Interiors: How to make your home pet-friendly

They may be a man's best friend, but can dogs and interiors ever get along?

They may be a man's best friend, but can dogs and interiors ever get along? - Credit: Archant

With the plush, rolling fields of Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill and Regents Park all nearby, there are few better places in the capital to keep a pet than north London.

Clearing high up spaces for cats can help reduce their stress levels

Clearing high up spaces for cats can help reduce their stress levels - Credit: Archant

For every sunny dog walk however, there’s the more common problem of returning home, umbrella in tow, and only remembering to wipe Buster’s paws after he’s made a muddy mess of the new rug.

Keeping a dog or cat – while falling short of the trials of parenthood – can require a huge amount of dedication and often this can have a direct impact on how you keep your home. In addition to aesthetic frets about how to keep cat hairs off the sofa, there are also more practical considerations to be made about how to keep your pet safe, comfortable and happy in its new home.

Health and safety: The vet’s advice

Oliver Duprey is the senior vet surgeon at PetVet, a pet health care centre in Highgate. He preaches a strong ethic of prevention over cure and advises how to incorporate this into looking after your pet at home.

With dogs, he suggests the main challenge is keeping them away from foods in the kitchen such as chocolate, grapes and particularly fatty meats, which are poisonous to canines.

“We don’t encourage anybody to have their dogs or cats sleep with them, because of potentially shared parasites or infectious diseases,” he says, before adding: “In terms of foreign bodies, toys should be used under supervision if they’re potentially swallowable. We do see a lot of it – I’ve seen a dog that’s eaten a doormat, so they can do silly things.”

Most Read

From a vet’s perspective, cats are a more interesting interiors proposition. “There’s a lot about environmental modification and making your house stress free for cats.

Dogs and cats

Dogs and cats - Credit: Archant

“They’re very stressy animals so they can get stress induced cystitis, stress induced over-grooming and they have triggers that we can’t always pick up on so you need to know how they like to have their environments balanced.”

This is called MEMO and stands for multimodal environmental modification. Its strategies include providing cushioned areas where cats can sit up high and feel safe, such as cupboards or custom built cat towers; making sure if you have multiple cats, each one has its own litter tray; and not putting their food near the litter tray.

While cats don’t tend to hunt down toxic foods in the same way dogs might, another point to consider is plants: many table flowers can be poisonous, with lilies a particularly hazardous species.

Function and flair: The interior designer’s view

Once your pet is safe, you can begin thinking about how to maintain your interior style. Interior designer Mia Karlsson-Matthews is another Highgate professional who has had to adapt her style at home to fit around a four-year-old cat and nine-year-old dachshund.

She learnt the hard way: an expensive silk rug in her house lasted little over two years, taking most damage before her dog was toilet trained (the ammonium in its urine tended to burn through any fabrics in its path). Consequently, there are some basic rules of design she now tries to follow for materials and flooring.

“The best material for a dog or for a cat is either to have wooden floors or tiles,” she explains. “Wood is a natural material which means if it gets a bit battered it doesn’t matter because it’s supposed to have that effect anyway. Also you can sand a wooden floor down after five, ten years and it will look as good as new.

“Obviously if you have carpet, you can clean it, but if you have a couple of muddy footprints it’s never going to come out like it was when it was brand new.”

What about the times you do want carpets? “I’d suggest having a flat weave because they last a whole lot longer and it’s easier to clean. Basically go for natural materials: wool is great because it’s stain repellent; there are oils in wool that repel dirt. You can wash wool too, while some of the man made materials are not so great.”

In terms of cushions and rugs, Karlsson-Matthews suggests that while it’s tempting to go cheap, a fake material like art silk has a much lower life span; as it’s made of a wood derivative fibre, it absorbs everything.

Other tips include looking towards sofa companies such as B&B Italia, who stock entirely removable and dry clean friendly sofa covers, and considering stain repellent treatments, where companies such as Fabric Flair will come in and add another layer of protection to entire furniture sets.

A pet doesn’t have to be for life: Fostering animals

Even if you don’t have the space, finance or time required to keep a pet at home, there’s no reason why you can’t look after an animal. Wood Green, The Animals Charity urges anyone interested in adopting a pet to consider their routine first.

“Think about your lifestyle and support network before making your choice of pet,” they advise. “If you can’t commit to a pet long term, think about fostering for a local animal charity. This could provide company for you and vital help for a pet in need without the financial commitment.”

It’s a big decision and there’s no doubt that having a dog or cat will greatly impact your day to day life.

At the very least though, it’s comforting to know that neither pet nor home has to suffer for the two to live together in peace – until, that is, you find the missing doormat.