Feline Chic: Decorating With Cats in the House

It is possible to keep both a cute and hazard-free house when you have cats.

Cats and carpeting don’t always get along. By: Jacob Haas

Years ago, one of my mom’s friends put woven-grass wallpaper in her dining room. It gave the room a wonderfully open and natural look. That’s what her 3 cats thought, too. You could just see they were thinking, “Nice textured stuff. Now we don’t have to go outside and look for trees to claw!”

Needless to say, this did not end well for the wallpaper. But, as the cats would’ve told you, that wallpaper was just asking for it.

Now, it’s not that you can’t have cats and a nice-looking home. As writer Joan Paylo says, just try to see things through your cats’ eyes. And accept that things like woven-grass wallpaper are decorating “don’ts” when you bunk with felines.

Keeping It Clean

“If you say you own a cat, get ready for The Look,” advises Brie Dyas. “It’s one of vague pity mixed with a hint of scorn. Basically, you know that they’re picturing your house filled with shredded furnishings and smelling faintly of a basement.”

Actually, the majority of cat people I know spend a fair amount of time in online groups discussing the best cat litters, deodorizers and cleaning products. They do all this because they know that keeping things clean is a necessity if you have any kind of animal.

Plus, your cat is more apt to use the litter box if you keep that clean. (And, speaking of litter boxes, do replace them periodically. Plastic tends to absorb odors over time.)

So, the first rule of feline chic, as I call it, is this: Keep a well-stocked cleaning arsenal. Make sure that the cleaning products aren’t toxic. Lysol, for instance, is toxic in large doses.

Consider installing valences instead of curtains so your cat isn’t tempted to pull the whole thing down. By: kyle tsui


Although there are a lot of toxic plants to watch out for, there’s no reason why you can’t have cats and plants. Hang them out of reach or keep them in a cat-free room.

But please check the list of toxic and non-toxic plants on the ASPCA website before you go plant shopping. Begonias, ivies (except for Swedish) and just about anything with a bulb are poisonous to cats. So is American bittersweet, a big favorite with folks going for a country look.

Carpets and Curtains

Some people believe that animals and carpets can live together in harmony if you choose the latter carefully. “In general, floor and furniture fabrics in very light or dark colors show pet hairs and accidents,” Paylo observes. “A textured stain-resistant material with a design hides a multitude of sins.” Nylon-pile carpets get good ratings; Berber wools and Orientals get bad ones.

Once upon a time, I had a rug shampooer. It fought the good fight, but the intervals between its visits to the repair shop got shorter and shorter until it finally had to be put out of its misery.

So, done with carpets, I agree with Leanne Potts, who says, “Carpet absorbs odors, traps pet hair and soaks up inevitable pet-related stains like a sponge.” Wood, painted concrete, terrazzo and brick are good; ceramic tile is best, however, because “it’s easy to clean and resistant to any stain an animal can dish out.” Plus, tile “makes a room look sleek and elegant and gives furry animals a cool place to nap during hot weather.”

Curtains are another tricky proposition. To an upwardly mobile cat or kitten, drapes are something to climb. Tassels and fringes are chew-worthy, especially if you have a Siamese or Siamese-cross. Panels get furry from your cats constantly slipping between them to check out the squirrel and chipmunk activity in the yard.

So think valances: They’re the simplest and, usually, the cheapest way to go. And your cat will ignore them because they’re not in their way.

These pets enjoy their home’s stylish — and nontoxic — new houseplants:

The Furniture Protection Program

Some furniture materials are more inviting or claw-able than others. Forget wicker, rattan and sisal. They, like the woven-grass wallpaper, have a textured feel that cats love. Chairs or benches with woven seats are also at risk. Cover them with chair pads or cushions.

Slipcovers, throws and strategically draped lap quilts/afghans can help prolong the lifespan of upholstered furniture. Of course, nothing is 100%, as I discovered when Kitten Solstice managed to pull the tape off and wrap it around herself.

Feline chic takes some work, but in the end, the carpets, curtains and furniture are all just things, whereas your cat is a living, loving presence. “I love my cats because I enjoy my home,” wrote poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, “and little by little, they become its visible soul.”

T.J. Banks

View posts by T.J. Banks
T.J. Banks is the author of several books, including Catsong, which received a Merial Human–Animal Bond Award. A contributing editor to laJoie, T.J. has also received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association, ByLine and The Writing Self. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul and A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love, and T.J. has worked as a stringer for the Associated Press, as an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School and as a columnist.

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