The best ways to make your home pet-friendly

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Humans have lived with animals since prehistoric times, and for good reason. Besides being adorable, having a pet has been shown to make people healthier as well. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, having a four-legged companion around has been shown to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels and feelings of loneliness. Pets can also motivate people to exercise more or socialize with other pet owners.

While the benefits of having a pet are undeniable, there are still plenty of challenges. Despite how cute and cuddly they may be, without the right training, equipment and care, a pet can wreak havoc on a home. If you're planning on adopting a new member of the family, there are a few key steps to take to ease the transition, and make the experience a good one for everyone.

Establish barriers
We all want our pets to feel like another member of the family. But with their propensity to get dirty and scratch up the couch, it's not always that easy. According to Realtor.com, your pet won't take it personally if you establish a couple of barriers in certain areas of your home. For example, you may want to preserve your new living room carpet, or perhaps you have some fragile objects in your bedroom that could get knocked over by a clumsy cat. Veterinarian Patrick Mahaney told Realtor.com that establishing these kinds of barriers is a good way to curtail their natural urge to explore.

"Most animals explore their environment with their noses and mouths," Mahaney said. "It's common for indoor and outdoor items to be sniffed, licked, or chewed upon, so it's crucial to use physical barriers. Baby gates, doors, screens, and other barriers can do the trick."

If you're OK with getting a little more cozy with your pet, there are more subtle barriers that can be created. If shedding fur is an issue, cover furniture in a large throw blanket and make sure your pet knows they can only curl up in that spot. This makes cleaning extremely easy.

It's also a good idea to establish an area specifically for dogs or cats to eat in. As veterinarian Judy Morgan told Realtor.com, she set aside a room in her basement where her cats and dogs could eat without scratching the hardwood floors upstairs. Creating a separate space for a pet's meals means less hassle over cleanup, and will also help them establish healthy eating habits by getting them accustomed to patterns.

What's on (and in) the floor
If you're not able to set aside another area where pets can eat, you may want to consider your flooring options. Morgan recommended bamboo flooring, since it is harder than typical wood floors and is more resistant to scratching. It also lacks grooves or spaces between or inside panels which can make cleanup even more of a mess. Another pet-proof flooring option is tile, which is also easy to clean and tough to mess up. Smart homeowners could even find recycled rubber tire flooring, which makes for a great option in basements and can repel dirt and debris. Pet owners should shy away from carpet, or at least plan to buy a quality vacuum if their pet tends to shed a lot. Since pet hair can become easily trapped within carpet, this type of flooring can also make allergies worse. Consider scheduling a home inspection that includes an air quality check to stay informed on how to control pet allergens.

Once your pet is all settled in, make sure not to leave too much of their stuff lying around. Chewed bones or litter boxes in the middle of a room make for massive eyesores for guests, even if you get used to them. This is another instance when having a pet-specific area would be beneficial. Bring in shelves or drawers for pet toys, treats and other necessities and keep them in this area. This may also be a good place to put their bed or crate so they can have their own space. Don#039;t feel like you are excluding your pet from the rest of the family. In fact, they may appreciate having their own spot to hang out.