If your household is among the more than 46 million that owns one or more of approximately 76.2 million dogs or 86.4 million cats, you may also at times take your beloved pooch or kitty along with you in the car. But is your car really that pet-friendly?

Granted, you’ve probably got the appropriate crates and carriers, but when it comes to buying a new vehicle, you may be interested to know the 8 must-have new car features to be pet-friendly.

1. Low bumper height – Getting an arthritic or older animal to jump up or climb into a vehicle may be a consideration for some pet owners. But a low bumper height makes getting crates into and out of the car a whole lot easier as well.

2. Flat load floor – And loading and unloading of dog crates requires a flat load floor, as well as the vehicle being of sufficient height, width and depth to accommodate the crate. Typically, SUVs and crossovers offer the best cargo capacity, although many wagons and hatchbacks do as well.

3. Fold-flat seats – Along with the flat load floor, you really need fold-flat rear seats to be truly flexible and accommodating for your pet – especially larger canines or multiple dogs carried in several smaller or one larger crate.

4. Tie-down hooks and storage space – Definitely look for a vehicle that’s equipped with (or can be optioned to include) tie-down hooks and leash loops to secure dog harnesses and crates. But you also need sufficient storage capacity for portable food and water for your pet during any road or car trips. Don’t forget room to stow your pet’s favorite toys, pet first-aid kit and other necessities.

5. Passive lock system – How many times have you fumbled for your keys while your eager dog jumped up and scratched your car? With a passive lock system, doors automatically unlock as you approach the vehicle, while a touch on the keyfob opens the trunk or tailgate. Even better are the hands-free power liftgate options, like that offered on the 2013 Ford Escape compact crossover. A quick wave of the foot under the bumper automatically opens or closes the tailgate for easy access.

6. Side-curtain airbags – The more airbags, the better, and when it comes to protecting pets as well as people traveling in the rear seats, look for a new car that comes equipped with side-curtain airbags. The 2013 Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse are two such crossovers that do have them standard, and the side-curtain airbags deploy for a longer duration than those in passenger cars. This provides even greater protection for pets and people in the event of a crash.

7. Rearview camera, reverse sensing system – Some new vehicles come standard with a rearview camera, like the 2012 Honda Odyssey and CR-V, or a reverse sensing system to alert the driver of objects directly behind the vehicle. Your pet may think it’s time for a road trip and you don’t see him. A rearview camera can help avoid potential tragedy – for dogs as well as children or pedestrians.

8. Forward collision warning and lane departure warning – Drivers can be easily distracted by the antics of their pets while traveling in the car. Two safety technology features that help prevent accidents caused by such distraction include forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems. These may be standalone options or be included as part of a package. While the expense may be more than you want to pay, consider the benefits of having such safety security – for you, your passengers and your pets.

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