interior design

11 Ways to (Stylishly) Pet-Proof Your Home

by Grace Bonney

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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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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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.

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).

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.


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.


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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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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Suggested For You


  • When a friend bought a new couch, she bought a finished piece of matching fabric that covered the seat area and tucked under front and back like that pic near the top. It’s very subtle and can be removed for company.

    I’m looking for pet hair friendly throws. I shake mine out every day and the dog hair still sticks. Everyone that comes over ends up with hair on them no matter what I do. (I do have three dogs – what was I thinking…) It’s not washability I’m looking for, its shakability. Any one have any ideas?

    • The best cover I’ve found is a shiny satin finish quilted throw blanket that I put on the seating area of the couch. It is polyester, so is easily washed and dried. It was inexpensive, so I have several, and just I rotate them regularly. The slippery finish sheds hair like a dream and an extra bonus is the ease with which I can slide my sleeping English Setter along the couch to make room for me! I’m afraid I can’t tell you a specific place to buy one, but if you go for material with a slippery finish, you should find it easy to shake the hair out.

  • I am having my grandmother’s old 50s armchair completely reupholstered at great expense and that is a topic that has come to mind. I will think of velvet. Very helpful article. Thank you!

  • We have a mini dachshund puppy that has shown a determined interest in chewing the bottom and underside of our leather sofas. Throws are no deterrent.
    Any suggestions on how to pet proof the bottom part of sofas so that the dog can be given run of the house when we go out?

    • How about using the rope trick noted in this post? Finding some type of non-treated, natural material to wrap around the legs could work. Maybe torn strips of cotton from an old t-shirt you’ve laundered yourself with chemical-free detergent could be a good solution. Just make the strips as long as you can, tie them together and wrap the legs tightly multiple times to a thickness you feel comfortable with, then tie on the back of the legs to secure it so that the knot doesn’t becomes the favorite chew spot!

      The trick would be to find a material that doesn’t contain anything the could be harmful to your pet or that would break apart with the chewing.

      Good luck!


  • Cute rug, I need to get an indoor outdoor one! Also, what type of dog do you have? I adopted my dog from a shelter about a year ago and she looks so much like yours! My dog is also part Dalmatian…and that’s the only breed they told me she was. Thanks!’

  • Any ideas how to deter a cat from urinating in the house? My outdoors cat has had to become an indoors cat and is showing his displeasure by peeing in the kitchen. My place is open plan so I cannot lock him out, he has a clean easily accessible litter tray, he does it when I am at work, I have put things in his way so he finds another spot in the kitchen, he has lots of playtime and cuddles plus I walk him outside on a lead twice a day…! It’s disgusting and has only recently started so I am praying it is not a major habit to break just yet. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks.

    • I had a problem with my cat and was at the end of my rope. Someone suggested I try Cat Attract litter. It was a miracle. My two cats were lined up to get in the box. We have had no more issues in the three years since we changed to Cat Attract litter.
      Good Luck!

    • cats that change urinating habits may have a urinary tract infection or other condition. might be a good idea to check with the vet too.

    • I struggled with this problem for two years, only my cat would pee on my bed… I tried everything, after ruling out possible physical issues like a urinary infection or crystals – every kind of cat litter available, different kinds of litter boxes (covered, uncovered), different locations for the box, multiple boxes, always kept them super clean, all to no avail. I even had vets recommend I put him down! Which was never going to be an option – but I was at my wits end. Finally a vet recommended I try meds – first I tried Elavil, which did nothing and then we went on to Prozac and it worked! He completely stopped eliminating outside of his box. Many cats can be on the drug for a just a few months and their good behavior continues after they are tapered off. In my case, every time I tried to wean him off he would immediately revert to peeing on the bed, so now he’s on it for life. For those of you who think it’s wrong to give an animal behavioral meds, know that inappropriate elimination is the number one reason cats get left at shelters and are euthanized. So for anyone ready to give up, please try some meds! And if one doesn’t work, try another.

  • My cat is an indoor cat but loves to go outside. When he is inside he chews the wood siding around the door taking off paint and ruining the wood any suggestions to save our siding???

    • It is a bit ugly, but I used tinfoil on the bottom of doors that my cats claw at. One cat in particular really hates closed doors, and this tinfoil trick helped greatly to reduce her 2 am clawing on the door to the basement.

      • I use tinfoil too! It’s the only deterrent that has worked for me, and I have used many. I have a leather sofa, loveseat and chair because my cat won’t scratch leather for some reason. But I recently purchased a fabric chair and my cat couldn’t wait to get his claws into it. I put 4 long lengths of tinfoil on the floor to “box” in the chair. It’s about 6-8 inches away from the end of the chair, and my cat will not walk on the foil thus sparing the chair! It’s easy to pick up for company too.

  • My Jack Russell Terrier is a shredder – hardcore. Any ideas on a throw that can be tucked on the seat of a sofa, yet not ripped apart in ten seconds flat by his teeth, please?

    I love him to pieces, but the throw I have has so many holes and loose threads on it, I am finding it impossible to come up with ways to tuck it in so the “affected areas” aren’t showing!

  • My two indoor-outdoor pit bulls love to lay on the couch, but they can get it pretty dirty and furry. My mother came up with an ingenious idea: she bought some upholstery fabric that was very similar in color and texture (our couch is tan microfiber) and she custom sewed it to fit over the dogs’ side of the couch. she made a piece for the cushions you sit on with elastic secures on the underside, one for the upper cushions of the couch that is secured with simple velcro on the back, and a little arm piece. It has really been a lifesaver. It is much easier to throw the covers in the wash than it is to try to clean irremovable parts of a couch!

  • I want to get an indoor outdoor one! Also, what kind of dog do you have? I adopted my dog from a cover about a year ago and she looks so much like yours! My dog is also fraction Dalmatian…and that’s the only breed they told me she was. Thanks!’

  • This article was exactly what I was looking for! I recently had a recurrence of a chronic medical problem and my six (YES 6 – three dogs and three cats) fur babies have been my constant companions and continue to motivate me to keep trying and never give up.

    Yes, they would prefer to be more active with our usual walks and trips to the park, but I’ve learned nothing makes them happier than my love. I wish science could replicate the pure joy I love when I return from a doctor’s appointment or short shopping trip.

    I’ve had to learn to be a bit more patient with myself when I’m not up to regular cleaning. I recently got a new velvet bead spread which I agree, works wonders with not collecting hair. Also my mom gave me two Luuup litter tray systems for Christmas.

    I really appreciate your tips about rugs because my condo has partial hardwood floors with the rest off white rugs. I hope to remove it when I’m able, but until then it’s rug layering.

    The one problem I’ve yet to solve is with plants. Two of my cats (mother and daughter) think they are monkeys and I can no longer have anything that isn’t hanging. It’s partially that they want to chew on the leaves, but more just the fun of digging up the dirt to play with. Anyone have any suggestions?

    I absolutely love your photos!!! They capture such personality and happiness!!!

  • For cats who love to mess with houseplants, 2 things help.

    First, covering the soil with a layer of either moss or small rocks (depending on the moisture needs of your plant) makes it inaccessible as a sandbox.

    Second, there are these cat scat mats (Gardener’s Supply carries them) which are rolls of plastic netting with small spikes all over – harmless but uncomfortable. Cats hate walking on them. Just press those into the top of the houseplant soil.

  • Great advice, expect about cats and velvet. I had read this post and immediately purchased the velvet couch I had been dreaming of. I foolishly didn’t consult the myriad other sites which mention that velvet is absolutely one of the WORST fabrics to use if you have cats. My cats ruined my couch almost instantly, their claws pulling out small white bits from the blue velvet. Now I have the world’s most expensive scratching post, as it can’t be returned. Please edit this as it truly is misinformation.

    • Lynn

      I’m so sorry that that was your experience. My pets are always ruining something at home so I understand your frustration.

      Velvet is commonly recommended for cats because of the lack of looped fiber structure (we aren’t the only site who stands by this recommendation). What exactly happened with your cats- what are the “white bits” they pulled out? Did they pull feathers from the cushions through the upholstery?



  • Okay one big issue not being addressed here is a dog’s tendency to get excited and run on the rugs causing the rug to go flying. I need a rug that can be stuck to the floor somehow. None of the sticky things I’ve seen work worth a darn. Short of nailing the rug down I’ve never seen a solution!

  • We let our dog in our bed to cuddle before we go to sleep and after we wake in the morning. I am tired of having her fur everywhere on the blankets. Washing them helps, but not fully – lots of hair remains even after washing it. Vacuuming and lint rollers also helps, but I hate having to do that every single day to keep her fur out of the bed.

    Does anyone have any recommendations for what type of blanket we should buy? Something that the fur doesn’t stick to would be perfect. We’re in Florida, and it’s super hot, so I’d also appreciate a lightweight blanket.

    • Cara

      I sadly don’t think there’s any fabric fur won’t stick to. I’m guessing something silky would be easier to clean, but in general the static electricity in the air makes fur stick to just about everything. We use soft washed linen (West Elm makes a nice one) for all our duvet covers and all (really- all!) the dog and cat hair comes off in the wash. It just doesn’t stay that for long ;)


  • Since you have experience with velvet, can you tell me the best way to get pet hair off of it (velvet bedspread)??? And is there any way to prevent the pet hair from getting on it in the first place? Other than keeping the pets off, haha.

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