PET STAIRS, PET RAMPS - CONTENTS: Building stairs intended for use by pets: dogs, cats, other animals. Product recommendations for buyers of pet stairs & pet ramps. Photographs of unusual stairs and pet accessways in & out of buildings
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Pet stairs & ramps:
This document describes and includes photographs of stairs provided for pets such as dogs & cats inside or outside of buildings. Old or disabled dogs, cats, and even birds, snakes, rabbits and gerbils are sometimes treated by their owners to a personal step or stair to ease their passage in or out of bed or in and out of a building.
Here we provide some examples of creative building access provided for pets, including a remarkable second story catwalk that was actually constructed for cats.
Pet Steps, Ramps, & Doggie Stairs & Catwalks or Ramps in buildings
Our page top photo shows a nice stairway to help an old dog climb into its master's bed. Suffering from hip displacia the dog could no longer jump into bed, so the owners built the steps shown above.
Pet stairs or ramps are also used to assist dogs and other elderly or disabled pets climb onto sofas, into vehicles, etc. Pets with arthritis, hip displacia, overweight problems, or simply old age may benefit from these products.
The dog stair at left is a mail-order pet stair suitable for small dogs or cats. Constructed of carpet-covered foam blocks, this particular model of pet stair would not be suitable for a large heavy dog and would be unsafe for humans to use.
Notice the improper step design? The foam step risers are not uniform in height..
The carpet prevents the dog or other pet from slipping off of the stair tread surface.
No pet stair railings were judged necessary for this particular stair.
Pet ramps and also more sturdy dog steps and dog stairs for senior and other disabled pets are available from several companies.
Pet ramps (usually constructed of fiberglass or plastic) are also provided to assist pets in climbing into vehicles such as the back of an SUV or pickup truck. Typically a pet ramp for vehicles is capable of carrying heavier weights, 110 lbs up to 500 lbs. Floating pet ramps are also provided to assist animals in boarding small boats.
Tips for Choosing a Pet Stair or Ramp - Specifications for a Catwalk
Pet ramps: a ramp for use by pets must be adequate in strength to support the weight of any animal that may walk on it, not so steep that a heavy or elderly pet will find it difficult, and must consider height and pet falling hazards. (Our dog Katie fell from a circular stairway whose balusters were too far apart.
Luckily she was not injured.) Our photo (left) illustrates a catwalk used to permit cat-occupants of an upper building floor to access the fire escape through a window. Closeups of this cat-exit construction, built to give kitty free access to outside, are provided in the article below.
Pet stair height: Choose the proper sized stair or ramp to reach the height of the bed, sofa, or vehicle so that your pet stair does not leave a high jump at the top.
Pet stair railings: if your pet stair is more than 30" high we recommend choosing a model with railings, especially if your pet is elderly or arthritic and has trouble negotiating stairs. The railings should be enclosed with vertical balusters about 4" apart for safety. Our elderly golden retriever fell through widely-spaced balusters on a circular stairway.
Pet stair width: Choose a pet stair that is wide enough that the pet does not fall off to one side when climbing down. A pet ramp or stair that is the right height for your couch may not fit the height of a bed or other furniture.
Pet stair construction: Choose a pet stair or ramp that is firm enough in construction to support the weight of your pet. An elderly overweight rotweiler might have a hard time climbing the soft foam block stairs shown in our photo above.
Foam block construction is fine for smaller, lightweight pets. Compare your pet's weight with the recommended weight limits of the model stair you're going to purchase. Wooden or plastic pet steps are available which will doubtless carry more weight than the foam block type of pet steps.
Pet stair tread safety: carpeting on foam or wooden pet stairs can help prevent a pet from slipping off of the steps. Plastic pet stairs often use a non-slip granulated tread covering for the same purpose.
Pet ramp or stair stability: Choose a pet stair or ramp that will not slide or slip on the floor when the pet is climbing up or down
Proper placement of a pet stair: Place the pet ramp or stair where the human occupants of the building won't trip over it, especially when getting up in the night in a dark room.
Pet stair cleaning: a removable, washable cover, if you actually remove and clean it, may reduce the level of dust mites and allergens in the room where the stair is used. It's still more important (for asthmatics and people with allergies) to regularly clean the areas where the pet spends a lot of time. Plastic or wooden pet stairs, with their hard surfaces, can simply be damp-wiped clean.
Pet ramps for vehicle access: should have a secure or "sticky" pad or hook at the uphill end of the ramp to assure that the ramp won't slide off of the vehicle or other high surface while the ramp is in use by your pet. Dog Ramp.com sells a telescoping dog ramp.
Pet steps for vehicle access: at least one company (Pup Up®) sells a folding stair (canvas steps and risers) to assist pets in and out of vehicles, and probably quite suitable as a traveling pet stair for other uses.
Pet steps for swimming pool access: a poolside-attached pet access stair is available from PoolPup to provide a safety exit stair for pets who might fall into a swimming pool.
A Real Catwalk for Cats
Below our photographs show a catwalk that was actually built for cats. Our client occupied the second floor of a home converted from an antique barn to living space. She needed to let her cats have regular access to outdoors without bothering the downstairs tenant with whom she shared a common entry door.
But what about railings on pet stairs and catwalks? It may be that cats, even elderly cats, rarely fall off of a stair nor off of a narrow catwalk.
However, as our photos show just above, the owner borrowed a design detail from ramps commonly used for chickens and other poultry: she nailed cleats along the cat walk at regular intervals to give better purchase to the cat feet which traversed this high catwalk from a building window to an outdoor fire stair.
Watch out: This catwalk design is not suitable for human use, even in an emergency, which raised a question about indoor access to the second story fire-stair.
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ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standard
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or
ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2,
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The Stairway Manufacturers' Association, (877) 500-5759, provides a pictorial guide to the stair and railing portion of the International Residential Code. [copy on file as http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2006%20Stair%20IRC%20SCREEN.pdf ] -
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