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Pet (cat) Friendly Design Tips

Pet Friendly Design TipsAs many of you know I’m a cat and dog person. Before we got cats our only reservation was that they are kinda a lot of responsibility as you have to, you know, make sure they are cared for while you travel, come home at night to feed them, etc. This actually hasn’t proven to be too annoying because you love them enough that it doesn’t matter. But what has been annoying is the damage that they’ve done to our furniture and the mess they create in the house … and I’m not even a neat freak. They puke everywhere, spill their cat food, if we aren’t on top of the litter it wreaks up the whole house, Bearcat has a sneezing issue which we see damage from all over the house (and it is REALLY hard to clean up), etc. Obviously our love of the goes far beyond smells and stains, but it’s still kinda a bummer. So when I partnered up with Arm and Hammer Clump and Seal litter to redo the cattery I figured I’d pull together some tips for y’all as well. This is mainly for the cat owners out there, but there are some good just general tips for dogs (and kids actually). Here goes.

Consider your upholstery fabrics:

You may have noticed that I use velvet A LOT. Do you think I just really love it? Sure, but it’s also because we cat owners can’t have linen furniture. It’s a fact i’ve accepted years ago. Cats, in particular, like to claw, so skip anything with an open weave like linen. As an alternative, ultra suede, leather (although they’ve ruined one leather armed chair that they can sit on) and velvet are harder for cats to get their claws into; and commercial-grade fabrics, nylon, and polyester repel stains more easily.

Cat Fabrics

I redid our new sofa in white sunbrella (don’t worry, you’ll get a whole post on that later) and so far it has held up, but if you are nervous then get velvet or ultrasuede. Ultrasuede isn’t my most favorite fabric in the world but it is indestructible and so pet (and kid) friendly. If you are going down that route and you have a choice get the ultrasuede that has the least amount texture or modeling. One of the things I hate about it is that it leaves your exact butt mark when you stand up and the texture can be strangely busy. But when you have pets, and cats in particular, they will most likely do this to linen or anything that is woven:

Cat Upholstery

So annoying. So get yourself velvet, performance velvet (this is kinda a combo of velvet and ultrasuede and it looks pretty good and most big box stores have it as an option these days), Sunbrella or leather. Vinyl certainly works too, but pretty hard to incorporate well into a room (although I did it here and it looked good).

Streamline pet accessories:

I’m not saying get OCD about matching your cat toys to your color palette but I’m also not saying that it’s a bad idea. You want to minimize their attention and make them look more streamlined so they aren’t really noticed. There are actually some pretty awesome options out there these days. Like so:

Cat Accessories

Leaning Console Scratch Post | Cube Scratch Post

You know i’m in to wicker so these things actually work really well in my house.

Master the unattractive and smelly litter box:

Its totally normal and yet TOTALLY CRAZY to keep a box of poop in our homes at all times. Most litter boxes aren’t something we want to display prominently in our homes – but you do have some options out there. We turned the tiny hall closet in our house into their litter box room so thank god we don’t have to look at it, but if you don’t have that option, look for something a little more attractive, or a litter boxes that double as furniture (good for small spaces but if you have a big house then just get one that is simple and white or wood).

ModernLitterBox Modern Litter Box 2

MidCentry Modern Litter Box | ModCat LitterBox | Modern Brown Litter Box

Probably the least awesome things about cats (I hate to be so negative about these furry little cuddly animals) is the litter box smell. Well I can now say that if we change the box once a week we actually don’t have this problem anymore due to Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal. When they first approached me about the cattery redo I didn’t really care about the litter to be honest – I just wanted to makeover an animal shelter. But then when we bought the litter to make sure that it was, you know, indeed good and we were very happy to report that it works and it really destroys the smell. Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal, I never predicted I’d gush about cat litter so much but yes, it works.  It guarantees a seven-day odor-free home. Since the litter easily clumps together, it also minimizes litter dust, so it doesn’t get all over your house. There is still some dust, but so much less mess.


Click through to read the rest of the tips and see the video. 

Choose shades over drapes:

Now if you already have drapes or curtains know that some cats don’t do this, but many, many cats want to climb those long flowy suckers. Avoid this by hanging shades or blinds from your windows. The idea is – get anything that goes up and down instead of side to side. Its just too tempting for them.

blinds vs rollers

Corral the toys:

If you don’t want to be OCD about the cat toys you bring into the house then you are going to have to corral the ugly ones. Like kids, cats can have visually ugly and loud stuff so storage is key. I’m not saying anything too new or fresh here, but buying simple chic storage and designating a space for cat toys is never a bad idea.

Cat Storage


Two Piece Seagrass Trunk | Grey Storage Ottoman | Striped Baskets | Wood and Grey Fabric Storage Bench | Teak and Metal Storage Bench | Wicker Storage Bench

Cat Dishes:

We are desperate for good cat dishes and I just need to pull the trigger. It’s just such an annoying thing to buy. I have learned that the best bet is to go with something that has either a rubber or heavy bottom to it – especially for the water as they love to just move and spill that thing around. These are all pretty darn cute for cat dishes.

Cat Dishes

Consider Your Furniture Legs:

Again if you already have your upholstered linen sofa don’t throw it away, but next time you are shopping for a new sofa and pets are a big part of your life opt for hardwood or metal legs vs. fabric or skirting on sofa’s, ottomans, coffee tables, or anything else that may be just in reach of your pets sharp claws. This will keep your pet from wanting to claw away at it as well as keeping your furniture looking beautiful for years. Our new sofa (not pictured) has a base of teak and leather now and there is no way for the cats to really scratch it. Yes, these below styles are mostly mid-century (and actually i’m not sure that the seagrass on the side of that one is really a good idea as they might just see it as one big vertical scratching post) but the less fabric you have the less damage they can do.

Furniture Legs

Don’t fret, don’t not get pets because they destroy your furniture, but yet … you just have to be a bit smarter about some of your choices. To see these tips in action as well as the makeover I did in partnership with Arm & Hammer Clump and Seal Litter for the Cattery in NYC click HERE.

Cattery Collage
Photo by Matt Harrington

And now for a little video to celebrate my love of my cats (and tour through the cattery).

Now go hug your cat and tell them how much you really don’t care about their mess and smell because in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. To see the full Cattery makeover post click HERE. 

If any of you have any other pet friendly design suggestions (what you’ve found works for you OR products that you love) PLEASE leave the in the comments.

Cattery photos by Matt Harrington. This post was in partnership with Arm and Hammer Clump and Seal. Thanks guys, for supporting the brands that support the original content over here. 

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  1. I don’t know how I missed this post! But thank you for it. I look at so many beautiful design spaces and blogs and think, ‘there is just no way they have pets’. It’s helpful to think about how we can design around them. Our biggest problem is not being able to have rugs since occasionally the dogs will pee on them (and then sometimes the cat). It’s just easier to clean it up off the tile. But the rugs tie the room together! Anyway, thank you for sharing much needed info!

  2. You say velvet furniture is cat friendly, does the same go for a velvet duvet? I am in love with one and am concerned about my cats claws. Thank you so very much for your beautiful and informative blog!

  3. could you do another post about this? maybe one that’s just about picking out furniture / pillows / anything that you can buy that your cats will not destroy? i don’t have pets but my bachelor friends do and their apartment is a MESS.


  4. Just found this post and it’s great! I’d like to second the request for another post- I’m super interested in which fabrics would work best for bedding, pillows etc. Do you have any thoughts? Thank you!

  5. You mentioned advantages of using sunbrella fabrics for interior furniture. Very much interested in pursuing that option (3 kitties & 1 pup). Can you expand on that subject?
    Thank you. Love your website!

  6. Thank you for the tips and advice! It’s nice to see that other people are dealing with the same issues as cat owners! I am in the process of buying a new couch since mine currently looks like the picture of the shredded up red/pink one. The couch I need has to have a sleeper option and I have a budget, so it’s been so hard to find the right fit and having to consider the upholstery. It seems like linen styles/thick weaves are most popular now too so that means less options for suede/velvet styles or leather. I finally have found a couple of options I am considering, one of them is faux leather. Is there a difference if a couch is leather or pu/faux leather? Is one more susceptible to getting punctured or destroyed?

  7. I’d like to make another suggestion if I might? If you’re in the market to adopt a new cat, consider an adult/senior cat! I worked at an animal shelter for five years and most people came in wanting a kitten or a very young cat. Sure, they’re cute, but they will destroy your house! Plus, many of the older cats wait months for a home so you’ll be doing yourself and the cat a huge service.

    Older cats are just as loving and affectionate, but are WAY less destructive. And around age 7, they won’t be able to jump up on your kitchen counters anymore (huge bonus in my book).

    (Here’s a video we put out comparing kittens and senior cats- give it 30 sec to get good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c73kIR-sQb8 )

  8. I’m replacing my “cat fur-covered” fabric patio door vertical blinds. I don’t want vinyl. Do you think her fur would cling to faux wood blinds? Thank you,

  9. Just a little note for people who are shopping for furniture. Now, I’m not sure if other people have this issue, but I totally went the way of getting a couch with wood arms and a wood back and just fabric cushions. Unfortunately, I found that my cats have damaged the wood – not intentionally, but when they jump off the wood arms or back their back claws dig into the wood and scratch it. I recently bought a wood coffee table and I’m so scared of them scratching it that I have it covered at all times and am looking into having a piece of glass cut to match the top. This is a doable solution but it does limit the kid friendly aspect of the furniture.

    Keeping their back claws short helps somewhat but it’s not perfect. It could be that the wood on my couch is soft, it’s vintage and I’m no wood expert so I’m not sure what kind of wood it is. Just something to keep in mind.

  10. I disagree with you about leather upholstery. I have a leather arm chair, and my cat has done more damage to it than to anything else in the house. It makes very satisfying scratching for her. I’ve had to cover it with one of my aunt’s crocheted afghans.