NEW YORK -- Sydney Masters' dog Angus has white fur. But he loves to play and dig in the mud, so his paws are often brown. And that was a factor in Masters' choice of sofa.
"We didn't choose the lovely white sofa that I wanted. No! We chose a rich dark brown leather couch," said Masters, who shares a Manhattan apartment and a home in France with her husband, who is French, and with Angus, a West Highland terrier.
Finding furniture that dogs and cats won't ruin is a challenge for pet owners. Here are some things to think about when you're buying furniture, along with some ideas for protecting it from fur, stains and scratches.
Many dog owners report that leather works well as a pooch-proof alternative to fabric. "It's that kind of glossed leather that repels water and dirt," Masters says. Angus tends to stay off the sofa because the leather surface is "not as comfy or warm as other places and it's a little slippery." If he does occasionally sit on it, Masters says the dirt is easily wiped off.
But leather might not work for households with cats, who may damage it with their claws, according to the American Humane Association's chief veterinary adviser Dr. Patricia Olson. Owners of dog breeds that habitually dig or scratch might also think twice about leather.
In addition to leaving scratch marks on leather, cat claws can destroy fabric upholstery. Some cat owners say that microfiber, a synthetic, velvety suede-like material, is a good alternative. It's smoother and less appealing to cats than knits or woven fabric they can sink their claws into. And fur -- from dogs or cats -- is easily removed from microfiber with a vacuum, lint roller or cloth. Microfiber can also be spot-cleaned.
Texture and design matter when choosing furniture. Some folks don't like the feel of leather (too cold) or microfiber (too synthetic) compared to fabric. Fabric-covered sofas and chairs also come in the widest range of colors and patterns, offering more choices for home decor.
If you own pets and must have fabric-covered sofas, consider this advice from Jay Jeffers of the Jeffers Design Group in San Francisco: "I would always suggest a fabric with a small pattern or texture -- a herringbone pattern or small check creates a great disguise."
And don't be afraid to camouflage your pet's fur. "In our house, the furniture is in similar colors to our pets so their fur blends in," Jeffers said.
Fabric slipcovers with zippers that are easily removed and washed are a plus. Some brands, like IKEA, sell fitted slipcovers for their sofas so they can be replaced easily.
A couch of their own
One way to keep pets off your furniture is to give them a couch of their own. But where should sleeping dogs lie? Choices abound, from $30 floor pillows at discount pet chains to $1,200-$1,400 custom B-Home brand dog beds, sold at Jeffers' design store, Cavalier -- named for his two cavalier King Charles spaniels.
Enchanted Home Pet sells classy dog-size sofas that look a lot like sofas for humans. They have backs and arms, in contemporary styles and colors ranging from tasteful grays and browns to bold, whimsical hues and geometric patterns. "Every bed has a different personality," said Enchanted Home Pet president Fred Silber, whose wife, Randi, designs the furniture.
While the Enchanted Home Pet products are inviting and comfy for dogs, they're also attractive accent pieces for a well-appointed home. They run $60 to $300 depending on size, style and place of purchase; they're available online and in stores, from trendy home decor websites like Joss & Main to brick-and-mortar chains like Marshalls. The company will soon introduce therapeutic options like orthopedic support, cooling gel and self-warming beds.
Finally, if you own cats, give them something better to scratch or lie on than your sofa: a scratching post doused with catnip spray and a climbing platform. (And of course, keep their nails trimmed.)
The simplest way to protect furniture from pets is to throw a washable blanket or sheet on it. Problem is, these makeshift covers slip, come untucked and often look a mess. Consider a fitted slipcover or other covering designed to stay put and look neat. Matt Kovacs, owner of an English bulldog, Lulu, has tried a number of covers and recommends the SureFit brand. "Bulldogs drool, pant and are a general mess when it comes to everyday living," said Kovacs, of Long Beach, Calif. "Without the covers, furniture doesn't stand a chance." SureFit covers wash easily and when company comes over, they're easily pulled off.
An artfully draped throw can work too, and can even dress up an otherwise-plain piece of furniture. Masters doesn't mind tossing an attractive washable blanket on her leather sofa -- even when it becomes a magnet for her dog: "You throw that on the end and it looks kind of chic, and he tends to curl up in that area."