the dog was brought into the household and never socialized to the cats. They were there first…

    • Kerri says:

      You’re in good company here, Kristie. Looks like many people were turned off by this episode. Good for you for sticking by your furbabies. That’s the way it should be.

  10. Holly says:

    I made a commitment to my animals when they came to live in our home… I will keep a roof over their heads with us and food in their bowls until the day they leave this earth. This show, which I have liked until now, disgusts me. Animals are not possessions that can be surrendered to the garbage or pushed outside with a belongings purge… So you can travel the world? What a bunch of sickos. I would like to travel the world too, but I have responsibilities. Would they just leave their child with a friend because diapers cost too much money. Get a second job… Or a third… Sell your stripper pole… What a couple of pukes… And the show producers. Disgusted

    • Kerri says:

      Yep, I’m done with the show, too, Holly. When I was just out of school, I was thinking of going into the military. The overriding factor of why I didn’t? I could not take my 2 Maltese with me. I had taken responsibility for their care for the rest of their lives. My dreams of seeing the world while on assignment was second to that commitment I made to them.

  11. Donna O. says:

    Wow…how really sad to hear this. I’m not familiar with the show, and while I probably would have been interested in it had a known about it before I read this, I have zero interest in it now.

    Animals are not things to be discarded when they no longer convenient. It’s one thing to have to rehome an animal because it does not get along with another one in your household, but that clearly doesn’t seem to be the case here — otherwise they would have done it back when the animals stopped getting along. 🙁

    • Kerri says:

      The way I understood it, Donna, is that they had 2 cats from the beginning of their relationship. A dog was introduced later, which didn’t do well with the cats. It didn’t say, what, if anything had been done about socialization and training to help them get along. They just kept them on separate floors. It was a really sad situation for the kitties.

  12. Brian says:

    My impression of yourself and your husband is that you take similar considerations before growing your four legged family, so the apologetically lengthy post was more to confirm your passionate post with a resonant view and life choices. Thank you for informative and enjoyable posts.

    • Kerri says:

      🙂 Sometimes it’s all we can do to admit that we can’t save them all. I wish we could, but there is that fine line between saving and hoarding. Thanks for being a TRUE Living Larger, Brian and for being with us on this journey.

  13. Pamela says:

    So glad to see your readers also see the wrongheadedness of Tiny House Nation’s approach to animals. I won’t feel bad about not watching it.

    As we prepare to buy and move aboard a sailboat, our dog is at the heart of all our discussions: If she can’t adapt to long passages, will we be content with coastal cruising? How will we get her safely in and out of a dinghy? How will we feed her healthy food without access to a regular pet supply?

    Yes, we’re having to make many decisions about our life choices because of Honey. But one of them would never be is she going with us. If we saw any indication from our previous trips that she couldn’t handle sailing, we’d all stay ashore together.

    • Kerri says:

      That’s wonderful, Pamela! We used to have a dog that boated with us, we didn’t sail on long journeys, but she loved going out with us every weekend. A friend and writing colleague of mine sails with their daughter and their cat on long trips. Good luck to you, cannot wait to hear about your adventures!

  14. Cheryl says:

    I was the same as you, as soon as they showed the cats I knew they would get rid of them. What bugged me though was the fact they kept the dog, who obviously had behavioral problems and who had to be crated a lot, which is cruel to the dog in my opinion. The dog needed to go to a home where he had plenty of room to run around whereas the cats could have been kept in the tiny house.

    I just moved from a house to a small apartment and made sure I found one that would allow me to keep my furkid!

    • Kerri says:

      Cheryl, We didn’t know enough about the dog to know how old he was or why he chewed. It could have been he was a young dog or that he chewed because he is bored. With the proper commitment to socialization and their build, they could have kept them all. I was seriously concerned about that crating thing, though.

  15. Kerri says:

    I was horrified watching the show because I knew where they were going when the cat was sitting on the pile of clothes to be “donated.” Ugh.

  16. It’s just beyond me how anybody can give away a pet that they’ve raised from a kitten or a puppy, or even adopted as an adult animal. Do they have no compassion for how an animal must feel when the only family they’ve ever known just disappears from their lives? Cats have no way to express that, but anybody who has cats knows they feel emotions deeply. There are all kinds of ways to keep animals in a small space. My sister lives in under a thousand square feet and she has two cats and FOUR dogs! She had an outdoor enclosure for her cats installed on her house, so they can go outside but not roam free. It gives them a way to escape the dogs if they want to, and to get to experience fresh air and the outside environment. And it was not expensive. I hope the show suffers backlash for nonchalantly presenting the abandonment of pets as just another “sacrifice” that had to be made in order for owners to have their dreams come true. How cruel and heartless.

  17. We don’t get that channel, so I’ve not seen the show, but I’m not surprised … SO many of these home / real estate shows present pets as a “problem.”

    • Kerri says:

      It’s very frustrating, Roxanne, when they have the platform to help educate about responsible pet guardianship.

  18. Brian says:


    First, thank you for “calling out” the callousness of the shows human subjects, not to mention the vulgarity of the producers. I did not see the show and probably will not waste my time now.

    Regarding the couple and their cats, forgive a “soapbox” rant. I also give time to animal shelters and yes, far too many are there because the family threw it away. The reason is pretty much worthless. Our first house, slightly less than 1000 sq. ft., was soon shared with tree adult Rottweilers, all rescued from various places. The next three houses were purchased ALWAYS with the needs of our four legged family. This included not only their immediate needs but also a sensitivity to new neighbors. Our pack changed due to age and health, but this central, guiding tenant remained. Only once, during a stint in an apartment, did we have to make a truly terrible decision when a rescued mix breed became “dangerous” to other dogs and we literally had no where else to live. Giving him away wasn’t possible, and dumping him at the local shelter, a true hell hole, was never an option. After seven years of joy, euthanasia was the horrible choice, something that haunts us still, more than two years later. Now, we are weeks away from closing on a house, again, small, barely 1000 sq. ft., and the question of opening up our hearts and lives to a new family member is forefront in thoughts and conversation. How large? Young or an older dog? There are steps from the back door deck to the yard so how will that impact an older dogs mobility? No carpet anywhere in the house so again, will this impact mobility on an older dog? Do we have the real time needed for any young dog?

    It would be frightfully easy to quickly rescue a dog from one of the local shelters. But I believe, unless the dog gods demand otherwise, it will be a few months before we can make such a long term commitment again. That, I believe, is the real problem. Decisions are made that impact another creatures life with the same amount of thought as buying a new pair of jeans. (Often less, as clothes usually are tied to self image).

    I don’t have to tell you how we live in a consumeristic and hyper-individualistic society. Animals are just one more item to be accrued. Opening a home to a new member from a different species demands thought and consideration. American humanity would rather relinquish this demand to the marketers and media. And frankly, seeing the overwhelming majority of attitudes from humans dumping OR adopting an animal, I don’t have much hope for a positive change soon. Animal advocates are the little boy with his finger in the leaking dike’s hole. And we are running out of fingers.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you for your response, Brian. It sounds like you are truly a person who takes into consideration the lives of the animals you take in and plan before you do. I agree, it does feel like we’re running out of fingers to plug those holes and then show such as this, which seemingly thinks it’s just OK to categorize pets with excess clothes and a home brewery, well, I’m still livid.