We’re all spending a bit more time indoors than we may wish right now. Unless you’re an avid skier, February finds most of sitting by the fireplace, looking through travel brochures or staring at the scratches on the side table and the wine stain on the armchair.
But wait! Who’s this bounding across the room with a tug rope in her mouth or a lolling tongue ready to plaster a big kiss on your knee? Or, maybe your quiet feline has just curled up beside you on the couch. Is he purring loud enough to lift you out of your February doldrums? He’s trying pretty hard to get your attention, isn’t he?
So, perhaps you can harness your pent up energy and your pets’ love, and set yourself a worthwhile task, freshening up your home décor with your pets in mind. And, while you’re at it, maybe you can make a few changes around the house that will make your dog, cat, gerbil, or parakeet a bit happier and more comfortable too.
I’m confident you know your tastes well enough to select new slipcovers for the tired armchair, and a fresh color to paint the den. Maybe you’re deciding to replace the drapes with some lighter, fresher window treatment. Great!
Before you start ordering fabric and measuring floor area, let me make some cautionary decorating suggestions that might save you and your four-legged and feathered friends disappointment or frustration. Architect Heather Lewis of Animal Arts Design Studio, Boulder, Colorado, points out, “Americans are radically changing in terms of how we understand the pet’s overall well-being. [Americans are] also concerned about their animal’s emotional well-being.” Facts seem to bear out Lewis’s assertion. In 2018, Americans spent over $16 billion on pet items, beyond food and veterinary care.
If you live with a pet, you know the housekeeping issues associated with furry and feathered housemates; shedding, scratches, drool, active indoor exercise, odors, and, not to be overlooked – curiosity. These are often part of our pets’ natures, qualities we love and hate in equal measure.
So fellow pet owners, if you are concerned about your emotional well-being as well as Charlie the lab, or Bella the cat’s emotional well-being, here are five cautions to keep in mind when decorating or redecorating your pet-friendly home:
Color: Shedding is always and forever, if you own a pet. If you have a chocolate lab or a white kitten, avoid choosing upholstery colors that will show every hair shed by your pet. Cream velvet may be perfect with a white cat, but your black or chocolate lab will turn that upholstery into a tweedy mess. Choose colors that mask your pet’s shedding.
Flooring: Avoid wall-to-wall carpets, hard tile, and soft-wood flooring. Wall-to-wall carpeting is lovely for sound deadening and warmth on a cold floor, but if your pet has an accident, urine and stomach acid will leave permanent spots. And, my experience tells me those spots will be in the very center of the room. If you must have carpeting, select a tweed or earth tone with short pile; that will camouflage stains and be easier to clean. Better still, area rugs anchored with non-skid mats or tape are less likely to show stains and can be taken up easily for cleaning or replacement.
Shiny tiles are a different problem, while tile is easy to keep clean and maintain, it’s a difficult surface for pets to navigate. You may hear your pet’s claws click on the tile, and sometimes Fido will go sliding across the tiles, bouncing into a wall or cupboard – not necessarily a fun experience for Fido, even if everyone laughs. Additionally, wet tile is slippery for people and pets. A pet’s water dish, or unforeseen drool or piddle will create a dangerous slick spot on the floor. It might not be the dog that slides into the cabinet that time, but you, carrying a stack of dishes to the table!
Soft-wood is another unsatisfactory choice in flooring. Pine or fir are lovely to look at, but their soft grains mean they’re easily scratched. A pet’s claws can gouge the floor and leave annoying and irreparable scratches. Stick with oak, maple, or bamboo flooring, which is both beautiful and hard to scratch or dent.
Fabrics: Keeping in mind what we’ve already discussed about color, choosing the type of fabric to use when reupholstering a couch or armchair is critical. Avoid fabrics that have a raised weave or “nubby” finish. While these tapestry-type fabrics are beautiful, they invite disaster. An outstretched kitty’s claws can easily hook a thread or two. The thread pulls; the cat panics and withdraws, taking the unraveling threads with her. You can imagine the rest!
Leather seems like a natural choice for pet-friendly furniture. But maybe not! While leather is easy to clean and seemingly durable, it has its weaknesses. Leather punctures easily, as you may have discovered with your car’s upholstery. Leather also requires moisturizing to keep it supple. If it dries out, scratches and mars as well as discoloration occur. But you have your heart set on leather? Be sure to check that the leather is “dyed through.” Less expensive leather is colored only on the surface. You want leather that is deeply dyed, all one color; if there are scratches or mars, they will be less noticeable if the blemish is the same color as the rest of the surface.
Denim, canvas, ultra-suede, and other synthetic fabrics are reliable alternatives for upholstery. Ultra-suede has a certain luxurious quality while being easy to clean with soap and water; it’s also fairly moisture and stain resistant. Translate: resistant to Bozo’s drooling and Puss’s hairballs. You may even want to look into the indoor-outdoor fabrics that are available now. They’re relatively indestructible.
Walls: You may be wondering why you may want to think about your walls in relation to your pets. Well, if you watch your standard poodle or Maine Coon Cat, they like to rub their bodies against a corner or wall. If you look closely, you’ll notice oily smudges at about back height for your cat or dog. These smudges become more noticeable with time, and if your walls have flat or matte finishes, you’ll have a difficult time cleaning away those discolorations. A bit of touch-up paint is not going to make the wall look great again. Those animal body oils remain on the surface and resist paint.
Avoid wallpaper, fabric, or flat paint on walls where pets commonly pass by. That beautiful golden retriever may enjoy a good rub down from you, but if you’re not around, that corner wall in the kitchen makes a handy substitute. Or, maybe you’ve seen your lovely Siamese arch her back and rub against that dining room wall.
If you don’t like the look of semi-gloss paint, you could try measuring up from the floor the height of your pet’s rubbing. Buy both semi-gloss and flat paint in the same color. Paint the lower portion of the walls with the cleanable semi-gloss and paint the remainder of the wall with the preferred flat finish. Another option is to add wainscoting–vertical wooden paneling, in the areas where your pets hangout, usually kitchen, family room, and perhaps the mudroom or laundry area. Wainscoting is attractive, can be painted in semi-gloss or gloss, disguises dirt and oily stains, and cleans easily.
Miscellaneous cautions: Let me close with a few general cautions and suggestions to consider as you ponder bigger home-freshening projects:
Window treatments: Remember that your pets like the out-of-doors too. If you can, leave a window uncovered, no blinds or closed drapes, so your dog or cat can sit and watch the snow fall, the birds flit by, the squirrels scramble about. A window on the world will be much more fun for your pets than leaving the TV playing when you’re away.
Cautions: An easy adjustment you may want to make in your home is to look to the corners. By that I mean, sharp edges and corners of tables and shelves. If there are no little children around, you may have not considered that a scampering puppy or romping cat could easily be injured if she or he ran into the corner of that glass coffee table or got tangled in an extension cord. Is there a lamp perched precariously near a table’s edge where it could be bumped and tumble off and on top of your pet?
Pet Property: How conveniently have you arranged your pet’s “things?” Those leashes, collars, pet coats, outdoor and indoor toys – are they flung into a big box or basket where you have to rummage through and untangle every time you want to use one? Perhaps you could make life easier for you and happier for your pet if you sorted out his toys, hung her leashes, folded the raincoat and towel for the next rainy or snowy walk.
We all enjoy our darling dogs, cats, gerbils, and parakeets. Sometimes there are simple ways to enhance the pleasure of pets and minimize the frustrations.