They Live Here, Too! 7 Simple Ways to Pet Proof Your Furniture

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If the thought of investing in a new couch or mattress gives you anxiety because you fear your cat or dog will make it look, smell or feel old long before its time, fret not. You can safely invest in new furniture for your living room or bedroom AND keep Fluffy or Fido happy without sacrificing style or sensibility. Pet proofing your furniture is the best thing you can do to ensure your new household purchase retains that new feeling for as long as possible.

Cover it Up

The easiest way to ensure a guest to your home is totally unaware you share your life with a feline or canine companion is to cover your furniture. The slipcover options for couches, easy chairs and lounges has expanded from the dusty old image of ill-fitted damask fabric look alikes that many people think of when they hear the word. From form-fitting microfiber to stretchy spandex that slides on and off in a snap, it’s easy to slide today’s slipcovers onto your furniture for everyday use and take them off shortly before company arrives. To keep beds looking fresh, make sure you have ample bedding and proper foundations on your mattress. A dust and allergen-proof mattress cover goes a long way from keeping dander and tracked-in dirt off of your mattress, while a proper pad, easy clean sheets and durable and washable blankets can all help keep your bedroom furniture looking and feeling fresh. If you just can’t resist keeping your four-legged companion in bed with you for snuggles, consider laying down a blanket at the foot of the bed or next to you just for them -- one that’s easy to wash when it starts looking hairy or smelling not-so-fresh.

Provide Healthy Alternatives for Destructive Behaviors

Pets chew and scratch things: it’s their nature. Dogs and cats both chew to keep their teeth clean, and cats scratch to keep their claws in tip-top shape. But that doesn’t mean your furniture has to show signs of their destructive habits. Provide healthy alternatives for your pets to chew and scratch and redirect them to those alternatives every time you catch them gnawing or even eyeing your furniture. Both dogs and cats benefit from plenty of exercise. A tired dog or cat is a well-behaved dog or cat. Dogs can benefit from a long walk at the start of the day and one at the end of the day, before they’ll be left home unsupervised. Cats can enjoy quality time with a laser pointer, feather chaser or other interactive toy. Appropriate chew and scratch toys aren’t just beneficial, they’re a necessity for pet owners. A quality chew toy can keep your playful pup from eating a hole in your mattress or destroying a sofa cushion. A scratching post made of sisal, cardboard or jute can keep your kitty’s need to scratch confined to one spot just for them -- an extra rub-down with catnip makes scratching posts extra attractive to feline friends. If you find your pet’s nails are snagging your bedding or furniture and you’re at your wits end with the scratches and pulled fabrics, consider taking them to the groomer to be fitted with claw caps. These soft silicone caps are glued over the pet’s nail and last for a number of weeks, falling off as the nail grows. They keep pets’ claws blunt and virtually harmless for nearly all but the most loose-piled fabrics and upholstery.

Choose Easy Care Materials and Construction

Speaking of loose-piled upholstery, consider your furry friends when you choose a couch based on construction methods and materials. Leather and faux leather are easy to wipe down and somewhat moisture resistant, making them the go-to easy care fabric for everyday furniture like sofas and chairs in homes that have pets. Similarly, microfiber is easily wiped clean of any traces of fur or tracked-on debris that your puppy or kitten may bring with them. Look carefully at the construction of your new furniture purchase for any features that could be a little too attractive to pets. Tufted buttons, for example, are irresistible for some pets that like to chew or pull at them until they pop off. Opt for sleek, clean lines over traditional structure to keep your furniture pet-friendly. It’s important to keep washability in mind, also. Sofas and chairs that have separate cushions that unzip for washing are a pet owner’s dream, while easy-care bedding and mattress protectors keep things fresh in the bedroom. And since accidents happen, look for stain, moisture and odor-resistant treatments on fabrics and finishes.

Groom Your Pets -- And Your Furniture!

Keeping your pets and your furniture well-groomed go hand-in-hand. Shorter haired pets might require a good brushing once a week, while long-haired breeds might need to be brushed every day. Brushing removes loose hairs that are ready to be shed -- the ones that will collect on your clothes, furniture and everywhere else. Regular nail trims at home, the vet’s office or the groomer’s keep upholstery from snagging and running -- if your pet’s claws are shorter and filed smooth, there’s less chance they’ll catch on your couch or bedding. Regular baths thwart odors and keep your furniture from taking on that characteristic “dog” or “cat” smell. But just as important as grooming your pets is grooming your furniture. Invest in a good vacuum and use it frequently. Brush off hairs as you notice them and keep a lint roller or roll of duct tape on hand to facilitate prompt fur removal from your pieces. Leather and faux leather finishes can benefit from both vacuuming and regular wipe downs to keep them looking their best.

Treat Stains and Odors Promptly

Whether your pet has a moment of incontinence or an upset stomach that leaves them vomiting, stains and odors happen. Even cats who are normally well-behaved might suffer a moment of impulsivity and knock a glass of juice from its table onto your couch or bed, leaving you with a mess to clean up. Rather than trying to avoid the inevitable, have a strategy for dealing with stains and odors as promptly as possible. Deal with spills and accidents as soon as they happen; the longer a mess is allowed to sit, the harder it is to clean. Check the label on your furniture for spot-cleaning instructions and test all cleaning products in an inconspicuous spot, like the bottom of a cushion. Enzyme-based cleaners make quick work of most pet stains, but they aren’t suitable for all fabrics and can irreparably damage some fibers like wool, leather and silk.

Use Deterrents and Incentives to Protect Your Furniture

Make sure your animal friends have a spot to call their very own. Whether it’s a whole room where nothing is off-limits or a kennel to retreat to, having a dedicated space for your furry friends to explore, relax or play lessens the chance they’ll wreck your furniture. This is especially true if you’re implementing a no pets on the couch or bed rule, or shutting them out of certain rooms. Even if you’re okay with allowing your pets onto the furniture, you can train them to avoid certain behaviors. For example, if you catch your cat scratching at your sofa legs, a quick squirt from a water bottle will let your kitty know that the behavior displayed isn’t okay. Like any training, you’ll have to repeat the consequences a few times for it to stick. Physical deterrents like double sided sticky tape, tin foil or even citrus-based fragrances can also keep pets from spending extra time on your furniture -- just be sure they have a place to comfortably retreat to after facing defeat or chastisement.

Ask for Professional Help

If you’re having trouble keeping your furniture in one piece in the face of your pets and have tried everything from training to exercise to readily available calming pheromone sprays, you may need to ask for professional help. A dog who eats pillows while you’re at work, for example, may have a case of separation anxiety. A cat who won’t stop scratching your mattress to shreds may be sick or in pain. You can also turn to your furniture salespeople for help: they can tell you which pieces are the most stain and scratch resistant, as well as point out easy care fabrics and features to make bringing a new piece home a cinch.

Pet Proofing Your Furniture

Helping your pets and furniture peacefully coexist doesn’t have to be a nightmare. There are a number of solutions you can try to keep both your furry friends and couch, pillows or bedding safe and sound. From choosing easy-care furniture and fixtures to training your pets, sometimes more than one method for pet-proofing your furniture (and furniture-proofing your pets!) is necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help and remember: the love and companionship provided by your four-legged friends is worth a little bit of hassle sometimes.
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