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Pet-Friendly Homes

Whether you dress Fifi in couture collars or haul Bruno around in the back of a pickup, chances are if you're a pet owner, you feel a strong sense of love and responsibility toward your four-legged friends. But our affection for our pets doesn't always keep our frustration at bay-especially when it comes to cleaning up after the darling quadripeds.

Minimize housework and stress caused by shedding, dirt tracks and general wear and tear on your furniture and floors by adopting some of these pet-friendly design tips.

Bottoms up!

Nothing gets more paw traffic than the floor, so choose yours wisely. "Tile or stone is my number one choice because they provide a rough surface for good footing and they're easy to clean," says Cynthia Perez, owner of All Good Dogs Pet Resort in Sams Valley.

Second on Perez's list is laminate, but be careful. Because of their visual grain, wood-look surfaces tend to streak and appear dirty. "The ones that are designed to look like multi-colored slate are great," Perez says.

For warmer flooring, opt for area rugs. "My personal philosophy is not to spend more than a hundred bucks on one, then when I don't want to clean it any more, I donate it or throw it away," says Perez, who strongly urges pet owners to invest in a stream cleaner for keeping carpets fresh.

Little throw rugs placed at doorways, thresholds and entrances will also help decrease floor dirt and can be tossed in the washing machine. In all of these cases, make sure the rugs don't slip and slide by stabilizing them with rubberized mats or carpet tape.

Pet perches

If your pet is allowed on the furniture, you know how much of a mess they can leave behind. Give yourself and your vacuum cleaner a break by choosing microfiber upholstery. "This is a really good option," explains Kristi Stewart, interior designer/merchandiser at Ashley Furniture HomeStore in Medford. "It's 100 percent polyester with fibers the size of one-tenth of a human hair, which means you have a very, very tight weave that inhibits animal claws from going into the fabric."

Microfiber also makes for a very cleanable surface, serviced by just a baby wipe or a dry cloth for puddled liquids. Available in several patterns, colors and textures, this upholstery can really be a strong feature when combining décor with pet-friendly design.

If you have a dog that sheds and you have allergies, leather might be the answer. "It can be easily washed to get the hair out," Perez says. Also, consider small, washable throws. "You can put little fleece mats just about anywhere and dogs will lay on them," says Perez. In this way, you can partially control where the dog lays, making it easier to keep the furniture clean.

Doors, dishes, plants and pans

  • Installing a pet door can create freedom for everyone in the household, as long as it leads to a contained area away from traffic and neighbors. "Mine is right by the front door that goes out onto a deck," Perez says. "But most people would put it by the back door, where the pet can go in and out without bothering the owner." Ideally, a pet door would lead into a garage, with another door to the outside. "That way, the garage becomes a sort of mudroom," says Perez. The best advice here is to figure out what's best for your circumstance.

  • To keep dribble at bay, try a tiered stone fountain as a water dish. Place the fountain on the floor and allow the water to stream from the highest, smallest tier down to the lowest, widest one. "It's like three separate bowls, with the bottom one being about 3½ feet across," describes Perez. "Their drooliness stays there, plus it looks nicer than an old plastic bowl."

  • Minimize illness and vet bills by checking that all houseplants are nonpoisonous to pets. Most vets and many pet books feature such lists. "And to discourage cats from digging in plant dirt or using it as a litter box, put river rocks or foil on the exposed dirt surface," recommends Stewart.

  • Finding the perfect litter box solution is an age-old dilemma. The best advice? "Choose a place that's quiet and out of the way," says Stewart. "If a cat is disturbed, it will be less inclined to use the litter box." Placing the box on tile or linoleum instead of on carpet will make sweeping up much easier.

    With a small investment and a little ingenuity your home can accommodate occupants of just about any species in high style and comfort.

    Pet-Friendly Homes