If you’ve got a dog or cat, odds are you also have ripped couches, urine-stained rugs and floors that have seen better days.
But replacing your furniture, ripping up rugs and refinishing your floors every time your pet decides to leave its mark isn’t really an option for many reasons, not least of all the expense.
In these situations, your best offense may be a good defense: pet-proofing your home.
Plus, pet-proofing your home is not only good for your furniture and your wallet; it could also be good for your pet.
”Pet-proofing, when done properly, can also help enrich your pet and help harness their energy and natural instincts without damaging your property, said Jen Jones, a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist, and founder of Your Dog Advisor, a blog for dog owners.
6 Ways to Pet-Proof Your Furniture
We asked Jones and several other animal experts for their best budget-friendly tips to help you pet-proof your house so you can enjoy your furry friends without stressing over the damage.
1. Bitter Chew Spray
If your dog is a chewer, you’ll need a bitter chew spray, says Daniel Caughill, co-founder of The Dog Tail. Caughill just brought a new puppy into his home, and he knows puppies love to chew on shoes, on the corner of couches, on door frames — on just about anything.
“Bitter chew spray allows you to quickly spritz whatever your dog fancies to turn them off for a little while,” Caughill said. “The spray doesn’t last long and it won’t stain or damage your belongings, but over time, your pup should learn to associate the item with the unpleasant flavor.”
You can make your own using a combination of water, lemon and vinegar, but many commercial options are specifically formulated for this purpose. Caughill recommends Bodhi Dog’s Bitter Chew Spray ($14.99) due to its natural ingredients.
Don’t want to replace a couch or a chair, or want to protect what you already own? You can snag an inexpensive pet-friendly slipcover that can be used on a couch, loveseat or upholstered chair, says Lorri Caffrey, interim executive director of the Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter in East Hanover, New Jersey.
Caffrey recommends Gorilla Grip, which offers no-slip covers that can fit a variety of furniture sizes. The most expensive cover costs less than $45.
3. Scratching Posts and Deterrents
The best way to prevent scratching or chewing is to give your pet a safe alternative to do this, says Nick Garside, a veterinary surgeon with Viovet Ltd.
“It is a normal behavior for a cat or rabbit to scratch, and a dog to chew, so trying to stop this completely will unlikely be effective,” Garside said. “Scratching helps wear down the nails of rabbits and cats, and chewing helps keep the plaque off of our dog’s teeth.”
Garside recommends scratching posts and climbing frames for cats. Placing the posts and chews near the location of the original chewed and/or scratched object — most likely your couch — is likely to be most effective.
Try different styles of scratching post — horizontal, vertical, slanted, corrugated cardboard, rope or carpet-covered — to find the type your cat likes best, according to Jennifer Coates, of Pet Life Today.
You may also want to try applying FeliScratch ($19) to the new scratching post to convince the cat that it’s a good place to scratch.
If you want to try a more DIY option, Coates suggests covering the spots on your couch that your cat’s claws find irresistible with double-sided tape or aluminum foil. This will make it very unpleasant for your cat to scratch.
4. Absorbent, Washable Pads
Does your pet have a favorite spot on the couch? Try laying an absorbent, washable pad on that spot, says Jamie Thomas, executive director of the Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, who has multiple pets and has fostered more than 1,000 animals.
A pad will protect that spot from scratching and potty accidents, and will cut down on the amount of fur that gets on your couch — especially if your couch isn’t a leather one.
This Two-Pack Washable Pee Pad for Dogs ($25.99) is highly recommended by the experts we spoke to.
5. Pet-Friendly Fabrics
If you’re shopping for a new couch, you should be very selective about your fabric choices, as some will stand up to pets much better than others, according to Thomas.
“I have found that leather couches with a thick, skin-looking grain tend to be amazingly resilient,” Thomas said. “I had the same set of thick grained leather couches for 15 years, and I only changed them because their cushions had lost their fluff and were just not comfortable, but they looked great.”
Ironically, the more expensive kinds of leather — the soft, supple, smooth kind — is vulnerable to scratches and can be ruined easily, so Thomas suggests pet owners go for the grainier kind, which is usually much less expensive.
Don’t be fooled by bonded leather, which consists of leather pieces smashed and glued together, which will not hold up. The same goes for polyurethane or other plastic leathers.
“They do not recover the way leather does – which if scratched, you can sometimes massage out or condition it to lessen the noticeability,” Thomas says.
Bonus: If your pet has an accident on the couch, you can just wipe it with a paper towel or rag and some cleaning spray and it’s gone.
Your next best choice is a microfiber fabric, according to Thomas. This is usually pretty durable, and it cleans up well if you tackle the mess right away.
While some microfiber couches are touted to be water-resistant, make sure to test it in the store before buying (and ask permission first!)
6. A Good Carpet Cleaner
Carpets tend to be ruined the moment you welcome a new puppy into your home, says Skylar Dial of Pet Care Resource. No matter how careful you are, they tend to find the nastiest spot in your home and use it as a litter box.
Dial says pet parents should opt for tile, vinyl or wood floors when possible, but if your home has carpet and you’re not changing it or moving soon, you may want to invest in a carpet cleaner. Dial recommends using a Hoover SteamVac ($229.99).
“This can drastically reduce the mess and the pet odors, quite literally giving you a clean slate to work with,” she said.
Want a more affordable option for your hard floors? The Bissell PowerEdge Pet Hardwood Floor Bagless Stick Vacuum also came highly rated ($69.99).
Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.