Interiors... Cool for cats (and dogs)
It may be barking to some but many animal lovers are tailoring their homes to suit their pets
My dog likes to eat breakfast in bed. Wherever you put his bowl, he will pick it up and carry it into his basket. This is incredibly funny to watch. Sometimes he makes it without spilling anything but, more often than not, the food ends up all over the floor. In the end we gave up and started feeding him in his basket. It was one of those battles that wasn't worth fighting.
Reconciling the needs of a cat or a dog with those of a stylish (or at least moderately clean) home is all about compromise. There's no one-size-fits-all solution. Every household makes different compromises and sometimes these depend on the type of animal in residence.
As the proud owner of a rescue greyhound with a very long reach, I never leave food on kitchen surfaces or open shelving. I'm also very careful about closing the oven and the fridge. He has emptied both on several occasions. While some breeds can be trained not to steal food, greyhounds and lurchers are incorrigible thieves. And yes, thank you, the dog was fine.
"I thought I'd never let a dog on the sofa," says the interior designer Suzie McAdam. "Now we just have one piece of furniture that he's allowed on." Her dog Mischko is a Samoyed husky and a copious shedder of long white hairs. "I told my husband that he was a non-shed breed before I got him, which wasn't actually true."
Now she finds that a vacuum cleaner designed to remove pet hairs, used several times a week, is what it takes. There are several designed for the job. The cordless Dyson DC44 Animal costs around €350 and the Miele C3 Complete Cat and Dog Vacuum Cleaner is currently advertised at €26o in Harvey Norman. It's also advisable to keep a lint-roller handy. Some dogs can be trained not to climb on the furniture; others learn to get off when they hear you coming.
Another tip is to colour co-ordinate your interior with your pet. "I'm not saying that people should put down white floors because they have a white dog," says McAdam, "but we quickly found that dark grey furniture was difficult to maintain and a lot of the base colours that I used around the house are very pale." Her house, although dog-friendly, is also an expression of style (photographed here by McAdam's cousin, Ruth Maria Murphy). She also points out hard surfaces work better than carpets and that flat weave or low-pile rugs are preferable to deep pile or claw-catching looped carpets.
One of the ways of dissuading a puppy from chewing the furniture is to spray the chair and table legs with lemon juice. The sharp taste puts them off and the natural juice diluted in warm water will harm neither dog nor furniture. For cats who like to sharpen their claws on furniture, you can wrap sisal rope around the chair or table legs. Or you can buy a cat-scratching device. My favourite of these is the hilarious cat-scratching DJ deck, a scratch pad in the shape of a turntable so that it looks as though the cat is spinning the disks. It costs €27.52 from www.maidenshop.com.
You can also fit your cat or dog with nail caps from a company called Soft Paws (www.softpaws.com). They come in a range of bright colours so that it looks as though your pet has had a manicure. To me, this seems like one of the first signs of madness but apparently it is common practice in America and a humane alternative to declawing. Reviewers agree that the nail caps do protect the furniture, but that you can only fit them on a co-operative cat.
Litter trays are my least favourite thing about cat ownership but a necessity where the cat has no outdoor access. Bog standard trays can be cheaply purchased at your local pet store but apartment dwellers might consider the Modkat litter tray (€165 from www.modko.eu), a box that the cat climbs into from the top. It's designed by Modko, who have also produced the portable Shake Dog Potty (€200). Both designs have won Red Dot Design Awards, which usually indicates a highly functional product.
Different breeds of dog have different sleeping requirements. McAdam's hairy husky prefers a cool place by the door but my balding greyhound likes to be as cosy as possible, preferably under a blanket. If money were no object, I'd buy him a Charley Chau Snuggle Bed (€105 from www.charleychau.com), a mattress with a stitched in blanket on top and lined with faux fur. The company is run by Christine and Jenny Chau who made the prototype when they couldn't find a high quality dog bed that wasn't covered in cheesy paw-print or bone motifs.
"The cheap ones looked like flat-pack furniture and the expensive ones looked like baby cots," Christine explains. "I'm a self-confessed crazy dog lady and I love my dogs, but they're not babies!" They also make an expensive-but-stylish raised wooden dog bed (from €366) that comes in Farrow & Ball colours.
Cat beds range from ones that clip over the radiator (around €12 from www.zooplus.ie) to the Rondo cat bed, balanced at the top of a stainless steel scratching post. It's very beautiful but, at €629 from www.pet-interiors.co.uk, it's one for the aristocrats.
I'm often amazed at how generous people are towards their pets, but I'll tell you one thing for free. Next time there's a spare €600 in this house it won't be the cat that gets a new bed.