Furry friends in mind

Taking fluffy and whiskered pets into consideration when decorating

FUR babies have taken a higher priority over their human counterparts, at least for many young married couples or those in long-term relationships from the looks of it.

Pets that used to serve as guards of dwelling places are now pampered with a life of luxury, complete with plumped-up beds to sleep in, air-conditioned quarters of their own and food of the highest quality.

It's no surprise then that many homeowners today may be looking for a way to make their home more pet-inclined to suit the "lifestyle and liking" of their furry housemates.

On the other hand, pet expert-cum-author Julie Szabo says, "If a house doesn't work with dogs, it won't work with children or guests either." Hence, decor ideas for happy households that encompass the furry kind and less hirsute.


The consensus on flooring when one has pets is to use ceramic tiles. Marble and other natural stone are porous materials, which can ruin and permanently stain due to all types of excreted pet wastes.

Ceramic tiling offers many benefits that tip the scales in its favour – it is easy to clean, is highly resistant to stains, toenail-proof, gives fur babies a cool place to nap, and lastly, it makes a room look sleek and elegant.

Decor Aid, in a blog post for Huffington Post, informed, "Tile is a great flooring option for pet owners, but you probably don't want it in every single room. In that case, try sealed hardwood or synthetic woods, which are durable and less expensive than hardwood."

HGTV Design Star judge and interior designer Vern Yip recommends to get wood flooring with scratch-resistant finishing. Yip also suggests getting ceramic tiles that look like stone flooring for a varied look, "because it looks like stone, but unlike stone, it doesn't absorb urine or such, like if your dog has an 'accident'."

It also goes without saying to avoid carpeting at all costs, as carpets and fabrics absorb odour, traps pet hair and soaks up inevitable pet-related stains. If you really need wall-to-wall carpeting for any reason though, Decor Aid recommends "sealing the carpeting to avoid stains".


The idea of rugs would generally seem like a firm "no" for a home with pets. However, dogs would probably have a whale of a time chewing and tearing into it, while cats will be more than happy to sink their claws and scratch into it. So rugs are really a "yes", the issue would be choosing the right kind of fabric to suit your furry baby (or babies).

Szabo recommends sisal or seagrass rugs, as it provides "an elegant, neutral backdrop that will go with any decor". Moreover, these are sturdy and easier to clean. Choose low pile weaving to ease the cleaning process she advises.

If the idea of cleaning your home everyday sounds tiring, then choose rugs with patterns and colours similar to your pet's fur to camouflage shed fur. Avoid rugs made of viscose, rayon and artificial silk.

They may look gorgeous but are too delicate to maintain with a pet in the house. These kinds of rugs are better treated as art pieces to be hung on walls, high up and away from sharp claws and nails.


There is really no way to avoid getting your pets and their fur all over your couch; you can only make the up-keeping less frustrating and cumbersome for the human occupants.

When choosing a sofa or fabric, consider the following: Can it be cleaned easily? Will it look ugly if my pets' claws got into it? How long can it last?

Many interior decorators recommend getting leather-clad furniture. Decor Aid explains that fur can be easily wiped off leather, adding that owners should choose leather with more of a patina, which helps mask or blend in the scratch marks.

Besides, leather also tends to look classier with some wear and tear.

Then again, there may be a sad irony in using materials made from animal skin or pelt in a pet-loving home, so DIY Network writer Leanne Potts advises using "pleather" instead as it is "cruelty-free, relatively inexpensive and has a timeless appeal".

Other options include re-upholstering your sofa with fabric meant for both indoor and outdoor use as it is made to withstand the weather, climate and high traffic, without feeling hard or rough. Depending on your pets' fur colour, use identical hues and prints in your upholstery to avoid shed fur from sticking out like a sore thumb.

If all else fails, just get a large, attractive designed blanket and throw it over your couch to keep fur off the furniture. Every few days, take the blanket outside and give it a good shake to get the fur out.


"Pets present you with the opportunity to really work with colour," says Szabo. However, white walls are a terrible choice for a pet-loving (or kid-filled) home, as the colour is more susceptible to discolouring.

It is also advisable to ensure that the finishing used can be wiped down with a cloth if any drool or pee gets onto it. Semi-gloss finishing is the best, but the sheen tends to highlight imperfections if used on a wall. Consider getting a satin or eggshell finishing instead; it's just as easy to clean, but exudes elegance.

However, there are certain companies that have developed "wipeable" flat paints.


As for decorative items, it is best to place them in locations that will be difficult for your pets to reach. Chicago interior designer Nan Ruvel suggests putting your "fragile displayables in a glass-panelled China cabinet. That way you can see them, but your pet can't break them", she explains.

Avoid displaying items on low tabletops, especially if you have an active pet; one case of the zoomies and everything will be flying off the table, most likely end up in pieces! Spend your decoration funds on framed prints, photos and paintings instead.

They will be high up on the wall, away from claws and excretion, and relatively safer from ruination.

For the joy of your pets, if you have some pet toys lying about, it is recommended to keep them in lidded baskets or ottomans when not in use.

They provide your home with a chic look at the same time gives the interiors a neat-enough appearance for visiting guests to be welcomed into.

Lastly, if you're a plant lover, do a quick check that the plants you plan on bringing home are not toxic for pets.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (aspca.org) runs a database where pet owners can check if their plants are toxic or non-toxic to their dogs, cats and other common pets such as birds and horses even.

Aloe vera, for example, is a common plant found in many Malaysian homes, which is reportedly toxic to both cats and dogs.

If your pet were to ingest aloe vera, it could cause vomiting, lethargy and/or diarrhoea.

This 2018, being the Year of the Dog, let's consider our pets, especially our "four-legged extended family member/s", and make home a warm and pleasant place for all to live in.