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1 Feb 2022

Five top tips to pet-proof your sofa

If a four-legged friend has wrought havoc on your current sofa, use our top tips to make your next one as bounce-proof, fur-proof and claw-resistant as possible.
Cat on a dark sofa

It's the centrepiece of most living rooms, and often a sizeable investment, so you'll inevitably want to keep a new sofa in top condition for as long as possible. But when, despite your best intentions, it doubles as your pet's favourite bed or (worse) their scratching pad, this can be easier said than done.

In fact, in a recent survey of Which? members*, 21% of respondents told us their sofa had been damaged by pets. And while all pet owners know that keeping animals away from furniture is the best way to minimise the risk of such damage, in practice this is rarely practical, or even desirable. After all, what's better on a cold winter evening than a sofa snuggle with your fur-clad companion?

The next best tactic is to buy a sofa that's as resistant to your pet's attentions as possible, so several of our tips are about making the right choice of sofa in the first place. We've also rounded up our advice for keeping wear and damage to a minimum once your sofa's in situ.

In the market for a new sofa? Find a retailer that offers great choice, customer service and value for money by reading our verdict on thebest sofa shops.

1. Choose the right fabric

Even if your pet doesn't deliberately use your sofa as a giant scratch pad or chew toy, snagging claws, shed fur and a bit of slobber can all leave a mark. Choosing a material that's easy to clean, durable and scratch-resistant can make a big difference. Some sofa retailers even offer fabric lines that are designed to be pet-friendly.

Check too whether the sofa's covers can be removed for cleaning, and whether they're machine washable. This could be a godsend if there's a little accident.

Get sample swatches from different retailers and test them out. See how the fabric stands being scratched by a sharp object (your pet may even oblige by scratching the swatch themselves) and how easy it is to clean. The right choice will depend on your pet and the specific damage they're most likely to inflict.

Fabrics worth considering if you have a pet

  • Leather - this might not be the first choice that springs to mind, but leather is durable and hard-wearing. It also tends to age well and withstand the test of time, and the occasional touch of wear adds character.
  • Microfibre - man-made microfibre fabrics don't collect dust as easily as natural fabrics, so will be less likely to accumulate pet fur (or, at least, easier to clean). They're also often more hypoallergenic, which works well if people in your family are sensitive to allergens.
  • Tight, closely-woven fabrics - if you want a fabric sofa but don't like the idea of microfibre, make sure you opt for a closely-woven fabric that will keep even accidental claws at bay.
  • Outdoor fabrics - for maximum pet-resistance, consider a sofa that's designed for the great outdoors. There are some stylish options that wouldn't look out of place in a living room, and they're designed to weather the elements so should be able to cope with an accident-prone pet, for example.

Fabrics to avoid if you have a pet

  • Silk - as a delicate, high-maintenance fabric, silk is one to avoid.
  • Tweed or corduroy - the textured surfaces of these fabrics just beg a pet to sharpen their claws.
  • Suede - this may look great when in good condition, but is unlikely to cope well with pet dribble or the odd accident.
  • Velvet - this easily attracts pet hair and it lends itself to snags. However, there are some synthetic velvets that can be more durable and easier to clean.

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2. Be strategic with your colour choice

Light-coloured sofas can brighten up a room and may look great when you first bring them home, But cream or beige may not be the best option if you have a pet (just think of those muddy paw-prints), and are likely to show up fur more easily. Unless, of course, you have a pale-furred pet, in which case a darker fabric will showcase every strand they shed.

Grey can be a good middle ground and is on-trend at the moment (in our sofa survey, it was respondents' most popular choice of sofa colour). It can also be easily brightened up with bold-coloured cushions, if you like to make an impact with your design choices.

3. Consider a patterned sofa

Blue patterned sofa with a dog

If the idea of a grey or brown sofa bores you senseless, don't despair. Patterned fabrics can help camouflage marks and stains, letting you make a bolder choice that makes a statement in your living room without betraying the signs of excessive pet attention.

4. Pick a sofa with a sturdy frame

This is less likely to be an issue if you have a cat or a small dog, but if your canine companion is big and boisterous, you'll need a sofa with a sturdy foundation that can handle being leapt-about on. A strong wood frame is probably a good choice.

5. Protect your sofa

Whether you've just bought a sofa or yours has been resident in your living room for a while, there are tactics you can use to prevent pet damage (or at least stop things getting worse).

  • Invest in an attractive throw: This is a simple way to protect the surface of your sofa and keep it in top condition. Choose one that is easy to clean and anti-allergic. Using a throw does, of course, have the downside of meaning that you won't be able to properly show off the sofa you spent time and effort choosing, so won't be right for everyone.
  • Keep a towel by outer doors: To keep muddy pawprints at bay, keep a towel close to hand by front or garden doors to give mucky paws a quick wipe before your pet jumps on the sofa.
  • Put a scratch pad or post near the sofa if you have cats: If you're lucky, and assuming your cat isn't an evil fiend, a strategically-placed scratch pad may prove an attractive alternative for sharpening their claws. You can even buy scratch pads that are designed to be attached to your sofa.
  • Try sticky tape as a chew deterrent: If your dog likes to chew the edges or legs of your sofa, try applying some sticky tape to areas they frequently target. The texture should put them off and hopefully stop the habit.
  • Consider an anti-chew spray: If your pet is prone to chewing on your sofa (or other furniture), there are bitter (but harmless) sprays you can buy that taste dreadful and should put them off.

How to clean your sofa

Even if you don't have a pet, cleaning your sofa regularly will help to keep it in tip top condition. Having a pet only makes this more important, as dirt accumulating on it can lead to the upholstery wearing and its colour dulling. Deal with any spills (or accidents) promptly - our guide to the best stain removers can help you out here - and vacuum or brush your sofa weekly if possible.

If your pet somehow seems to leave more fur on your sofa than they have on their entire body, and a weekly vacuum isn't enough to keep it at bay, a lint roller can help with interim fur removal. A slightly damp rubber glove can also be surprisingly effective at removing fur from soft furnishings.

Read our advice on the best way to clean different sofa fabrics, or take a look out our vacuum cleaner reviews to find one that does a great job of dealing with pet hair.

* In May 2021, we surveyed 2,932 Which? members who'd bought a sofa in the past 10 years and asked about their experiences with the retailer they bought it from and the sofa itself.