Best Ways to Protect Your Furniture From Your Cat or Dog

Have a pet? If so, wear and tear on your furniture is inevitable. You can avoid the worst of it with some basic cat- and dog-proofing measures.

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Urine. Vomit. Claw marks. Tables chewed to smithereens.

If you’ve been a dog or cat owner for any length of time, you’ve probably seen all of this — and more. Furniture damage is simply a part of life when you own a pet.

“If you are extremely concerned about (damage), you may not want to have a pet in your home,” says Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado of Feline Minds Cat Behavior Consulting. She explains that while pets can be trained, they are still animals. And animals are going to engage in certain species-specific behaviors no matter how well-behaved they are.

Fortunately, it’s possible to minimize damage by choosing pet-friendly furniture and fabric and learning how to protect that furniture from the scratches, bodily fluids and other forms of pet-related destruction.

Choosing Pet-Friendly Furniture

No piece of furniture is entirely pet proof, but some are certainly moreso than others. With couches and cushions, zippered cushion covers and washable or wipe-clean fabrics are easier to deal with than more delicate coverings that require professional cleaning.

How about tables, chairs, cabinets and other items? The key is durability. An active dog can easily break a flimsy table or knock over shelving that isn’t properly secured to the wall.

When you shop for and/or assemble furniture, make sure it is strong enough to stand up to the weight of your pet. A particleboard bookshelf in a home with a Great Dane, for example, is iffy. The same shelf in a home where the only pet is a seven-pound cat? Totally appropriate.

And regardless of the size of your pet, be sure to use the proper hardware and tools when assembling any piece of furniture. This will help ensure that your furniture is stable and therefore less likely to sustain damage.

Oh, and be aware that dogs can break non-tempered glass, so furniture with glass accents (think: coffee tables) might not be your best bet if you have a dog.  Broken glass can injure your pet; in this situation, the loss of the table is secondary.

Best and Worst Fabrics for Homes with Pets

Silk, velvet, linen, suede and tweed are unequivocally the worst fabrics to have in your home if you own cats and dogs. Not only are these fabrics delicate and/or prone to snags, most of them don’t stand up to water or the enzymatic cleaning products normally recommended for cleaning up pet messes.

Instead, opt for microfiber or leather. Microfiber is durable and easy to clean. And although leather can get scratched, overall it’s pretty resilient. And in the case of an accident, you can quickly wipe it up from a leather surface. You can also easily remove pet hair from microfiber and leather with a vacuum or handheld pet hair remover tool.

Tips to Protect Furniture From Pets

Even if you have pet-friendly furniture, here are some practical measures dog and cat owners can take to keep couches and chairs, et al., clean and damage-free.

Embrace washable throws and blankets

You can put them on any piece of furniture your pet likes to hang out on. When the blanket gets soiled or covered in fur, you can just shake it out and toss it in the washing machine. Plus, because there are so many colors and styles to choose from, it won’t be hard to find a few that match your décor.

Water- and stain-resistant furniture covers are also an option. This affordable couch cover from Amazon comes in three sizes and 24 colors!.

Keep your pet well-groomed

What does this have to do with furniture? Well, pets that are brushed regularly will leave less fur behind on the furniture. You should trim their nails, too, in case they try to scratch at your brand-new couch (especially cats). Be sure to find a brush that is right for your pet. If you own cats and a small dog, this brush has great reviews.

Use “cat deterrent” tape

These sticky sheets of double-sided tape will not appeal to your cat; they will hate it. Place it on scratch-prone areas of your furniture to encourage your cat to find something else to do.

Clean up pet messes immediately

If your cat or dog has an accident on your couch, drop everything and grab the enzymatic cleaner. Acting fast is the best way to make sure the mess doesn’t soak into the fabric. It is also one of your best defenses against the pet soiling that same spot repeatably.

Reconsider the bathroom situation

Especially if soiling on furniture is an ongoing issue. A cat’s litter box should be private but not enclosed, says Delgado. (Here’s one that fits the bill.) Dogs should have the opportunity to go out regularly.

If accidents are happening despite proper training and the right setup, Delgado suggests taking your pet to the vet so the possibility of a medical condition can be ruled out.

Provide appropriate stimulation

Your cat or dog is less likely to damage your furniture if they have outlets for normal behavior, Delgado says. For a cat, this means a sturdy scratching post and access to a window so they can see outside. Dogs need daily walks and chew toys. All pets need positive reinforcement and affection.

Clean regularly

The longer fur sits on a cushion, the more likely it will become embedded into the fabric. Vacuuming minimizes this. Many vacuums comes with pet hair attachments, or you can get a handheld device designed specifically for the job.

Also, be sure to regularly launder all washable items, like the cover you got for your couch. This will help keep those lovely pet odors (wet dog, anyone?) from taking up permanent residence in your furniture.

Dawn Weinberger
Dawn Weinberger is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon who has contributed to numerous publications and websites over the past 20 years, including, Glamour, Women's Health, Entrepreneur, and many others. Dawn has a BA in journalism from Western Washington University and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She writes about everything from health and medicine to fashion, shopping, and business.