Living with Our Furry Friends

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened”.
-Anatole France

September was a joyful one for a few of my clients. One happy family welcomed their new baby girl and another, a bouncing baby boy. Yet another adopted a sweet 8 week old little one named Abbey, except she came wrapped in a ball of fur with 4 legs and a wagging tail.

Most expectant parents and even some grandparents take time to prepare for the arrival of a (human) baby, yet many pet parents bring an animal home and wing it. Underestimating a pet’s needs and the changes these furry or feathered housemates bring can lead to frustration for both parties.

We’ve all seen homes that look as if there are no human inhabitants at all. Furniture is covered with old sheets or blankets, rugs are ancient and stained and crates or beds are a tripping hazard. As a designer, I often hear people say that they can’t have anything nice because they have pets. That belief keeps them living in limbo and they forget that they are entitled to an aesthetically pleasing home too. They might as well be living in a crate! But it doesn’t have to be either/or.


As a species, humans have been living with animal companions since the beginning of time. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association almost 70% of U.S. households currently have at least one pet. With those statistics it’s no wonder that pet supply is a multi billion dollar industry. But it hasn’t been until very recently that the home and pet industry have partnered up, giving pet owners new choices that allow the home to be both stylish and pet friendly. Knowing what to choose when sharing your home with pets is the key to having it look great and feel great.

As a designer, I can spot the tell tale signs of a homeowner who’s given up just by looking down. Carpets and rugs always start out fresh and clean, but over time they bear the brunt of life more than any other surface. Everything that comes in on feet and paws, every scratching session or couldn’t hold it accident can leave your place looking tatty and worn. Sometimes it can feel like a devious plan hatched by our pets to leave pee, poop or puke stains to remember them by, but it’s usually just a poor selection choice on our part. Rugs with pattern, low cut piles and the right fibers can be key to holding up better with pet activity. Many flooring manufacturers are even directing their marketing campaigns to pet owners looking for the right choice.

Upholstered furniture is the next biggest place where a pets’ presence is seen, and sometimes smelled. Even if we have a strict “not on the furniture” policy, that is soon violated the minute we leave the house. Covering furniture like a mummy doesn’t have to be the only option. When selecting fabrics you need to consider the durability, weave and fiber content. Fabrics that were once thought of as outdoor fabrics have made their way inside and are diverse in pattern and texture, making them a great choice. Velvets are also a great choice because the fibers are short and dense and make it difficult for fur to get imbedded. A client with several cats always gets a sample of a potential fabric first. She lets them scratch at it and runs it along their fur to see if it’s a good choice for their household. But if you absolutely have your heart set on a fabric that might be a problem with pets then I recommend buying extra yardage and having a cover or two made of the same fabric. That way there isn’t a mad dash to take the sheets off the sofa every time the doorbell rings.

It’s very exciting to see what’s happening where pet-keeping and home-keeping intersect. Furniture companies are combining form and function with pet owners in mind. For instance, if a room needs an end table and a dog crate, why not combine the two? Cat need a place to scratch or chill out? Why not make it as stylish as the rest of your furnishings? Some of it is so great looking you might not even need a pet to want it in your home. Thinking of clever ways to integrate your needs and your pets might offer you a more interesting solution to the utility of items your pet needs.

Sometimes restricting your pet from a particular area is necessary for their safety and your sanity. In that department, dog gates have come a long way from the glorified plastic baby gate. I’ve had some gates custom made to compliment trim throughout the house, one at the top of the stairs that prevents sliding down paw first, and even a dog crate built into the base of a built in bookcase. There are lots of ways to get creative with the everyday things that we need access to like dog leashes and dog bowls. Rather than digging into the dark depths of a closet to grab a leash or stubbing your toe on a water bowl, think about integrating these things into your kitchen or storage cabinets. It may make daily chores like walking and feeding much more pleasant.

Whether your pet barks, meows, chirps or squeaks their presence in our lives gives us tremendous joy and adds to the quality of our lives. Knowing that there are alternatives to bland wire crates and Armageddon proof scratchy fabrics makes cohabiting with our pets a pleasure for all involved.

If you are struggling to find a happy balance between your needs and those of your pets, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to compromise. Pet friendly and human friendly options abound if you aren’t content to settle. With a little legwork you can find solutions that make both of your tails wag with joy.