Did you know that there’s a dog in 40% of US homes? That’s a lot of dogs and a lot of long doggie nails tearing at your floors! Add in plenty of shedding (yes, cats too) and the occasional… erm… accident and you soon have good reason to think long and hard about which type of new flooring will be the best fit for you and the best flooring for dogs or other pets in your house build or remodel.
In this Home Flooring Pros guide we will look in detail at both the best and the worst floors for dogs and cats. Here’s our list and you can click the quick links to link to our review of each.
Best Pet Flooring from Best to Worst
- Vinyl Flooring – Durable, waterproof, easy to clean and relatively soft.
- Linoleum Flooring – Almost as good as vinyl and eco-friendly, but costs more.
- Cork Flooring – Hypoallergenic, less rigid than wood but can be damaged by dogs.
- Bamboo Flooring – Quality bamboo is tough but not so comfortable for pets.
- Tile & Stone Flooring – Great for cleaning but hard and cold for pets.
- Laminate Flooring – Durable but slippery and loud for pet claws.
- Hardwood Flooring – Softer woods prone to scratches, hard surface for pets and avoid pet urine.
- Carpeting – Pets love it but you won’t enjoy the cleaning or floor damage.
Before we move on let’s cover some key points…
First up, there are no hard and fast rules! There is no law against owning pets and installing carpet! Thousands of pet owners have done it and are happy enough.
If you have…
a) well behaved pets
b) always keep them well groomed with nails trimmed
c) own a good powerful hoover that you’re happy to use each week
… then it’s quite possible to mix pets with carpet. Conversely you know your pets and your lifestyle better than anyone and if you have two large dogs who love nothing more than getting covered in mud every time they go for a walk then…well you’re going to have a problem on your hands if you install carpet throughout your home.
The second main consideration is… what do you mean by the best flooring for dogs and cats? Do you mean the best floors for them or the best floors for you!? In our guide we’ve ranked flooring by both criteria. So a tiled floor doesn’t rate at number one in our survey, despite the fact that for durability and ease of cleaning it’s clearly the best option, because for your pets it is a pretty hard, often cold and slippery floor.
So without further ado let’s take a look at the Home Flooring Pros list of the best flooring for your pets… and you!
The Best Pet Friendly Floors
Vinyl – Top of the list for dogs and cats must surely be vinyl flooring. Vinyl sheet flooring is often referred to as resilient flooring for the very clear and simple reason that it is one of the most durable options available (on the understanding that you don’t skimp on price and quality). New luxury vinyl sheet, tile or plank flooring is an even better option thanks to its added thickness. Installed properly vinyl will wear well, with no scratches or tears, and with its water resistant qualities is a cinch to clean. Cat and dog hairs are quickly removed with a quick hoover and any urine accidents or vomit are easily removed without leaving a trace. A nice added benefit, certainly with luxury vinyl, is it’s comparative softness, compared with wood or tile. There’s a lot more give in vinyl which is both more forgiving for our pets and a lot quieter than the click, click, click or nails on a hard surface.
Vinyl floor prices are lower than many other flooring options, but if its durability and longevity you’re looking for then avoid cheap products, a thin vinyl floor is the kind of cheap inconsequential floor you might put down in the kitchen of a rental apartment, but don’t expect it to hold up well.
Linoleum – Linoleum flooring is right up there with vinyl as an excellent pet friendly floor, but it is a little more expensive and there are less options available these days. Armstrong do a great range and we love Forbo’s linoleum products, which are branded as Marmoleum.
Linoleum has many of the same benefits of vinyl. It’s easy to clean, pretty much water resistant (although not as good as vinyl) and a softer, quieter flooring. Furthermore as a natural product it is an eco-friendly floor as well as hypoallergenic and antibacterial, which is handy with pets around. Also, while vinyl has its pattern/colors printed onto just its surface, the look of a linoleum floors is constant from the top surface of the floor through to the base, meaning scratches barely show up at all and the lifespan of the floor is far longer than vinyl.
Against these benefits is the appearance of linoleum over time, as a natural product it is prone to fading and degrading so careful maintenance is more of an issue. Linoleum floors really benefit from being waxed and polished a couple of times a year to get the best out of them and this kind of aftercare is only going to be more essential in a household with dogs. Also because of the manufacturing process, with linoleum’s color/pattern constant throughout, design choices are limited to solid colors or mottled effects. (image of typical linoleum choices). It is for these two disadvantages that we rank it just below vinyl.
Cork – We suggest you add cork flooring high up on your “maybe” list when looking for the best flooring for dogs. On paper it has many elements that make it seem a perfect match for your pets. Like Linoleum it has hypoallergenic and antibacterial qualities, is less rigid and more forgiving than hardwood or tile and its structural makeup means it is resilient, durable and impact resistant.
That said, the finish of most cork flooring is closer to a hardwood floor than, say, vinyl and consequently it would be untrue say that cork is scratch resistant. Choosing a lighter shade of cork will help hide scratches and you should look to the higher quality products with a tough finish. Something else to bear in mind…while you can polish or add a new coat of finish to a cork floor, it is not a floor that you can easily re-sand or refinish like solid hardwood. As cork is a fairly expensive option it is worth considering the overall lifespan of a cork floor in a house with pets.
Beware the unfinished and very soft cork glue down tiles that you might have seen in the odd bathroom or two. While they are nice and soft and warm for a bathroom environment (and easy to install) they really are too soft for the rest of the home, especially a home with pets.
Bamboo – Bamboo flooring too is another option to add to the “maybe” list. If you have your heart set on some form of wood floor then it’s true that bamboo can be a sensible option (although of course not strictly speaking wood). Why? Well it’s all down to the hardness of your floor, the harder the surface the less easy it is to scratch or dent. Manufacturers use the Janka test to assign a hardness rating to their floors and some bamboo flooring products score very highly.
Please do your research and look specifically for bamboo flooring manufacturers who draw attention to the hardness of their products. The bamboo floor should definitely be strand-woven, other forms of bamboo and cheaper products made from immature bamboo plants can be quite soft and won’t stand up well against energetic pets.
Tile and Stone – As we mentioned in the introduction, if you’re only interested in your own ease and comfort then ceramic and porcelain tiles or natural stone flooring is definitely the best floor for dogs and cats. Tough, stain resistant, water resistant and easy to clean this type of flooring can stand up to anything. Cats won’t mind it too much either, they can always find a soft chair or bed to curl up on, but dogs can find a tile or stone floor pretty hard and uncomfortable. Cold too unless you have radiant underfloor heating, if you go with tile or stone be sure to get plenty of rugs put down in strategic places.
Laminate – While we put vinyl and linoleum at the top of our list of best floors for dogs, many other online resources and homeowners plump for laminate flooring. It’s hard to argue with the logic…laminate floors are renowned for their incredibly tough clear melamine wear layer making them almost scratch invincible against cat and dog claws. This same layer makes the surface of the floor pet stain resistant and like other hard floors their easy to keep clean with a hoover and a damp mop. Add in the low cost of laminate floors and it seems like a no-brainer…right?
However, in our humble opinion, laminate isn’t hugely “pet-friendly”, that’s to say friendly to your pets, especially dogs. That same transparent wear layer that is so resistant to scratches also acts much like an ice-rink for animals, pets get little to no traction at all on its surface and this can be a real health hazard especially to older animals. Laminate, like all the less pet friendly floors, is also a hard surface which again isn’t conducive to comfort, so be sure to get plenty of area rugs or pet beds down if you’re going with laminate.
Also, be warned, if you don’t like the tip tappity sound of little feet on a hard floor then laminate might just drive you a little crazy too. Laminate is known for having a bit of a hollow and louder sound to it compared to other flooring like solid wood or tile, so you can imagine the extra amplification laminate will bring to your dog’s footsteps.
Hardwood – So this is the biggie, most homeowners want to know about the best hardwood floors for dogs. Well, if you have your heart set on hardwood floors, and many, many homeowners do, then the answer is to install the solid or engineered hardwood floor with the toughest finish and/or the highest Janka hardness score. Pre-finished factory produced hardwood flooring typically comes with several layers of tough finish that creates a protective wear layer. If you invest in a top quality floor with over 8/9 layers of finish you have yourself a pretty strong floor that will stand up to a lot of wear and tear.
Similarly, some woods are just naturally harder than others so if you’re looking for the best hardwood floor for dogs always go for the tougher species. Imported exotic hardwoods like Ipe, Brazilian Cherry, Walnut and Acacia flooring dominate the top end of the table and when looking at domestic woods White Oak, Hard Maple and Hickory are all strong choices (be aware that these hardwoods all come with a higher price tag). Certainly you would do well to steer away from the soft hardwoods like Pine, Teak or Larch.
Generally though, dogs and hardwood floors don’t mix and are not recommended by manufacturers for families with pets, you can certainly limit the damage, but dogs, especially larger breeds, will wreak havoc in the long run. At least with solid hardwood floors you can re-sand and re-finish the damage, whereas with engineered hardwood once the damage is done you have just one chance at a re-sand if you’re lucky.
Furthermore, wood floors don’t like liquids, so urine and vomit, not to mention the dogs water dish are all potential threats to the wood. Dog and cat urine can stain and discolor wood floors and the bad odors can be very hard to get rid of if urine seeps down the cracks. And if liquids are left to stand too long then they can often seep into the wood itself and cause swelling.
Again, it is worth mentioning that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to flooring for pets. Putting the urine issue to one side (not all cats or dogs have regular accidents) if, as a homeowner, you like the current trend for distressed, hand scraped and generally rustic hardwood floors then dog scratches really won’t be a concern or problem, merely adding to the patina of your floors. Many homeowners like a well-worn wood floor and if you’re one of them go ahead and invite the dogs in, just don’t expect the manufacturers to honor their life-time guarantees!
Carpet – Do we really need to explain why pets and carpets don’t get along? 😉 We’re sure if you asked your pets which flooring they would choose they would tell you carpet every time. Soft, comfortable and warm, why wouldn’t they prefer to lay on a deep plush carpet over a rock hard, cold tile? And if nothings too good for your pets then go for it, but on a practical level this is the flooring that’s most likely to take the worst beating from your pets.
The best carpet for pets is the one specifically manufactured with pets in mind. Smartstrand and Stainmaster are both well-known brands of carpet well suited to the various risks associated with cats and dogs. Look for a carpet that is pile cut rather than looped (so no to Berber) so pets don’t get their claws caught in the threads.
And look for a stain and, as far as possible, odor resistant carpet to give you maximum protection against dirt tracked in from outside and any urine accidents. Nylon and polyester carpets are a good place to start before making sure they have built in stain protection.
Finally In summary
Our suggestions above are just a guide to finding the best flooring for dogs and every flooring type can be suitable for certain pets. Whichever floor you choose, try to follow these suggestions:
- Trim your dog’s nails. Sometimes dog owners just focus on the messes their dogs might make and don’t think about them scratching up the floor. Scratching can be just as destructive as any mess a dog can make and potentially last much longer.
- Keep their toys in a separate room that can take abuse, or just keep them outside. You don’t want your dog to get too rambunctious in the same room you keep your priceless Ming vases and Faberge eggs, now do you?
- Keep water and food in an easy-to-clean room. Maybe keep these in the kitchen so you can easily mop or sweep up any mess that gets made. It may be smart to go a bit further and put an easily cleaned mat under their food and water.
- Speaking of mats, use walk-off mats near the doors your pets use to enter and exit the house to catch the big messes they may drag in. Make sure the mats can be easily wiped down or tossed into the washer.
Animal Behavior College – More pet friendly advice you can trust.
Pet Friendly Flooring – Could this be the answer to all our pet flooring problems?
Cali Bamboo – Flooring video from happy bamboo floor homeowners.