Americans love their companion animals. These days, it’s rarer to not have a
pet than to think of one as a family member. For those of us with dogs and/or
cats, it’s essential to provide a cozy environment for our companion animals that's not just comfortable, but is one where they will be able to thrive.
Many mistakenly believe that “pet-proof” is code for “absence of style”, but
this is simply not true. You can beautifully outfit and remodel your home to be
completely pet-friendly, simply by using specific paints, flooring, fabrics and
furniture. And these days, there are more options for pet-loving consumers than
Hard surfaces tend to work better than carpets for several reasons: carpets trap
odors and allergens, and are more challenging (not to mention expensive) to
clean. Hardwood floors, such as hard oaks, hickory and maple, are highly durable
and easy to maintain. Ceramic tile, sealed stone and stained concrete are also
excellent flooring choices for pet-friendly households, as these surfaces are
very hard, hold up well to traffic, are easy to maintain, and are offered in a
wide array of attractive styles and textures.
If you prefer carpet, use cut-pile and avoid styles featuring loops as they can
snag on nails and teeth. Select a stain-resistant carpet with a medium-to-high
manufacturer’s durability rating. And, since “accidents” are a fact of life,
especially when housetraining, make sure that you install a carpet pad with a
protective spill barrier to prevent lingering, unpleasant odors.
Dog and cat lovers take heart! There are loads of high-style fabrics that are
surprisingly pet-friendly. Both crypton and ultrasuede are chic, durable and
easy to clean. Crypton is stain-, water-, and bacteria-resistant. And ultraseude
is resistant to both stains and odors. Furthermore, ultraseude is wonderfully
resilient – scratches don’t leave a mark and fur won’t become matted into the
fabric. Another option is pleather, which is a cruelty-free alternative to
leather that doesn’t scratch or stain, and spills wipe clean with a sponge. Or,
for a more affordable option, simply protect your existing furniture with a
modern slipcover. Look for one that’s easily removable, machine washable and
made of heavy, durable fabrics, such as canvas or denim. One last rule:
absolutely no velvet anywhere, as it’s well-known as a “hair magnet”.
Color and Paint
When choosing furniture and rugs, remember that neutral colors – such as taupe,
cream, khaki and gray – don’t highlight dirt and hair as badly as darker colors.
It’s probably best to avoid keeping anything white near the floor (and
accessible to companion animals), as even white leather can become stained and
When it comes to selecting paints, you’ll need one that’s washable. I recommend
a satin finish because it resists marks, helping to keep your wall color looking
fresh and clean compared to other finishes. Furthermore, I recommend low- or
no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints to protect you and your companion
animals from toxic fumes.
If you have problems with your pets jumping up on furniture to look at the
window, consider revising the layout of the room in question – problem solved!
If you’re looking to replace tables, find ones that are sturdy and weighted
tables, as they will be less likely to topple over when bumped. And keep those
knick-knacks and valuable pieces out of reach of paws and jaws, like up on a
mantle or bookcase. If you are redoing cabinets, consider installing a
five-drawer cabinet … use the bottom drawer to house food bowls. When meal time
is over, simply close the drawer and hide the mess. You can also repurpose
pull-out trash drawers to store pet-food bags for convenience and clutter
If you have a family member who suffers from pet-dander or pet-hair allergies
(See Post - “Can Kids with Allergies have Pets?”), design the home to minimize
exposure to dirt, dust and allergens. Use hard surface flooring, vacuum often
(the best vacuums feature a HEPA filter), install a HEPA furnace or central air
filter, and minimize the use of textiles, such as carpet, window treatments and
upholstery, all of which can trap allergens. I also recommend reducing clutter
as this minimizes dust and allergen accumulation and makes cleaning easier.
Households with companion animals need storage space and organization. Find a
unique and fashionable storage bin for your pet’s things, like a wicker basket
or a vintage trunk. This simple fix can make for easy clean-up and it’ll look
posh to boot.
I wish you the best of luck in your pet-friendly redesign, and hope that you and
your companion animals are more comfortable and happy in your revitalized home
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.
Dr. Jane Bicks