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Pet-proofing your carpet

Just as a home needs to be family-proofed to accommodate small children, the arrival of a pet creates similar considerations. Will soft furnishings be a target for tiny claws? Will furniture legs become substitute chewy toys? Will you have to swap carpets for wipe-clean flooring?

Most of these issues are behaviour-related, and with a bit of time and effort most pets learn to follow the ‘house rules’. The carpeting question, however, is still a bit of a sticking point for many pet owners.

To get to the bottom of why pet owners shy away from carpeting their home, we carried out an independent survey, asking the public “Would owning a cat or dog make you less likely to have a carpet in your home?”

Here’s what the survey revealed:

The results

While 50% of the respondents would not allow their pet ownership to put them off having a carpet, the other half were deterred by fears that pets would ruin a carpet through dirt, smell or damage. This is despite the fact that advancements in technology have made modern carpets more stain-resistant and hard-wearing, not to mention much easier to clean than ever before.

Answers according to age and gender

  • The most popular response across all ages ‑ and from both male and female respondents ‑ was that pets would not affect their carpet buying decision.
  • Worries that carpet would be too difficult to clean drew in the second amount of votes across all age groups with the exception of the over 65s, who expressed concern that carpet may harbour pet smells.
  • Potential damage to the carpet was a particular concern among 18-24 year olds, the sector most likely to be living in rented accommodation.

Why pets needn’t restrict your choice of flooring

A common misconception about carpets is that they are a high-maintenance and impractical type of flooring, yet this could not be further from the truth. As carpet manufacturing has evolved it is now possible to get carpets that are not only stylish and luxurious underfoot, but also easy to take care of.

Aside from the easy-clean aspect, modern carpets provide:

  • a soft, cosy surface for pets to walk and rest on
  • a non-slip, cushioned surface for more boisterous pets who enjoy rough-and-tumble play
  • insulation from noise (especially those carpets with padded underlay). This is ideal if you live in a flat, or if your pet is prone to howling or barking indoors.

Choosing the right carpet according to your pet

Different types of carpets offer different benefits, with some materials and piles being better suited to particular uses. Here is a breakdown on the best type of carpet to choose to suit specific needs:

Considerations according to pet type/behaviour What to look for when choosing a carpet Carpet recommendation

Long-haired pets

  • Choose a carpet with a light pattern to help disguise pet hair.
  • If you have pets with dark fur, opt for a darker carpet; likewise if your pet has pale fur, choose a lighter carpet.
  • Wool or Berber pile carpets tend to keep fur on the surface as opposed to allowing it to sink deep into the pile.

Larger pets

  • Nylon carpets are very durable and hard-wearing.
  • Berber carpets, with their tightly looped pile, are considered to be extremely pet proof in regards to stains and shedding. However, if your pet has long claws or is prone to scratching, the loops may become pulled.

Pets prone to scratching at soft furnishings/carpets

  • Frieze carpeting, which consists of densely distributed short twisted fibres, is harder to ‘snag’ than longer-pile carpets.
  • Avoid carpets with a longer loop pile as they can easily be caught on claws or seen as an incentive to scratch.
  • Wool carpets tend to be quite resilient to scratching.

Pets prone to ‘having accidents’

  • Polyester carpets are extremely stain-resistant.
  • In particular, some 100% polypropylene (olefin) carpets can be cleaned using bleach-based solutions.
  • Carpets with a waterproof backing are also great for preventing moisture from soaking through.
  • Carpets with a tighter loop are more resistant to pet mess and infinitely easier to clean than a longer looped pile.

Pets who are regularly exercised in muddy/wet areas

  • 100% polypropylene carpets are ideal for resisting stains from muddy paws.

Pets prone to allergies

  • Nylon and polypropylene (olefin) carpets contain very stable chemical compounds that give off very few toxic fumes. This means that although the carpet is stain-resistant it won’t have any adverse reaction to your pet’s health.
  • Be aware of the contents of additional chemical treatments that manufacturers may apply to make carpets stain-resistant (usually as an after-sale).

Pets prone to fleas

  • Shorter pile carpets are much better for preventing fleas from getting inside the pile.

Top tips for ‘pet-proofing’ your carpet

  • Regularly vacuum your carpet to remove pet hair.
  • Clean any ‘accidents’ immediately to prevent staining and odours.
  • Get into the habit of wiping your pet’s feet with a towel if they have been out in the mud or rain, as this will reduce the amount of dirt or moisture that is transferred onto the carpet.
  • Regularly bathe your pet to prevent their odours from accumulating and transferring onto the carpet fibres.
  • Keep your pet’s eating bowls on a mat to prevent any food spilling onto the carpet.
  • Keep dogs’ paws neatly trimmed to prevent their fur matting and subsequently retaining water and mud.
  • Ensure that dogs’ claws are neatly trimmed to prevent them snagging on the pile. Regular grooming and trimming will also reduce the amount of fur that they shed.

Care advice for removing pet stains from your carpet

No matter how diligent you are, pets will be pets and it is inevitable that any carpet will be subjected to the odd muddy footprint and the occasional ‘little’ accident. Providing you act quickly the following advice will help ensure that stains don’t turn into permanent features.

Removing general pet stains

  1. Use an absorbent white cloth or kitchen towel to soak up any liquid.
  2. Remove any solid substances using a spoon.
  3. Moisten the area using tepid water (around 40°).
  4. Dab, rather than rub, at the stain to prevent further damage to the carpet.
  5. Work your way in towards the centre of the stain to stop it from spreading outwards.
  6. If water alone doesn’t lift the stain, use a cleaning product designed for use on your particular type of carpet. (Always test in an inconspicuous area first.)
  7. Apply the cleaning product to the cloth rather than directly to the carpet.
  8. Blot the area dry with an absorbent cloth.
  9. Once dried, gently brush up the carpet pile to restore the texture.

Removing muddy stains

  1. Refrain from trying to remove the mud with water as it may make the stain spread.
  2. Wait until the mud dries before trying to tackle it.
  3. You should be able to vacuum up the majority of the dry mud.
  4. Once the excess mud is removed you can treat any remaining stain with a specialist carpet cleaner.

Having the best of both worlds

If you do your research and select a carpet material, weave and colour that is best suited to your pet’s behaviour, there is no reason why you should shy away from having a sumptuous new carpet in your home.

Maintaining a carpet needn’t be any harder than any other type of floor—in fact, vacuuming a carpet is far easier than the vacuuming and subsequent mopping that hard flooring often requires. As long as you treat stains quickly and with the right products, carpets can present as much of a practical option as other types of flooring, with the added benefit of warmth and comfort underfoot.

So, for the 49.8% of respondents who wouldn’t consider having a carpet if they had pets, it may be time to think again. Just because you have a four-legged friend doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on luxury, comfort and style.

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