11 Ways to (Stylishly) Pet-Proof Your Home

designsponge_hope
In addition to my IR Repeater revelation this weekend, I also fell head in heels over love with the rug we got to replace our earlier living room rug. As much as I loved the black and white stripes (and I love a good stripe) we had before, they just weren’t working for our real life. For the past 10 years I’ve been used to having just a cat. He shed a bit and sure he’d scratch every now and then, but he was fastidious about cleaning and never left a stain anywhere. Cut to a year later and now I have a wild (but wonderful) dog running across the apartment leaving mud and dirty and chunks of chewed toys everywhere. So we ordered an indoor/outdoor rug from Dash & Albert with a tighter pattern (to mask stains better) and it’s been such a good reminder that pet-proofing an apartment doesn’t have to been giving up the styles you love. Inspired by the success of our rug change, I rounded up my top 10 tricks for living with pets that I’ve tried, loved and trust without fail. From velvet upholstery to cord management, there’s something here for every pet owner. Best wishes for a happy home, animals and all. xo, grace

*My experience is primarily with cats and dogs, so if you have advice that you’d like to share pertaining to birds, rabbits or other furry/feathered friends, feel free to add it in the comments below!

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RUGS

1. Small Patterns + Dark Colors: I made the biggest mistake by getting a rug with a wide pattern that left a lot of solid color exposed. Not only did the solid portions collection pet hair quickly, but the solid light colors showed stains so easily. So stick to a small-scale pattern in a darker color that will hide stains and dirt better than a solid or wide-print pattern.

2. Indoor/Outdoor: I’m so glad I made the move to an indoor/outdoor rug (this one from Dash & Albert). I was worried it wouldn’t be soft, but it’s plenty soft to walk on barefoot and it is quick and easy to clean. I went with Dash & Albert because their indoor/outdoor line can handle scrubbing, bleach and is UV-treated to prevent fading. Take that, high traffic area.

3. Low-pile: Most pets seem to prefer fluffy high-pile rugs for digging their claws and paws into. Frankly, I prefer them, too. They’re soft and fluffy and just invite you to take a nap. But cats in particular can hook their claws into wide looped strands very well, so sticking to a flatter weave rug makes your pets less likely to think your rug needs some extra fluffing from them.

*Side note: It goes without saying, Nature’s Miracle is a life saver. I feel like I should take stock out in in. Accidents happen and this stuff can get out almost anything.

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UPHOLSTERY

4. Fabric: Amy and I have learned this one from years of testing and experience: Velvet is a great fabric to use in the war against cat scratching. Will it stop them from wanting to scratch? No. Nothing will (they apparently can’t get enough of it). But velvet is your friend because unlike regular upholstery fabrics, it’s not a looped thread. It is cut at the end like hair. That gives cats very little to hook their claws in to pull, so it makes them less likely to attack your furniture. Success!

5. Rope is your friend: Cats love to scratch vertically. Cat toys and trees are great solutions, but they’re not always the prettiest. But that doesn’t mean your cats don’t deserve to embrace their natural need to scratch. Try wrapping sisal rope around pipes in your home (that aren’t too hot to touch for you or your pet) or around table legs. It feels like a cool decorative detail, but actually attracts your cat and lets them scratch! When the rope is frayed, just uncoil and reattach clean rope.

1Amy
Sisal rope and velvet sofa from Amy’s home tour

6. Soft Paws: One of the pet-proofing things people suggest often are those clear tape strips that you’re supposed to hang from the sofa arms or lay on anything the pet wants to sit on, but can’t. I tried a million times and those never ever worked for me. What did work were Soft Paws. Soft Paws are tiny ribber nail caps that go on your cat’s claws with a sticky nail-polish-like glue. They are small enough that they allow your cats nails to retract normally so they don’t feel any pain or discomfort. I had no problem attaching them to Turk’s nails for years, but they do require a pet that is docile enough to let you attach them and hold them while they dry. I know some people don’t like these, but my cats had NO problem with them and they prevented their claws from damaging everything. They fall off naturally and you just reattach them as you go. (Just a note, I do not advocate de-clawing a cat. It’s painful and cruel. Please consider these alternatives if you’re ever thinking about doing something like that).

2adrienne
7. Blankets: Most of my friends with dogs have embraced the idea of using a beautiful but durable throw blanket on top of the seating area of their couch. Dogs like to run into the house and plop on sofas and if yours is the same, I love the idea of using a rugged old Hudson Bay Blanket or something like a boiled wool to protect the seats and still look cute. [Image above from Adrienne’s home tour]

*Also, if you have pets of any sort, investing in cushions that zip on and off or a slipcover is a MUST. Sofas and seating that can’t be easily removed and washed will make your life a lot harder. The same goes for bedding. Duvets are a great choice because you can wash them easily any time a pet jumps on the bed with muddy feet.

LITTER BOXES

8. Modkat: The biggest question I get asked about dealing with cats in a home is the litter box situation. It’s just no one’s favorite part of having a cat and unless you have a large home with say, a laundry room, the litter box becomes a part of the home. I never got into the idea of building something custom around the box to hide it, but I did switch to a Modkat litterbox and never went back. While the Modkat is pretty pricey compared to other styles, it’s compact, it’s SUPER functional (very easy to clean with a bag base that keeps things super tidy) and it dramatically reduced the amount of litter that was tracked out of the box on kitty feet (thanks to a perforated lid where litter dropped back into the box). My rather large cat (15 pounds) fit in with no problem, which was great. Bonus- no one ever knew it was a litter box. If anyone ever saw it in my home they thought it was a storage box or some sort of weird speaker.

9. Hidden boxes: The internet is now full of great DIY ideas to construct a cover for litter boxes. I think these three ideas are my favorite, but if you’re handy, building some sort of small box that hides the box and turns it into say, bench seating, is a great idea. The only catch is the smell issue. Regular cleaning and baking soda air fresheners on the inside help.

CHEWING AND TEARING

10. Closed Storage/Fauxdenzas: When I adopted Hope I realized quickly that she would chew, eat or tear anything on the floor. Despite my best training efforts, when I left, something got chewed. She’s gotten better as she’s grown up, but I still learned that open shelving and storage just wouldn’t work (she loved to drag baskets off the shelf and eat whatever was inside). So we embraced fauxdenzas in almost every room. We have 3 large fauxdenzas in the living room and 1 large one in the dining room. They serve as great closed storage, keep Hope away from anything she would chew and look pretty stream lined and gorgeous.

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Color-Matching

11. Coordinate colors with your pet: When I adopted Turk 10 years ago, I didn’t think about how gleamingly white he was. I wore all black and my room was pretty much all dark colors. Cut to a year later and everything I own looks grey because it’s covered in a layer of white fur. Despite my best fur removal techniques (I love the Furminator for reducing shedding) his fur was everywhere. And now we have Hope, another very white animal. Despite loving dark greys and blacks, I’ve now embraced lighter colored furniture, fabrics and duvets. They hide the pet fur more easily and save me a lifetime of using that sticky tool that you can roll on furniture to remove pet hair. Now I can clean once a week, vacuum and in between the fur blends in.

All of these ideas are meant to help you blend your love with your pets for your love with your home. At the end of the day, everyone can and should feel comfortable sharing the space. If your pets aren’t incorporated and welcomed with love, they’ll behave in ways you won’t like. So please consider their happiness and needs (like being playful, needing playtime and affection) when bringing them into your home. A happy, loved pet is one that’s less likely to tear everything apart. I know that despite the stains and tears that occasionally happen in our apartment, my home just wouldn’t be a home without them in it.

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My Aunt Agatha

great tips ! Absolutely love the pictures of your pets!! It looks like they are very loved and they know it.Lovely.XX Bea ( My Aunt Agatha )

Bekah

This is an ongoing battle in my home as well. I have a long haired black and grey cat and an all white very sheddable dog. They are the light of my life and I have spent the last ten years learning how to accommodate design and still allow function with two messy pets in the home. Thanks for these tips! They are so so useful.

Dení

Leather seating. I have a horrid black leather sectional hand-me-down that I loathe visually, but I’m thankful for it every time I just need to wipe it down… (I have two cats and am looking for a dog to adopt.)

rebecca m.

Love my two cats, but with our more recent addition of a dog, there seems to be hair everywhere. I’m grateful for our hardwood floors, which makes for easy clean-up. However, I’m finding that I’m doing a lot more sweeping & vacuuming with the dog around. Having a mud room where we enter and leave with the dog is very helpful in keeping the dirt/snow/wetness contained, too. You are so right about dogs always plopping on sofas! I also use blankets, which are so much easier to throw in the wash than the slipcovers on my sofa. Love your tips!

amanda

ahhhh your doggle is so CUTE! love it and love these tips. my dog that i got while in college was amaaaazzzzzing, even as a teething puppy. the reason: i puppy proofed the hell out of my apartment before i brought her in so she never had the opportunity to develop bad habits! it’s so super important for the happiness of all involved (animal, people).

Elizabeth

I rescued a 6 year old cat last week, Sage, and am absolutely in love. Because she is older, she does however come with some habits. Some of her favorites include chewing plants/flowers. She’s also constantly staring up, specifically at our hanging pot rack and ceiling fans, trying to figure out where her next leap will be. So far, I’ve moved every plant I have (I hope) out of her reach as we installed shelves very close to the ceiling. I also got her some cat grass that she happily chews on. Was Turk ever into plants, and if so, how did you “fix” it? I see you always have gorgeous flower displays that I’m always jealous of, but am too afraid to ever bring them into my home now. Do you have any recommendations in this area? Also, I’ve put all of our fragile items up high, but am constantly terrified she’ll jump, crash, and everything will break. Maybe I’m just a nervous new mom, but any guidance would be helpful!

Caitlin @ Front Porch Art

Would love some ideas for readers on this pet problem:

Our cats LOVE to play with the floor rugs by sneaking up on them and diving underneath. So they are never laying down flat or where they belong at all. I’ve tried the white rubber rug stopper but it’s not enough. Any ideas on some kind of rug tape brand or something that will do the trick here?

Catarina

Loved the post! Just something I learned by having a white dog and white horse is that, you have to be careful with the sun expose, because they have less melatonin due to the white fur and skin, and may (or may not) easily get skin cancer. My dog just passed from it.
All the best.
Cat

Jessica

Ooh, I love the idea of using sisal rope on table legs! That’s brilliant. Consider it done. Another cat-friendly idea popping up all over the place is having dedicated cat shelves on the wall. Cats love to be on a high perch and if you don’t want them knocking items to the floor, consider installing some shelves just for them. I used some shelving from Ikea that looks great on it’s own, tacked on some rug remnants (same color as the shelves for invisibility purposes) and showed the cats that it was ok to be on the shelves. Position them by a window and you’re good to go! Mine could care less about other shelving now!

Elizabeth

Last week, I rescued a 6 year old cat named Sage. I am in love, but with an older cat, she’s come with some habits that I’m not sure if I can or should “break.” I know all cats have the intuition to chew plants, but do you have any recommendations as to what to do about that? Has Turk ever eaten plants? I see you always have such beautiful floral displays, but I am now terrified to bring anything like that into my home. So far, I’ve installed shelves up near the ceiling to keep my green potted plants, and have gotten rid of any floor plants. I’ve also bought some cat grass for her to chew.

Like all other cats, she’s a jumper. All of my fragile items are up high, but I’m still terrified she’s going to jump and crash (i.e. her next conquest seems to be our pot rack and the ceiling fans!). Is there anything you to do to prevent that?

Right now just I’m a worried new cat mom. Any guidance from an experienced cat owner would be much appreciated! Thanks, Grace.

Jessica

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately! My partner and I will be moving in together soon, and my two white cats are coming with. Blankets are already a staple in my house, but I hadn’t thought of the rest of this stuff. I’m sure I’ll be referring back to this a lot. Thanks!

kbiswas

I just wanted to mention how great a top open litter box can be if you have a cat! I couldn’t afford the modkat litter box, but clever cat has a great alternative: http://www.petco.com/product/14467/Clevercat-Top-Entry-Litterbox.aspx it’s not as compact and pretty, but it’s still easy to line with large trashbags (which can handle cat claws pretty well!) and really reduced cat litter drastically.

There are some great tutorials out there on how to make your own but for $40 it seems worth it just to get this one so you don’t have to worry about jagged edges from cutting plastic.

Thanks for this post! Some great ideas :]

Lindsey

We finally splurged on a Restoration Hardware faux fur blanket for use as a bed coverlet (after realizing over the course of a year and a half that it would never go on sale). Decided it was worth the cost for the combination of quality and being machine washable (!!).

1) It’s a pet magnet, so the pets tend to congregate on it, leaving their other preferred napping locations cleaner.
2) It comes in all kinds of colors – at least one ought to blend with your pet color combination
3) The individual faux furs are ombre, which works fantastically when you have a range of pet colors to hide (white, light and dark grey, and black in our case).
4) Did I mention it’s machine washable? *swoon*

Elizabeth

Oops. Didn’t realize my first comment went through; don’t mean to be a pesky commenter!

Isabelle Ko

My cats never touched my mohair velvet couch. It’s expensive but worth every penny

Kristen Cella

Elizabeth – I have plant-eating cats, too! There have been too many “accidents” where my cats knocked plants off shelves and even the top of my fridge, so now my small potted plants are all on top of my high bookshelf that can’t be reached by either cat.I have found that hanging plants work the best, as long as they don’t dangle too close to a surface where my cats can reach. Staghorn ferns are also great and they look really nice mounted on the wall. And terrariums and bell jars are perfect for protecting small plants or flower arrangements. I have tried the cat grass, too, but it usually doesn’t last very long (and they puke it up on my floor)!

And Grace, thank you for reminding me that, when thoughtful and creative, pet owners actually CAN have nice furniture!

Heidi

great tips! Btw, what kind of dog is Hope? She looks EXACTLY like my sweet girl Harley!

Maria

We adopted Max almost a year ago. He’s a jack russell and he’s white. He’s our ride and joy but he leaves everything coverd in hard, stiff hair and weird stains that we just don’t know/ want to know what to call… The dyson animal vacuum is our saviour, and the african, plastic rug we have is resisting greatly.

erica

i’m glad to hear that the indoor/outdoor rug is working for you. i had to throw away a rug because my dog ruined it and have thought an indoor/outdoor rug would be the way to go. i’ve hesitated because i worry that it won’t be comfortable on bare feet.

Katie

A few notes on house rabbits.

Mine is generally not a chewer, but for some reason he went to town on the baseboard of a temporary apartment in which we were staying. I think it was MDF and not solid wood, so choosing solid would might be a good angle. If that’s not possible, rub ivory soap on the baseboard. They HATE it, and it won’t hurt them. (Has to be Ivory, though I don’t remember why.) Cover any exposed cords with dishwasher tubing that you’ve slit down the length.

I just bought a roomba, and it is outrageously helpful with the fluff that floats around our place. Probably stating the obvious, but it was just so worth it.

Last, unscented Feline Pine litter is safe for rabbits’ livers (unlike other wood litters), and hides odors almost too well. I have to remind myself to change it!

With these proofing measures in place, Derby the Bunny is free range in my house while I’m gone — no risk to either him or my belongings.

Donna

I like using unscented, natural baby wipes to spot clean upholstery and carpets. I use them on my dogs between baths too.

Levi

We got our Sphynx cat at 4 months old and quickly realized that a litter box in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment just wasn’t practical for us. When she was about 5 months old we decided to try the Litter Kwitter (http://www.litterkwitter.com/en/index.php) and it has been the most amazing thing we’ve ever done with her. She caught on in about 2 weeks (the package says most cats can be trained in under 8 weeks). It takes some patience but makes day to day life, as well as travelling or arranging pet sitters, so much easier! She will even use toilets at other people’s houses, and has never had an accident!

Marion

Could you all do a round up (or create a Pinterest board!) of pet-friendly and attractive rugs? I have struggled to find ones that I like and can stand up to dogs. I’m supposed to have 80% of my floors covered so I’ve had to settle for some less beautiful options.

As an aside, I have a waterhog mat from LL Bean right inside my front door and it has been amazing. It saves my hardwood floors from muddy, salty and wet paws and boots and prevents even large quantities of water from getting through to the wood. My dog tipped over the bowl of water I was using to rinse off her salty paws and I could rest in peace knowing that it didn’t matter. Not the most beautiful rug I own, but one that was DEFINITELY worth the $$.

Grace Bonney

hi marion!

it’s hard to do one that works for everyone, because it really depends on your dog and your dog’s fur color. i suggested rug details in the post– those along with the color of your dog being considered should be a good start. small print, indoor/outdoor and matching the pet color :)

grace

Laura

Great post! I have 2 cats and at least a dozen plants. After many years and many more plants, I am down to plants they leave alone for the most part. I suggest avoiding anything that resembles grass or ferns, which they love to chew. I have pothos, jade, string-of-pearls, aloe, crown-of-thorns, Moses-in-the-bulrushes, ficus, and Christmas cacti-those all work for us. Be careful with large pots with exposed dirt- resembles a litter box. I had to put chicken wire on top of a large pot.
We are lucky to have a basement bathroom to store the litter box away from the rest of the house. Toilet training did not go well for my cats; I like Better Way Flushable litter- scoop and flush. It’s very dusty, but so handy.

Cary

Good tips. I’m currently without a rug in the living room because of my two dogs and two cats ruining them. I was considering an outdoor rug from pottery barn when i saw yours from Dash & Albert. I think it may be the way to go. By the way, many of your suggestions apply to living with kids too;) Between my three kids, 4 indoor pets and chickens in the yard (whose mess is tracked in) I’m feeling pretty out numbered by mess makers. Good thing they are all cute!

Louisa

We’ve got a cat – I’ve found clear, sticky back plastic (you can buy it in rolls in the UK) is ideal. They don’t like the feeling of it. It’s quite a soft plastic so we have it on the corner of the sofas! It worked immedately. Also – cats tend to like to stretch while they scratch so we swapped to a tall (around a metre) scratching post and he loves it. Bingo – no more shredded furniture :)

Another trick with pet hair is rubber gloves. Put some on and rub your hands over the area with fur on and it should ball up nicely making it much easier to remove! The stragglers can be hoovered up. Regular brushing also helps catch the fur before it falls – my cat loves my old round bristle brush (which is now his!)

Marissa

We’ve looked for furniture with metal legs to bunny-proof, and we’ve selected rugs where she can’t pull out tufts of fiber or whole rows of pile. Where we can’t run electrical cords behind solid furniture, we’ve used cord bundlers from the Container Store to protect individual cords–not particularly stylish, but safe. Also, watch your houseplants!

Colette

Re good materials for sofas and chairs: microfiber. We have a small microfiber sectional in our TV room (the only furniture that the dogs are allowed on besides the beds) and the fur comes right off. As does anything else. I was afraid it would look…cheap–but it doesn’t AT ALL. and it was inexpensive.

Cindy J

My dogs shed A LOT so I don’t really like them being on the couch too much cause it seems to be a magnet for hair and it’s hard to clean off. They’re very smart and know not to get on when I’m home but have caught them having a siesta on the couch when I’m not home. (I leave my computer on and use skype as a “security camera” so I can watch them when I’m out). My solution was to put those plastic floor runner with the spikey part up when I leave home and it keeps them from jumping on the couch. It’s still soft enough so it doesn’t hurt them if they touch it but it just makes it a bit uncomfortable if they try to lay on it. It’s simple to put on and take off so I don’t have to compromise on the design of my home.

Andrea

Cats only scratching vertically is a myth. Some prefer horizontal, some at an angle, some multiple ways. If a cat isn’t scratching things that are vertical, try mixing it up. Also, some cats don’t care for rope. I have one that prefers rope, the other untreated wood and carpet, and also those layered cardboard things. The rope cat won’t even look at cardboard scratching posts.

Debalina

Wonderful post. Here’s a shopping tip – put your animal(s) hair in a ziplock and take with you to the carpet store, furniture store, etc. Simply hold the bag over different samples until the hair disappears. Voila!
That’s how I chose my area rugs, and they look great all the time.

Puppy-proofing my flat

Thank you so much for this post! There are things laying around everywhere at my place, and my new pup has been persistent about eating or destroying anything he can get his paws on. This has helped out loads.

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