When does your pet need steps?
Pet steps may seem like a luxury item, but they can be a basic necessity for many dogs and cats. This seemingly small purchase can make a big difference in your pet's quality of life, helping him reach your bed for nighttime cuddles. Pet steps can be especially beneficial for senior pets who need to avoid stressing their muscles or joints. This guide will help you determine when you may need pet stairs or ramps and which ones are best for your fur baby.
When Do You Need Pet Steps?
There are a variety of times when pets might benefit from having little steps or stairs to help them reach their favorite snuggle spot on the bed or couch without jumping1 or you having to lift them up every time. Some examples include:
- Pets with arthritis or other joint issues. Sometimes pets develop these issues from age or injury. Other times, a cat or dog breed is simply more prone to having joint or back issues. Cocker Spaniels and Havanese, for example, are more likely to develop hip issues.
- Senior dogs or cats. Older pets need to take things easier in general, as they can often be more fragile and prone to accidents.
- Smaller breeds. Toy breeds, like Chihuahuas, or small felines like munchkin cats may need pet stairs or ramps from a very young age.
- After surgery. When your pet is recovering from surgery, she may need to avoid jumping so she can heal.
- Overweight pets. If your pet has put on a little too much weight, she might need steps, so she doesn't hurt herself trying to jump onto or off the bed or couch.
- An excitable, stressed or even drowsy pet. Some pets may develop a fear of falling or need the safety net that comes from having steps. For example, an extra sleepy kitty that woke up from a long nap might prefer to walk down steps to get her food.
If you have any questions about whether or not your pet needs stairs, talk with your veterinarian.
What Are the Best Pet Stairs for Your Dog or Cat?
The best pet stairs for your dog or cat will depend on their particular needs since there are many varieties to choose from.
For medium-sized dogs and cats, steps designed for people might be just fine to put in front of a bed or couch. The general rule of thumb is that dogs can more easily navigate steps with a depth of 10 to 12 inches.2 For toy-sized or small pet breeds, however, you may want to look for steps specifically designed for smaller animals, so they don't have to take big steps when moving from stair to stair. The key is to make sure your pet can navigate the steps without straining. He needs to feel so comfortable using the steps that he chooses them over jumping.
In addition, a general rule of thumb is that pet stairs need four steps for getting into a high bed and three steps for getting onto a couch since it's a little shorter. You might also want your steps to have a softer surface that cushions your pet's feet when he steps on them. Look for steps with an anti-skid surface or carpeting, so your pet won't slip if he gets a case of the zoomies and decides to run down the stairs.
The K&H Collapsible Pet Stair Steps have sherpa-lined steps with a removable and machine-washable cover and the stairs collapse for easy storing. They also come in a version that includes storage to hold essentials like toys or leashes.
If you take your dog for rides in the car, you'll also want to invest in a set of steps specifically for your vehicle. These need to be foldable so you can store them easily.
Are Stairs or Ramps Better for Dogs and Cats?
While pet-sized stairs are typically ideal for any dog or cat needing a little help, some pets that are a little extra fragile may benefit more from pet ramps. Dachshunds, for example, have long spines that can develop disc disease and other back issues. This breed can hurt their backs just by going up and down standard staircases, so they'll benefit more from ramps.3
If you ever notice your dog or cat having trouble keeping her balance when climbing pet steps, it might be time to transition to a ramp.4 Make sure the ramp is tall enough to reach your bed or couch while also having a small enough incline that it won't be hard on the joints.
Many steps and ramps designed specifically for pets will mention what weight of pet it supports. Look for that information when choosing the right fit for your furry friend.
Although there are a lot of details to consider when choosing pet steps or ramps for your dog or cat, the research and investment are well worth the reward. Once you teach your pet to use the steps, your fur baby can join you on the couch or in bed for a snuggle whenever he wants, without putting stress on his delicate joints or muscles.
1. Reisen, Jan. "Does Your Dog Need Dog Stairs or a Ramp?" American Kennel Club, 13 January 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-stairs-and-ramps/.
3. NorthStar Vets. "Ask the NorthStar VETS Vet: Avoiding Back Problems in Dachshunds." NorthStarVets.com, 10 May 2013, http://www.northstarvets.com/blog/ask-the-northstar-vets-vet-avoiding-back-problems-in-dachshunds/.
4. Reisen, Jan, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-stairs-and-ramps/.