After years of moving around and fixing up properties for rent, we’ve decided to do some decorating work on our home abode, flanked by dogs and cats. We’ve spent very little time in our lives without them and have the lint rollers to prove it.
And if you’ve read any of my other posts, then you’ve met our blue staffy pup, Sissy. We also have several other fur-buddies who call our home their castle, and make themselves pretty comfortable. And it’s usually at everyone else’s expense. We don’t mind…much…
So if your legs have ever fallen dead asleep because an 85-pounder thinks he’s a lap dog, raise your hand. And if you’ve ever awakened to razor claws popping and lacerating the corners of your leather furniture, you’re in good company.
At Home in the Doghouse
To decorate with animals in mind, you have to channel your inner pet. Don’t be shy…get down on all paws and view the space from their perspective. Ultimately, unless they are a new family addition, you know their habits and tendencies, but we’ll go over more things to consider based on behavioral specifics.
Attractants and Deterrents
We love our fur-babies, but sometimes they don’t act, well…mannerly. I’m sure they think the same of us (especially cats…they can be a bit sanctimonious at times, no?). Often the best preventative for these objectionable behaviors is to offer your buddy a better option, because there are certain natures that don’t mingle well with orderly household decor.
Scratching posts are a great example, and mandatory for kitties.
But you don’t have to have a seven-foot sisal post erected in the living room to have one. But having a really appealing catnip-infused one will certainly save your couch from an untimely death, and much easier than wielding a squirt gun at 3:00 AM or spending money on other costly deterrents.
What could be more enticing to a cat than a dangling string? Or more captivating to a dog than a view of the neighbor dog out the window? What’s the common denominator here? Window treatments and windowsills.
If you’re sold on mini-blinds, and insist on keeping potted houseplants on the windowsills, you are on the path to sainthood in my book. It takes only one or two swipes of a Labrador paw to karate chop the blinds, and only one kitty two-step around your prized bonsai to create a hot mess. I highly recommend roller shades and toppers, or if you’re feeling particularly daring, grommet drapes with tiebacks. Even the latter poses intrigue for those feline swashbuckler-types anticipating their next adventure.
Keep it simple and safe. Clear windowsills of breakables (ours are empty always). Choose treatments that can be easily raised, lowered or pulled to the side (like roller or roman shades), and avoid anything dangling – this just incites predation, curiosity and mischief.
And by dangling, I mean plants, too.
To Eat or Not to Eat
No article on pet-friendly anything would be complete without a reference to the various beautiful and toxic flora we cultivate for our pets’ unfortunate chewing habits.
Pets vs Decor: Pets – 1, Decor – 0
Earlier, I’m sure you were disappointed about not using windowsills as shelves. Your vision was so perfect… gleaming natural light, healthy potted plants, artfully-arranged colored glass jars and bottles, stained-glass suncatcher mobiles…
Nope…only possible if you glue or permanently fasten stuff to the sill and leave it there when you move.
Shelves are the answer, right? Well, decorative shelves become a crow’s nest for the budding swashbuckler. And woe to the unstable trinket on the shelf when a cat decides to perch there.
Solution? Relocate the trinkets to a curio, and stabilize any decorative vignettes, leaving a space for perching (not recommended). Or better yet: provide your kitty with her own crow’s nest for observation – preferably with a box or crate involved and multiple perspectives so she can see everyone coming and going.
Up until now, the focus has been on cats – but dogs, while not usually as devious, are a bit more goofy and madcap in their mayhem.
I love to see perfectly staged decor on coffee tables in home decor magazines. A monolithic vase of fragrant white lilies poised inside a decorative tray with three towering blown glass candlesticks of varying heights; blooming hyacinths flanking three carefully-selected art books… stacked neatly beneath a sculptured bowl of fresh green apples…
SWOOSH! BAM! CRASH! The Labrador decimating the ensemble with one powerful sweep of his alligator-tail. But you can’t stay mad. He was only wagging because you came home.
Dogs can be rough when they play, and rougher on decor when they’re bored. We tend to avoid throw pillows entirely and substitute dog-friendly bully chewies for exposed furniture legs whenever possible. Nothing that can topple or be swept from any level surface has a place in our home. At least not at pet-level. If it can’t hang solidly on the wall, it has to be able to withstand an earthquake before it crosses the threshold.
Pet-Friendly is the New Casual
And durable…that’s another key requirement, especially for fabrics or textiles. Able to be thrown in the washer (think duvets for bedding), highly responsive to a vacuum, or wiped down with a damp cloth. Dry clean only? What?! Why is that a thing?! No thanks… And anything with a strong knit or nap will hook claws and thread-pull…and pet hair has a magical property of spontaneously weaving itself into or sticking to virtually every fabric but leather, microfiber or specially indicated indoor/outdoor performance fabrics. Chenille, velvet, wool, linen, silk, and tweed are awful.
What about rugs, then? Cost-effectiveness and loop-less (watch for those claws!) options are best underfoot for folks with hard-surface flooring, and rugs also provide needed traction for the sprinting pet gunning for the food bowl at chow time.
Now that we’re down to flooring…these are some durable picks for ease of cleaning and stain resistance, traffic wear and claw tolerance:
- Ceramic tile wins for ease of cleaning, wear and scratch resistance, but is not great for traction.
- Bamboo scores for durability and wear but is susceptible to water damage (watch that water bowl for puddling!) and is not great for traction, either.
- Vinyl beats the others for all-around cost-effectiveness, but dulls and can be damaged by water and large claws.
We have stained concrete with a self-leveling coat that is highly susceptible to scratching and chipping by Labrador and Staffy claws. We’ve even laughingly considered putting a drain in the middle of the great room floor so we can just hose it down like a truck-stop bathroom when it gets dirty. Really, though…we’re considering ceramic tile or bamboo as our first choices. I’ll let you know when we take the plunge.
Pet-friendly is People-friendly
In summary, decorating with pets in mind is not difficult if you consider ease of cleaning, durability and safety first. Here are some additional thoughts:
- Choose washable top-bedding – duvets and covers are fantastic
- Give cats an enticing scratching post, and dogs an irresistible cushioned bed to save furniture wear
- Incorporate pet stairs to prevent injuries from jumping off furniture (dachshunds, unite!)
- Affix or bolt (yes, really!) decorative items together or on surfaces for stability
- Pull up mini-blinds to avoid dog-damage, hang up mini or blind cording out of reach or use toppers and sheers with tiebacks
- Choose pet-friendly, washable and durable fabrics
- Select plants from non-toxic varieties and keep them from dangling
- Use semi-gloss paint for trim, satin or eggshell paint for walls for best scrubbability
Don’t Be Discouraged…Be Inspired!
Practicality. Safety. Damage mitigation. Ease of cleanup. Convenience. For us, until I began blogging recently, those are the concepts that have governed our decor choices…and it unfortunately shows.
But now I’m inspired, and honestly, all kidding aside, there are some great decor, design and organization options out there for pet families. Everything from clever catbox designs, play towers, treat and toy organization…to special pet-friendly fabrics and durable, long-lasting flooring.
It just takes a moment of mind-melding with your pet, or a few minutes on all-fours to experience what they see and anticipate how they’ll react to your new decor. Now you know what to expect, so you can plan your project with confidence and unleash your creativity!
Do you have a great story about pet damage or decor? Or some helpful tips to share? Please comment below – I’d love to hear from you!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”