We love our pets. In an increasingly complicated and sometimes disappointing world, our pets can be a source of unconditional love and reliable companionship. They exist exclusively to comfort and entertain us, and we want to take good care of them in return.
Because of the unique affection we have towards our pets, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that they are, in fact, pets. That we’re in charge, and that’s OK. They’re happiness, security, and long-term best interest rely on our willingness to be the humans. To set boundaries. To enforce rules. Never in anger, of course, and never in violence – but consistently and practically. We have got to be the people. And they have got be the loveable fuzzballs.
One of the hardest areas to do this consistently is in regards to our furniture – those special pieces placed throughout your home for the comfort and convenience of yourself and other humans. Items designed for folks with two legs and the power of speech and who don’t shed or tear up the upholstery.
Well, Uncle Karl leaves a rather questionable residue, but he’s something of an outlier. For the most part, furniture is made for humans, and humans use furniture with care and consideration. Pets, not so much.
How Do I Keep My Pets Off the Furniture?
Let’s acknowledge two uncomfortable pet owner realities upfront.
First, not all pets are the same. Different breeds have their own tendencies and likelihoods, but no matter how detailed your reading or careful your preparation, no two Yorkshire Terriers are exactly the same. No two Abyssinians can be counted on to behave identically. Much like advice about raising children, it’s always worth listening to the ideas of others. In the end, however, you have to figure out what works for you and your specific pets.
Second, most pet misbehavior is on us. That’s right – the humans. We brought the cutest little puppy home to our apartment, promising ourselves we’d come home every day at lunch to let her out. Now she tears up the furniture and leaves little presents on the floor because we weren’t truly prepared to provide for an active puppy. We added a third cat to the family, and he began marking the furniture because we didn’t take the time to properly acclimate him and let our existing cats get to know him.
Or – and this is a big one – we let them get away with things when they’re little. They’re so very adorable, after all. Look at him flopping when he jumps up on the couch! Look at her all curled up at the foot of the bed! Ohhhhh! Instagram, Instagram, Instagram! You want to know how to keep a cat off furniture? How to keep cats from scratching furniture? How to keep dogs off furniture? Consistency, my friend – consistency. Over and over, firm and unyielding, wrapped in tough love and a treat or two.
All that hard work is really better suited to a montage of some sort rather than posting to social media, but it’s part of the gig. With great power comes great responsibility, and as pet owners, we have great responsibility – to ourselves, to our darling pets, and (dare I say it?) to our household furniture. The kind not made for pets. So, what are some things that have worked for others?
If you don’t want your kids snacking on junk, you make sure you have apples and carrot sticks available for afternoon munching. If you don’t want your cat or dog on the couch, you make sure he has somewhere else to crash comfortably.
1. Pet Beds
These are widely available and come in all sorts of variations. You might even have a thick folded rug or other makeshift bed somewhere in the main living area where your cat or dog can be near you throughout the evening without commandeering people space or curling up on an uncomfortable floor. Maybe you have another where they sleep.
Dogs tend to want to stay close to the family during waking hours, while cats are slightly more unpredictable and may prefer hidden out-of-the-way options. Experiment a bit. See what they like. We want them to be happy and comfortable; this can be accomplished without sacrificing your favorite recliner or loveseat.
2. Kitty Condos
These are uniquely feline items that run from a few feet tall to full floor-to-ceiling models. They feature scratching posts, climbing ramps and posts, and multiple levels for your cat to perch, survey, play, or crash. Kitty Condos can be rather pricey, but they’re also way cool, and most cats take to them quickly.
3. The Designated Doggie Chair
Maybe you’ve still got that overstuffed chair from your parents’ house that you can’t bring yourself to get rid of. Or there’s that loveseat in the den you kept intending to incorporate into your “man cave” but which has mostly become somewhere to fold laundry. If you’re willing to let your pet have their own designated piece of “people furniture,” it’s an option many have found an ideal compromise. While this might work for your cat, it seems to work far more often for our canine friends – hence the term, “doggie chair.”
You clearly have the heart to be a pet owner. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have brought home that little ball of hair. But we must learn to be as consistent as we are caring. Training pets early and enforcing expectations every time without wavering or frustration may not be the fun part, but it’s just as much part of loving and caring for them as feeding, playing, or managing their health.
1. Start Early & Stay the Course
From day one, no matter how cute they are, if you don’t intend to let them sleep in your room, then don’t let them sleep in your room. If certain furniture is going to be off-limits, it must be off-limits from the moment they arrive in their new home. This isn’t about being mean and should never involve anger or punishment. It’s about consistency – your consistency. In the end, your pets will feel more secure and adapt more efficiently if your expectations are the same all day, every day.
2. Reward; Don’t Punish
You may have to remove your cat a dozen times from the same chair, but part of being a responsible pet owner is being willing to do that without resorting to rough treatment or ugly behavior. (Do you seriously want to be caught arguing with a cat?) Use healthy treats to establish appropriate places for your pet to sit, sleep, or play, and offer plenty of verbal reinforcement. Many dog breeds enjoy physical contact. Cats may seem more standoffish, but as long as they’re able to create the illusion, it’s entirely on their terms, they appreciate your affection just as deeply.
3. It’s OK to Treat Them Like Animals
It’s never OK to abuse or neglect our pets. Never. Ever. No matter what the circumstances. If you can’t provide a loving, caring, and informed home, get a different hobby. Maybe stamps, or violent video games.
That said, it’s not always essential that we treat our pets like people in every situation. There may be times to isolate your pet to a particular room or keep her in a reasonably-sized pet crate. Obviously, you should strive for comfort and make sure they have everything they need to spend their time comfortably, and we don’t want to keep our pets “cooped up” excessively. But if there’s no practical way to keep them off the furniture at night or while you’re outside taking care of the lawn, it’s OK to confine them reasonably. They’re pets, after all.
Make Furniture Less Appealing
It’s easy to understand why your pet would want to make themselves at home on that couch or in that recliner. Furniture is made to be comfortable – soft and warm and at such a nice height! Plus, they’re closer to you that way. Awww…
Sometimes the easiest solution is to simply lower the attractiveness of those positions.
1. Don’t leave food, toys, or other exciting things on the furniture.
What draws Clyde to the recliner might not be that warm spot in the sun, but the leftover chips and taco meat you spread there unwittingly the night before. Maybe Sheba isn’t looking to humanize herself so much as explore those interesting baby toys that don’t look all that different from the stuff you gave her to play with as a kitten.
We know better. That stuff isn’t great for our furniture anyway, and it’s not fair to taunt our pets with fun, exciting things, then tell them no when they take a look.
2. Aluminum Foil
Most pets don’t enjoy laying on aluminum foil. It makes horrible sounds and feels weird. A simple layer of shiny cooking foil can do wonders for discouraging pets from jumping onto furniture – especially after the first time. It’s also ridiculously easy to remove and does absolutely nothing to your furniture in the process. In terms of cost-benefit ratio, a few extra boxes of aluminum foil might be the solution.
3. Double-Sided Sticky Tape
You probably don’t want to wrap your cushions directly in tape, but consider a couple of cheap placemats wrapped with strips of over-the-counter adhesive. You lay them on the forbidden cushions and other prohibited pet areas and remove them when you’re ready to sit and relax yourself. They do absolutely no harm to your pets, but most cats and dogs hate lying on these or having them stuck to them. They’re also entirely safe for almost all of your furniture.
And, as a small bonus, they’ll pick up any random pet hair or other miscellaneous fluff which might be floating around – like giant lint rollers!
4. Pile It On
Some pet owners skip the fancy stuff and lay various obstacles on the furniture when they’re not home. Folded up TV trays, step stools, storage bins – anything difficult for your pet to nudge out of the way but not heavy enough to do damage to your furniture. This isn’t our favorite solution, but it does have simplicity on its side.
5. Bang! Poof! Boom!
Finally, there are numerous commercially available products and home-made contraptions, which essentially jump, clatter, or blow puffs of air whenever your pet goes somewhere they shouldn’t. These can be rather sophisticated and expensive, or consist of 8 rinsed out beer cans wired together to fall over and make noise if disturbed. Make especially sure nothing you try along these lines accidentally harms your pet or damages your furniture, but these options are there if all else has failed.
It’s OK that pets make some things difficult. Any relationship worth having comes with a few wrinkles and headaches, and pets are no exception. Remember that the key is to be patient and consistent – know what limits you want to set, and stick to them from Day One. It’s never cruel to set clear boundaries with Fluffy or anyone else.
It’s also OK to protect your furniture. No, it’s not alive. It doesn’t “feel” anything for you or want anything from you (well, that we know of). But it’s something you’ve chosen to be part of your world, an expression of some part of who you are. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – it’s one of the oldest means of self-assertion in all of human civilization.
Let’s take a moment and glory in the idea that a chair can be so utilitarian and so freakin’ groovy at the same time. A coffee table can be so practical while looking so modern. Here’s to art and love and furniture and our shelter-rescued Sneezy. May we all live together in peace and mutual understanding.