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5 customized homes that provide luxury living for pets

Photo credit: Hiroyuki Oki

Some animal lovers are taking drastic measures to create luxurious and easy-to-clean living environments for their four-legged family members.

And the trend is catching on: Irvine, California-based Standard Pacific Homes, one of the country's largest homebuilding companies, recently announced it will begin offering 170-square-foot pet suites as an option in 27 housing developments nationwide. Featured pet amenities will include a washing station, pet dryer, automated feeder, toy cabinet and French doorway leading to a puppy run.

There are even more elaborate pet palaces out there. To meet the needs of die-hard pet parents, other homebuilders are customizing properties with features like dog stairs, cat tunnels and litter box cabinets.

Here are five homes of very pampered animals.

Dog staircase and windows

Photo credit: Hiroyuki Oki

This modern home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, was designed for the dogs. The owners asked their friend Joe Chikamori of 07BEACH to create a custom space that would accommodate their two lucky pets. Chikamori took the request one step further and set out to design a place where daily life for all of them could be "more fun than usual."

The home, which was completed in 2012, features a dual staircase with separate heights for human and canine legs. The two levels are separated by a hand rail, but are otherwise open to each other and the rest of the living area.

Dog staircase and windows

Photo credit: Hiroyuki Oki

Chikamori also added a set of parallel rectangular dog windows near the floor for the dogs to watch the outside world. One is at perfect eye-level for the larger pup, and the other is just right for the shorter one.

Dog room with shower area

Photo credit: Morning Star Builders

You'd never know this picture-perfect custom dog room was partially inspired by RV design. Ted Cummins, chief creative officer of Morning Star Builders in Huston, said he likes to camp in the RV he shares with his wife Yvonne and is inspired by the innovative ways mobile dwellings utilize storage.

"There are features in RVs where you go, 'Wow, who thought of that?'" he said. "I was looking at those and saw a dog dish that turned around. I thought that was pretty silly, but a good way to create pet space."

The approximately 5,000-square-foot home was built in 2011 as part of the Southern Living Custom Builder Program Showcase. The shower and unique multi-function cabinetry in the dog area caused quite a stir, Cummins said, and the home was sold to a pet-loving client shortly afterward.

"There were so many people laughing and giggling and taking pictures at the showcase that you couldn't even get into the room," said Cummins. "Obviously it was well-received."

Outdoor dog area at the 2012 New American Home

Photo credit: Phil Kean Design Group

When designer-builder Phil Kean of the Phil Kean Design Group set out to create the 2012 New American Home in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), he didn't forget his two basset hounds, Winston and Agnes. Now, the property's outdoor limestone patio, shower and 45-foot dog run is their domain.

The 4,181-square-foot, two-bedroom property in Winter Park, Florida, is equipped with cutting edge technology inside and out. It is a fully automated smart house that can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet and is expected to use 52 percent less energy than standard homes of a similar size, according to JetsonGreen.com. The dog area is no exception, featuring an automated pet door that is activated by electronic collars.

Outdoor dog area at the 2012 New American Home

Photo credit: Phil Kean Design Group

"This New American Home used the most up-to-date products to really showcase what you can do," said Amy Thrasher, director of marketing at Phil Kean Design.

Even the dog run is high-tech. The area is covered in artificial turf called K9 Grass, which is designed especially for dogs. It is easier to clean than natural grass and is meant to provide a better-smelling environment without looking too outrageous.

Under-stair cat box enclosure

Photo credit: Spring Creek Design

According to Spring Creek Design CEO Pete Cooper, cat owners can run into problems if they decide to finish their basements.

"You are trying to create living space in what used to be the cat's domain," he said. "People wonder, 'What are we going to do with the cat box?'"

Under-stair cat box enclosure

Photo credit: Spring Creek Design

His solution for this Pennsylvania basement refurb was to build a subtle litter box enclosure under the staircase, along with lots of extra storage drawers for toys and other necessities. Cooper attached the front panel, which is made out of maple veneer, with magnets for easy access.

This Spring Creek design was made for one cat. However, the company has tackled projects for multiple pets in the past.

"We did one once for a four-cat household that looked similar from the outside, but it had two cat boxes inside it and the whole unit was in a drawer so it could be easy to clean," Cooper said.

House of Neko

Photo credit: Trillium Enterprises

Architect Peter Cohen really likes his cats. Inspired by the book "The Cat's House" by feline remodeling enthusiast Bob Walker, Cohen spent between $30,000 and $40,000 renovating his Goleta, California, home to accommodate 18 indoor cats. Since the renovation, he's started calling it the "House of Neko," which means "cat" in Japanese.

Cohen, who is the owner of custom homebuilding company Trillium Enterprises, moved in to his home in 1988. He started turning it into a fully-fledged cat palace in the mid-1990s, adding catwalks, scratching posts, hidden tunnels, feline décor and a concealed area for some of the cats' 24 litter boxes with exhaust fans to eliminate the odor.

House of Neko

Photo credit: Trillium Enterprises

The cat-friendly additions are playful, but also practical. Cohen created access points throughout the tunnel system so he could keep it clean and reach his pets in case of an emergency. He gave the cats at least two ways to get out of every location so none of them get stuck. The home also has 25 security cameras and several other smart features -- including locks, window shades, a thermostat and lighting -- that can be controlled from Cohen's iPhone.