“Pet-friendly” is a term often used to describe places that welcome pets with their owners. A pet-friendly home, then, is a home that considers the needs of pet owners as part of the interior design. To avoid your pet-loving home looking like a dog house, consider the many pet-friendly materials that can be incorporated easily into your home.
Flooring and area rugs
“Easy to clean” is the key consideration, but the chosen materials should also be inviting to people. The best arrangement is a hard surface such as tile, stone or stained concrete, with low-pile area rugs for comfort. Area rugs soften the echo in a room and offer a cushy surface for the sitting area. They also allow for thorough cleaning, since they can be moved and vacuumed on both sides to remove fur and tracked in dirt while the floors are mopped. Stay away from looped Berber carpets or hooked rugs, as they catch toenails and end up unraveling. Instead, look for short, cut-pile carpet — it resembles something you might see in a hotel lobby.
I usually recommend 100% nylon fiber carpet, cut to size and bound into an area rug. Nylon is a commercial grade fiber then can be steam cleaned, resists stains and odors, and offers lots of beautiful patterns and colors. If you have a pet that has accidents, or a cat that leaves furballs behind, nylon is terrific because it cleans so well. If your pet is well-housebroken, consider a good wool oriental carpet. Wool cleans very well and the busy pattern hides footprints and fur between vacuumings. Avoid synthetics such as olefin fiber. They tend to hold onto stains and get dingy-looking over time. Be sure to have your area rugs steam cleaned professionally at least once a year, and two or three times if you have messy pets. Your cleaner can also leave you a bottle of professional pet stain remover to use in an emergency. A professional cleaning extracts dirt and sand out of the back of the carpet. This is very important, because the friction of dirt particles rubbing on the back of the carpet is what wears out the fibers. Professionally cleaned carpets last much, much longer.
A less expensive choice would be a natural fiber rug, such as sisal, jute or seagrass. The only one we ever use in homes with pets or young families is seagrass. Unlike sisal, which immediately absorbs liquids, seagrass is naturally water repellent, and spills will initially sit on top. We add a sealer such as Sisal-Guard on top, and puddles will bead up and not soak in immediately, allowing the owner a chance to pick up the mess before damage is done. Because of the tight, slick texture of seagrass, pet fur and sand sit on top and are vacuumed right up. Seagrass rugs are inexpensive enough that if and when they do become stained, they are easily replaced. Many of our clients stick with seagrass in family areas and simply replace them every few years. However, they can’t really be cleaned, so if you have an oily-coated or muddy dog like a labrador, we would recommend wool or nylon.
What about wood floors? Many of the modern engineered woods have highly protective surfaces and will survive almost anything a family dishes out. But some pets, like large dogs, will scratch even the most durable wood floors, and a wet stain can be a disaster. A high-quality laminate would be the better choice. There are many available that look exactly like wood when installed, and they are extremely scratch-resistant. Wet stains are a problem only if they are not cleaned up. Avoid anything too high-polish and slick, since you don’t want your dog sliding all over.
What exactly is pet-friendly furniture? Assuming your pet is allowed on the furniture, it should be stain resistant, a color and texture that helps hide fur, and easy to brush off. If it has washable covers, even better. The first thing to consider is the color of your pet and whether it goes outside and digs or swims. A black dog mixes well with a navy sofa, a white cat would fit happily into a home with white canvas slipcovers.
We favor natural linen for sofas, because its oatmeal color and tweedy texture are highly effective at hiding dark or light pet fur and it goes easily through the washer and dryer. Fur is most obvious on dark fabrics, and dirt and oil left behind at a pet’s favorite spot can make light fabrics dingy-looking. A smooth fabric, like a canvas or twill, is easy to brush off and may seem like a great solution. But such a solid fabric will inevitably show every bit of dirt. Look instead for a mingled texture, or a canvas with a colorful print, but avoid loops that can catch toenails.
Outdoor fabrics, which are easy to wash or steam clean, are absolutely exploding with new colors and patterns intended to be used indoors. Their synthetic fibers are practically stain-proof and very durable. While they are more expensive than cotton, their reliable performance makes them worth it. Check out Sunbrella.com, OutDura.com, and Perennials.com for some of the latest outdoor fabrics.
The most pet-friendly furniture has covers that can be taken off and washed occasionally. A rattan or wood framed piece has only the cushions to worry about and so is a great choice. Zippered covers of a pre-shrunk fabric can be slipped over the cushions. For an upholstered sofa or chair, the best solution is a washable slipcover. The store-bought ones are the least expensive, but they do have a tendency to shift and fit poorly. They also don’t come in the best fabrics for pets. We recommend custom slipcovers. Made properly, they are tailored to fit your furniture and the fabric is preshrunk before sewing. This means the slipcover can be washed and dried and continue to fit well for a long time.
Sofas that are purchased slipcovered are not preshrunk, so the manufacturers usually recommend drycleaning. This is expensive and doesn’t work on certain types of dirt, like body oils. Many oily-skinned dogs, such as retreivers, will leave a gray residue on cushions where they sleep, or on the front of the sofa when they come to be petted. The best way to get rid of this is soap and water, so a washable slipcover is invaluable in the dog-lover’s home. If you purchase a high quality frame, your sofa and chair can get new slipcovers after several years, but the pieces themselves won’t need replacing.
Our final pet-friendly solution for furniture is to purchase a few extra yards of your furniture fabric. A hemmed runner of the same fabric as a sofa can be laid on the cushions for extra protection and washed more often. This is much more attractive than seeing your beautiful living room draped constantly with quilts and towels! Keep a few more yards in the closet just in case the furniture needs repair — a good upholsterer can replace a panel or cushion and extend the life of your upholstery. This is an additional expense in the beginning, but worthwhile in the end.
With the right choices ahead of time for flooring materials and furnishings, you don’t have to worry about pets (and other family members) wreaking havoc on your home. Pet-friendly materials that are easy to clean are really the most preferable for a cleaner, healthier and more relaxed way of living.
©2008 Kerry Ann Dame. May not be reproduced without permission.