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The Best Furniture Upholstery for Pets

small dog laying on a leather sofaYou're looking for a new piece of furniture for the family. And, of course, that includes your pets! They’re just as much a part of the family as anyone else. So how can you make sure your furniture works for your space but is also somewhat pet-friendly?

At McElheran’s Furniture + Design, we’ve been helping families with this very dilemma since 1994. It’s a common occurrence, actually. Some clients feel like they can’t have nice furniture if they have pets, but we think you shouldn’t have to choose! You really can have both as long as you’re willing to find the right fit for everyone, including your pets.

In this article, one of our in-house designers (Design Guides), Shelley, will go over the best options for pet owners looking at upholstery for their furniture. Even if you don’t end up buying from us, as a staff full of pet moms and dads, we just want you to get the best information possible! That way, you and your pets will be happy and comfortable.

Now, from what we’ve heard from our clients over the years, these are the three major concerns when it comes to owning a pet and finding appropriate furniture upholstery:

Before we tackle those concerns, though, we should start off with a little disclaimer:

There is no upholstery option that is 100% impermeable. And every pet is different! Certain methods to prevent your pets from damaging your furniture may work for some and not others.

It’s all part of being a pet owner, right? Sometimes they chew your favourite shoes or track a big mess into your home, but you deal with it because you love them unconditionally!

And, honestly, pets aside, we can all make mistakes. And those mistakes could affect our furniture. It’s smart of you to care about the longevity of your furniture, but it shouldn’t stop you from living your life and enjoying your space with your pets.

The best upholstery for getting rid of pet hair

If you have a pet that sheds, hair will wind up on your furniture no matter what. It’s going to wind up everywhere, really!

With that in mind, it’s best to look for upholstery with a tight weave so the hair won't embed itself deep into the fibres. Additionally, a bit of a nap helps keep pet hair on the surface, so it’s easier to wipe or vacuum away.

A nap, by the way, is the raised and slightly fuzzy surface found on some upholstery, like velvet. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend velvet since it actually attracts pet hair (a lot of lint brushes are made from velvet!), but synthetic fibres, like polyester, can mimic the nap and feel of velvet.

Another worthy consideration is leather. It doesn’t particularly attract pet hair, and it’s extremely easy to clean. All you need is a microfibre cloth or a quick (but gentle) vacuum.

You can also try and coordinate the colour of your furniture with your pet. You can’t really see pet hair if it’s the same colour as your furniture, right?

You could also go for an intricate pattern on your upholstery. It’s kind of like putting speckled granite on your kitchen countertops. Your kitchen never looks dirty because it’s hard to see any mess!

Same with upholstery. If there’s enough going on with the pattern, you’re less likely to see pet hair. 

kitten plays on a fabric sofa with its tongue sticking outPHOTO CREDIT: 5second/Adobe Stock

The best upholstery for preventing scratches and punctures

Cats tend to be the biggest offenders of scratching furniture. It’s natural for them! They scratch to mark their territory, condition their nails, and so they can get a good hold of something while they stretch. Unfortunately for your furniture, scratching is something cats do instinctually – and quite regularly!

So, what kind of upholstery is less tempting to scratch for your pets?

The best upholstery would be something with a tight, flat weave. That way, there’s less material for your pet’s nails to latch onto, so your furniture becomes less appealing – from a scratching standpoint, anyway.

You’d be right to think that leather is a pretty good option for upholstery since, well, it’s not a woven material at all. But remember that even if your pets are not intentionally clawing at things, you may start to see small punctures and scratches from them simply existing on your furniture.

comparison picture of two fabrics, one is good for pets because of its tight, flat weave, and the other is bad because of the tweed

The best upholstery for stain resistance and removal

Pets can be a little dirty and unpredictable with their accidents. And your best defense against that?

Performance fabric.

Performance fabric is specifically engineered to withstand wear and tear while being easy to clean. Most of your performance fabric options are designed to be stain and fade-resistant, moisture-wicking, durable, odor-repelling, and prevent the build-up of bacteria.

A major appeal of performance fabric is that a quick blot with a clean towel is sometimes all you need to remove stains – even accidents from your pet.

And if you need a little more elbow grease, a mild soap and water solution can be used, and, in some cases, bleach is even an option.

button saying not sure what performance fabric is and how it works, find out more

What else can I do to prevent my pets from damaging my furniture?

You’re doing your due diligence by finding out what upholstery will work best for your pets. Here are a few more tips to save your furniture while keeping the pets in your home happy!

Use slipcovers and blankets

Now, we’d hate for you to feel like you have to hide your furniture all the time. But if you’re not quite sure what your pets get up to when you’re not home, using a slipcover or throwing a blanket over your furniture may prevent you from coming home to a mess.

Give your pets other options

Your pets may want to scratch your sofa or shed all over your accent chair because you’re not giving them other options. Set up a few doggy beds, cat condos, or scratching posts to allow your pets to do what they need to do on items that were specifically made for them.

Train your pets to avoid your furniture

Easier said than done, right?

And we are by no means animal behaviouralists, so we can’t offer much insight into how to keep your pets off your furniture. But with consistent strategies and positive reinforcement, you may be able to deter your pets from jumping on your furniture.

Keep in mind, though, that even if you train them to stay off your furniture, they can be very sneaky when you’re not home! It may be worth installing baby gates or closing doors so your pets can’t get at your furniture when you’re not around.

You can always set up puppy cams too, to see if all that training translates to when you’re not in the home.

Use deterrent sprays (if applicable)

You can find sprays specifically made to discourage animals from scratching your furniture. These can help, but it’s important to double-check the spray's contents and what your warranty says. Certain solutions may not react well to your upholstery, and you could end up voiding the warranty on your furniture.

Purchase a furniture protection plan

Furniture protection plans are all about giving you peace of mind. When you know you’re protected against life’s little mishaps, you and your family – pets and all – can really relax and enjoy your furniture.

A plan with Guardsman, for instance, can protect your furniture against accidents your pets may have along the way. It doesn’t cover absolutely everything, though, so you might want to check if The Guardsman Plan Is Right for You before making your purchase.

And if you’re ready to sit down and discuss all your options for making your furniture a little more pet-friendly, we’d be happy to help! Schedule a visit to McElheran’s to chat with one of our Design Guides about the best upholstery for you and your pets.

Oh, and since we’re all pet lovers here, feel free to bring in your pictures! We’d love to fawn over your furry family members while you shop for button for a room-by-room pricing guide