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Dog and cat proof sofas: How to choose and protect your couch

Britain is a nation of pet-lovers, with around 10.3 million cats and 9.3 million dogs sharing our homes (PDSA). However, while we all love our pets like they're one of the family, a regular point of concern for owners is how our furry friends will coexist with our favourite furniture.

From moulting hairs to scratching leather and chewing legs, there are quite a few ways that cats and dogs can damage the furniture in our living room. This can leave sofas and chairs looking worn and haggard within a matter of weeks, which isn't ideal at all. However, just because you're a pet owner doesn't mean you can't maintain and enjoy a stylish sofa and chairs in your home.

By making smart buying choices, putting protection in place, and knowing how best to clean up when an accident occurs, you, your pet, and your sofa can live in harmony. In this guide, we'll cover all the essentials of pet-proofing your furniture, so be sure to read on.

The best couches for dog and cat owners

Some sofas are more pet-friendly than others. By thinking ahead and planning your purchase in advance, you can avoid a lot of problems further down the line. In this section, we’ll look at the best types of both leather and fabric coverings for pets.

What are the best couch materials for cats and dogs?

One of the most important decisions to make when choosing a pet-friendly sofa is what type of covering material you're going to pick out, as this is the part that your dog or cat will probably have the most contact with. There are a few leathers and fabrics out there that make a good choice for homes with pets, and we're going to look at them in this part of the guide.

What are the best leather coverings for pets?

Leather is durable and easy to clean, making it a good choice for pet-proof furniture. For example, if there is an 'accident' or muddy paw prints, most leathers can be easily wiped down. Also, leather doesn't have a weave, so hairs and odours won't become trapped between the fibres in your covering.

However, it should be noted that even the toughest leather will eventually be marked by persistent scratching by a pet, so you'll still need to take the preventative steps covered later in this guide.

Pigmented leathers, such as our Distressed, Essential, and Modern coverings, are a good choice if you're looking for something to resist scuffs and scratches from your cat or dog. Thanks to the polymer surface coating applied during production, this leather has a protective layer over the hide, making it harder for pets to mark.

On the other hand, some coverings aren't as suitable for your furry friend due to their more delicate nature. For instance, aniline leather is typically only coloured with dye, making it more susceptible to wayward claws and paws, as well as being much more absorbent than other types. Some aniline leathers have a light, non-pigment surface coating applied, which can add some resilience, so this may be something to look out for if you have your heart set on a particular covering.

If you're looking for a middle ground between these two types, you can opt for a semi-aniline leather, like our Elegance, Vintage, and Heritage coverings, that benefits from a light coating that contains some pigment. This way, you can still have the more natural look of aniline leather but gain a lot of the durability of pigmented leather. It won't be as pet-resistant as a fully pigmented covering, but it will offer some protection.

You can find out more about the different leather types in our leather sofa buying guide. If you've settled on this material for your sofa covering, you can browse our full leather collection to find the ideal hide for your sofa.

What are the best fabric coverings for pets?

A fabric sofa is the ideal place to curl up after a long day and relax, and your pet might just want to join you too. If you're thinking about investing in a fabric sofa, there are a few things to consider if you want to pick a material that won't get damaged, trap hairs, or absorb odours from your pet.

If you're looking for a pet-friendly fabric that looks great, you may want to consider a hypoallergenic fabric with a natural weave, such as wool or linen. They are naturally resistant to picking up small particles, so they'll accumulate a lot less pet hairs and dander than other fabrics, as well as any other dust and dirt your furry friend tracks in. They're also breathable and anti-microbial, so they won't absorb any unpleasant odours. However, they have an open weave, so you'll need to keep your pet's claws trimmed to avoid any snagging.

Another type of fabric that is quite pet-friendly are the variety of synthetic, man-made materials on the market, such as microfibre or Ultrasuede. However, even though they are easy to care for, dirt resistant, and tightly woven, there is a trade-off in comfort and style, as they won't look as good or feel as comfy as fabrics woven with natural fibres. In addition, they also don't have hypoallergenic qualities or longevity of these fabrics, either.

Patterned fabrics are also a good idea for pets, as they can help to camoflague any hairs or stains that are left on your furniture. Just be sure to pick one that has a dominant colour similar to your pet’s coat so those hairs don’t stand out (we’ll discuss more about colour choice in a minute).

Our fabric sofa buying guide has more information on natural, hypoallergenic materials that you may wish to consider for your furniture. You can also take a look at our fabric collection to get a better idea of the coverings we offer.

What colour is best for pet-friendly sofas?

Once you've got a good idea of what type of material you'd like for your pet-proof sofa or chair, you'll need to consider what colour and patterning will work best in your home. However, if your pet is allowed up and around your furniture, you might also want to take the colour of their coat into account, as there will almost definitely be some loose hairs that cling to your cushions.

Remember that light-coloured fur will show up clearly against a dark sofa, and the same for dark fur on a light sofa, so you should aim to co-ordinate the shades to minimise the visual impact. This match doesn't need to be exact — you should still take the colour of your décor into account — but sticking to the same general shade will help to make those hairs less noticeable.

Do I need a sofa with removeable covers?

Removeable covers aren't absolutely essential for a dog- or cat-friendly sofa, but they will certainly help when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.

Having a pet on and around your furniture means that you will need to clean them on a more regular basis, so being able to simply take the covers off and put them in the washer or take them to the cleaners will make life easier. Being able to remove covers is also helpful when your dog or cat has made a mess on one particular area, so you don’t need to put your whole sofa out of action.

Even a leather sofa with removeable covers can be helpful when you have a pet: though you won’t be able to machine wash them, the convenience of removing, cleaning, conditioning, and letting covers dry separately from the frame means you can get the job done quickly and more efficiently.

Unfortunately, with many of the cheaper, mass-produced sofas and chairs on today’s market, covers are often permanently attached to cushions so they can’t be removed. But, by investing in quality furniture, you can get access to a feature that will make life a lot easier down the line. All of the sofas, chairs, and corner sofas here at Sofas by Saxon feature removeable cushion covers, making them an ideal choice when you’re looking for pet-proof furniture.

What size is best for a pet-friendly sofa?

As a pet owner, the size of sofa that you choose will probably depend on whether you plan on letting your furry friend curl up beside you or not. Keeping your dog or cat off the furniture and in their own bed will likely mean that you don’t need to consider them when you’re planning your purchase.

But, if you do want to let them join you, you may need to take this into consideration when choosing a sofa size — especially if you have a large dog that likes to jump up beside you. After all, there’s no point investing in a compact sofa just big enough for two if a Great Dane is going to take up most of the space!

If you’ve got a big dog that you’ll be sharing with — or even a small one if you want plenty of space — it’s worth looking at a larger sofa to accommodate everyone. A three- or four-seater sofa might be the best option for you, or even a corner sofa if you want your pet to have its own spot on the end. At Sofas by Saxon, all of our models have the dimensions listed so that you can make an informed decision. In addition, we handbuild all of our furniture, so we can make a pet-friendly sofa that’s just the right size for all the family, pets included, so be sure to check out our bespoke service.

What about other sofa features?

When you’re choosing your pet-proof sofa, you’ll also want to consider other features that may be susceptible to a chewing or clawing.
For instance, if you’ve got a young puppy who likes to nibble on things or a cat who likes to sharpen their claws, picking a sofa with tall, wooden legs will probably end up with them covered in scratches or bite marks. There are things you can do to protect your sofa, but you may wish to consider a model with shorter feet that are tucked under out of reach or longer ones made out of metal to minimise potential damage.

Also worth considering are any scatter cushions that you plan to put on your sofa for extra comfort or decorative purposes, as your pet might take a liking to lying on them and nibbling at corners or exposed zips. Should your cushions be made with delicate fabrics or have distracting features, like tassels or sequins, that may pose a choking hazard if chewed, you will be best off removing them when your cat or dog is on or around the sofa.

For sofa extras, like cushions, it’s best to stick to the same pet-proofing advice we’ve discussed in this section. We have scatter cushions at Sofas by Saxon that are handmade with our premium leathers and fabrics so they're more than up to the job.

How can I protect my pet-friendly sofa or chair?

So, you’ve put the work in and chosen the ideal pet-friendly sofa or chair, but even the most durable furniture can be damaged by an over-enthusiastic or persistant pet. Thankully, there are a few things you can do to not only add extra protection to your sofa, but to prevent the problem altogether.

Tire your pet out

Like a bored child, your pet is more likely to misbehave they have nothing to do or have been stuck in the house all day. Well, the solution to this problem is the same as it is with the kids: you need to keep your pet occupied and tire them out. This can be especially true for dogs as they rely on us to take them out and get exercise, whereas cats can often be trusted to come and go on their own.

So, if your pooch tends to act himself up and attack your furniture, try taking them out for a nice, long walk to burn off some of that excess energy. You might just be surprised at how placid your dog will be when they’ve had their fill of exploring and running about. Make this a routine and you could solve your furniture vandalism problems altogether.

Clean up your pet right away when they’ve been out

Avoid muddy paw prints on your sofa by cleaning up your pet right away if they’ve been outdoors.

Both cats and dogs are curious creatures and natural explorers, so you can never be sure what places they’ll go or what ‘things’ they’ll investigate (or roll around in). While we might take care to avoid a a bit of mud or to wipe our feet when we come through the front door, your pet won’t, so you need to be ever ready to get the muck cleaned off them before they jump on your sofa.

Try keeping a pet cleanup kit near to the front door with a few old towels or cloths to make sure you always have things on hand. As we’ve mentioned, you’ll probably be well aware that your dog is a bit of a mess, but it can be harder to keep track of a cat, particularly an outdoor cat, so you may need to be extra vigilant.

Offer your pet a playful alternative

If your pet displays destructive behaviour towards your furniture, such as a cat scratching or a dog chewing, it can be a good idea to offer them a more playful alternative to keep them distracted. For instance, you may wish to buy a scratching post so that your cat can take out some of its feline fury, or you could engage in a regular tug of war with your pup and a new chew toy. This way, they will begin to associate these actions with something other than your sofa.

Get your pet properly house trained

Is your dog or cat prone to having an ‘accident’ every now and again on your sofa? Then the best solution is to get them properly house trained to modify their behaviour. This can be a common with puppies and kittens, especially when they’re getting used to living in a new home, but older dogs and cats can be raised without being trained too, so it’s worth bearing this in mind. By teaching your pet to go to the toilet outside or in a litter tray, you can save your furniture some trouble. You may also find our advice on cleaning up pet accidents later in this guide to be useful.

House training can be a long process that requires some patience, but it really is worth it in the end. Thankfully, there is a lot of advice out there to help you overcome this hurdle: Blue Cross has guides for house training puppies and adult dogs respectively, while they also have a guide to cats spraying and soiling indoors to get you on the right track.

Give your pet their own space

If your cat or dog tends to spend too much time on the sofa, you can play on their need for their own special spot by creating a space that they will love being in. Both dogs and cats are territorial creatures, and having a little kingdom all of their own will encourage them to get off your furniture.

Invest in a comfy and cosy cat or dog bed for your pet and introduce them to it by filling it with some of their favourite toys or blankets. With any luck, they’ll begin to think of the space as their own and take to it with ease. Should your pet not like to be away from you, consider positioning their new bed within their eyeline of where you spend your time, so they won’t need to come looking for you.

Keep your pet well groomed

We’ve already touched on the dangers that loose dog hairs and sharp claws can pose to your new sofa or chair, which is the reason why keeping your pet well groomed is one of the best ways to avoid having to clean or repair your furniture every week.

By keeping your dog's or cat's coat nicely brushed and trimmed, you can get rid of excess hairs that will end up engrained into your sofa when they jump up. Likewise, getting your pet’s claws clipped on a regular basis will prevent them from causing scratches or becoming embedded in your upholstery. You can take care of your dog or cat’s hygiene needs yourself, or you can take them to a trained groomer if you feel like really pampering them — either way, it’s good news for your sofa.

Cover up your sofa or chair when your pet is around

One of the best ways to keep your furniture in superb condition when your pet is around is by covering it up. Though this may sound counterproductive when you’ve just invested in a beautiful new sofa or chair, you can always take the cover when you have guests around or when your pet is relaxing somewhere else. By putting a layer between your pet and your sofa, you are shielding it from claws, fur, and everything else that might cause damage.

Plus, sofa covers aren’t the horrible laminated types that your grandparents favoured anymore, and you can find fashionable solutions in a range of covers and styles, including slip covers, throws, and washable blankets. If your pet has a favoured spot on your sofa, you don’t even need to shield the whole thing: just place your cover over the that part of the furniture. Your dog or cat might even get so used to the throw or blanket that they won’t even jump up without it being in place.

Invest in specialist products for extra pet-proofing

If you want to keep your sofa in the best condition when your cat or dog is about, it helps if you've got the right protective products on hand to give your furniture an extra line of defence.
For example, there are treatments available for leather sofas that will apply an invisible barrier to the surface to resist against stains and soiling. This can be an essential last line of defence if you don't want to cover up your sofa, and could save you from having to deal with a nasty stain later.

The leather protection cream in our Leather Cleaning Kit is one of these products that we definitely recommend — it's a water-based protector that's suitable for all leather types. There are also protective products available for fabric coverings that can perform the same job, but make sure that any you buy are suitable for your sofa before applying.

There are also a whole host of pet-focused products that you might want to look into if you're having trouble keeping your cat or dog off the furniture. These range from mats you can spread out to discourage them from jumping up, to bitter sprays that can be applied to wooden legs to deter your pup from taking a bite. It can be worth researching which type of product will work best for your pet issues, but always remember to check they won't damage your sofa before you buy. You can always ask the advice of your pet’s vet who may be able to recommend a suitable product.

How should I clean my pet-friendly sofa?

Even if you've intentionally chosen a pet-friendly sofa and protected it the best you can, there's always the chance that your furry friend will create a bit of a mess. When this happens, it's important that you're able to act quickly to clean it up to keep your sofa in great condition. Some problems, such as pet dander, aren't even visible to the naked eye, but they will build up unless you regularly clean your furniture.

In this section of the guide, we're going to take a closer look at the best methods for cleaning some common pet messes from your sofa, including pet hair, dander, and urine. You can minimise the need for daily attention by following the protective advice earlier in this guide, but nowhere is safe forever and you will need to know the best way to tidy up.

We also have general guides for both leather sofa care and fabric sofa care that may be of help — it may be worth reading that advice and seeing how you can supplement your regular care routine with the advice below.

How to clean pet hair from a sofa

If you're a pet owner, there's a good chance that dog and cat hair is the bane of your life, especially when you're the owner of a long-haired breed or one that moults regularly. When shed, pet hairs always seem to get everywhere, including your couch, and it can be an ongoing battle to get the issue under control.

Follow these easy steps to easily rid your sofa of pet hair:

1.    Use a vacuum to remove any loose pet hair on the surface of your sofa and any lying around the floor that might cling later. Be sure to cover the whole of the sofa, including between the cushions and underneath, as those hairs get in every crevice.
2.    Take a rubber glove and dish of water. Put on the glove and dampen it, then gently run your hand over the surface of the sofa to easily pick up those stubborn clinging hairs. For leather furniture, it's best to use distilled water for this task, as the chlorine in tapwater can degrade the finish of the leather. Remember to test how your sofa covering takes to water on a section that's out of sight if it's the first time you're doing this.
3.    If there are pet hairs clinging to any wooden sections of your sofa, such as the legs, you can use a soft cloth and anti-static dust spray to clean them off. The spray will reduce the number of hairs that cling to the wood in the future.
4.    Leave your sofa to dry naturally — preferably without your pet curling up on it right away!

How to get rid of cat and dog dander from the sofa

You might not have realised it, but your dog or cat regularly sheds tiny flecks of skin, just like we do — these particles are known as pet dander. Because the particles are microscopic, it's virtually impossible to confirm that they are clinging to your sofa, but the likelihood is that they are there if your pet spends any time at all on the furniture. This dander can be particularly problematic if you have any guests over that are allergic to cats or dogs, as they're usually enough to set off a reaction.

There are a two methods of getting rid of pet dander:
1.    The first method is to thoroughly vacuum your sofa and chair, covering all the surfaces. It's best to use a vacuum that has high-efficiency particle arrestance (HEPA) filter, as they're particularly efficient at picking up pet dander. This task can usually be combined easily with the method described above for cleaning up pet hairs.
2.    The second method involves using a lint roller and going over every inch of your sofa or chair. This is more time-consuming than using a vacuum, but some people prefer it as it's more thorough.

You should also consider ways of reducing pet dander in the first place. We've looked at how keeping your pet nicely groomed can help to control moulting hairs, but if their coat and skin is healthy, they'll also produce less dander, so it really is worth doing.

Another handy tip is to wipe a fabric softener sheet over the surface of your sofa, as this will reduce the static and make your furniture less of a magnet for pet dander and hairs. Again, be sure to test this out on a non-visible part to ensure your covering won't react badly. Adding an air filter with a HEPA rating to your living room will also help to reduce the overall level of dander in your home.
If you feel like your pet is producing too much dander or has poor skin health, you should take them to a vet who may be able to recommend adjustments to their diet or some supplements to improve the condition.

How to clean dog and cat urine from the couch

Everyone's pet has an accident every once in a while, especially when they're young and being house trained or getting a bit older, and there's always a chance that it'll take place on your sofa. If this should happen, you'll need all hands on deck to ensure that the resulting mess is taken care of quickly to avoid a stain and an unpleasant, lingering odour.

Should you be quick enough to catch the accident right after it's happened, your first objective will be to soak up as much of the urine as possible with a dry cloth or kitchen roll before it soaks into your sofa covering (remember to put on some rubber gloves). If you need to do a little more thorough cleaning, you can gently blot the area with a damp cloth. Once the area is dry, inspect it and if there’s a sign of a stain or an unpleasant odour, you’ll need to undertake the deeper cleaning method below.

If you discover the accident well after it's happened or some of the urine soaks in, you'll need to undertake a deeper clean to get rid of the stain and odour. The product that you will need for this is an enzymatic cleaning product, which is the only type that can remove every trace of urine. Make sure that the cleaner is safe for use on the type of fabric or leather covering — test it on a hidden part of your sofa if you're unsure.

You'll need to soak the area of the accident in the cleaner and leave it to sit for around 15 minutes — this is generally how long it takes, but you should always follow the instructions on the product. Then, you can use a cloth or towels or cloth to blot up any excess cleaner and leave the rest to dry. If the stain is deep, you may need to repeat this final step again to get rid of it. If it persists, it's advisable to contact a specialist cleaner to help, rather than trying anything else.

Choosing a pet-friendly sofa from Sofas by Saxon

Here at Sofas by Saxon, our sofas, chairs, corner sofas, and sofa beds are available in high-quality covering materials that are very durable, and we can handbuild your bespoke furniture to the exact size you require. We have a huge variety of designs to choose from so you can find the piece that will accommodate your pet and still look great as part of your décor.

Follow the advice in this guide and you will be able to choose and care for a pet-friendly sofa that the whole family can enjoy. If you have any questions about anything covered here, don't hesitate to get in touch with our team and they'll be happy to help.

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