What To Do With A Pet When You’re Selling/Showing Your House

Miranda CraceUPDATED: August 21, 2022

Last year when we were selling our house, my realtor made it very clear that my German Shepherd was not to be seen or heard by buyers. Not during impromptu showings, and certainly not during open houses. Nor were any bowls, beds or toys to be around.

So, when a showing was arranged for a buyer, I’d take my dog on a long hike, or arrange a playdate with a doggy friend. It was inconvenient, but the house sold in just two weeks, so it was worth the extra effort.

Creatures Great And Small

It’s not just dogs. If you have a cat, bird, or terrarium of snakes, you should consider removing them – all traces of them –  when you’re selling your house. Even ardent cat lovers may not enjoy a view of a smelly litter box or having your cat rub against them as they walk through your home.

And let’s face it, that’s the bottom line. You want people walking in to notice the features of the house and envision themselves living in the space.

Getting Your House Ready

When you decide to sell, take a good look around – both inside and out – and make a list of pet-related repairs.

Anything chewed, scratched or clawed should be replaced.

If your pet lays against a painted wall or door, consider repainting so it appears “fresh.”

If you have claw or chew marks on your furniture, consider storing those pieces while your home is on the market. The last thing you want to do is catch a buyer’s eye so they’re looking at pet damage and not the sizes and light in your rooms.

Carpets And Floors

When dog or cat urine sits in carpeting, the urine can soak through to the pad and flooring below.

If you have pet stains in your carpet, you’ll need to hire a professional cleaner. If the stains can’t be removed by the pros, you should replace the carpet. If the flooring below has been damaged, you will have to replace that, too.

Don’t try to cover pet stains with an area rug or by strategically placing furniture. If buyers, or their real estate agent, see that you’re hiding something, they’ll wonder what else you’re hiding and probably head toward the door.

Needless to say, indoor litter boxes should be kept clean and out of sight. Your real estate agent can share ideas on where to put the boxes so they won’t be accidentally discovered by a buyer who opens a closet or goes into the laundry room.

Your Yard

You may want to consider pet damage outside, too.

If your dog runs along the fence and has worn a rut in the grass, it could be beneficial to fill it in. If your pet has dug holes or otherwise damaged your landscape, replant it. If there are bowls and pet toys on your patio or in your yard, keep them in one area so you can pick them up quickly for showings.

You may also want to repair damage by wild animals like deer, squirrels, mice or moles. And if you think you may have critters living inside, say up in the attic or in the wall of the basement, call an exterminator.

Final Check

Once you think your house is ready, have your agent or a friend walk through and do a sniff and visual inspection. Take note of any lingering odors or signs of pets they detect and take steps to remove or mitigate the problem.

Strategies For Showings

If you and your pets are living in your house while it’s for sale, you’ll need a room-by-room plan to quickly remove or hide pet belongings and vacuum before showings.


By vacuuming twice a day you’ll reduce pet dander (which can affect people with pet allergies) and it will be fast to spot vacuum only where needed. You’ll also want to remove pet bowls, toys and beds.

Pet Day Care

A final step in your plan should be taking your pets off the premises while the house is being shown. If you can’t take your pets with you, ask a friend or neighbor to care for them for a few hours, or find a pet day care or pet sitter in your area. Some services even have on-demand sitting arrangements available.

Leaving your pets in the backyard, in your garage or in a spare room is not a good idea. Someone will open that door or walk outside, and even the mildest-mannered dog can become defensive of its turf. It’s just not worth the risk to leave your pets in the home.

In my case, I relocated my dog’s crate in the garage so I could quickly tidy the house when an agent called (turning on lights, spot vacuuming, throwing designer blankets on beds, lighting candles, etc.) with the dog out of the way. I put all toys, bowls and dog beds in the crate and exit with my dog through the garage. My plan took about 20 minutes once I had it down. When agents and buyers came through, if they went into the garage at all, they’d just see a blanketed square box.

My agent and I felt this was an acceptable compromise.

Eye On The Prize

When your home’s on the market, your life can be disrupted at a moment’s notice. A call during dinner, while you’re getting ready for work, or when you’re at the gym can send you running home to fluff and pick up Fido.

While it’s inconvenient, the selling stage won’t last forever. Having your home looking its best, and pet free, gives agents the opportunity to help buyers envision it as their own, and hopefully it will sell quickly.

Miranda Crace

Miranda Crace is a Senior Section Editor for the Rocket Companies, bringing a wealth of knowledge about mortgages, personal finance, real estate, and personal loans for over 10 years.