The Clawing Situation

Q: We have a cat, and furniture. What’s the most attractive way to address the clawing situation? Is there such a thing as claw-proof upholstery fabric?

A: Not really, though some fabrics work better than others. Cats make short work of loose weaves and nubby textures because they provide a satisfying toehold, so to speak. When you start thinking about eliminating toeholds you might arrive at leather as a solution. But leather can be scratched fairly easily, so you have to be prepared to live with that look.

A fabric that several pros mentioned for its admirable strength and beauty is mohair velvet. According to interior designer Candice Mathers, owner of CMR Interiors (312-933-3717; cmrinteriors.com) the fabric—often used for theatre seats—has proven durability. She also suggests chenille, with its thick nap that can hide claw marks. Microfiber Ultrasuede is another hardy fabric that several designers recommended.

And finally, there are outdoor and commercial-use products to consider, such as Sunbrella and Crypton. These fabrics are made to stand up to wear and weather—in Crypton’s case, even to stiletto heels on dance floors. We’ve also heard of using Tyvek, more famous in the form of untearable envelopes and as a moisture-barrier construction material, as an upholstery fabric (called Loop by the Yard, by Mio; mioculture.com). But as Thomas Harden, assistant manager of the home decorating department at Fishman’s Fabrics (1101 S. Desplaines St., 312-922-7250; fishmansfabrics.com) says, “I have yet to see a fabric that can withstand a cat’s claws.”

Once you accept the fact that there is no magic bullet, all you can do is meet your cat’s cunning with some of your own. First of all, cats are individuals—each one has different tastes and predilections. It may be that your cat doesn’t care for, say, heavy-duty canvas, but how would you know? Decorator Kim Tipre, owner of Finishing Touches Interiors (227 W. North Ave., 312-787-5404; finishingtouchesint.com) says to ask for a memo sample of the fabric you’re considering. A memo sample is a large swatch that has to be returned, but you can attach it to the arm of your sofa, or wherever your cat likes to scratch, and see what happens.

Of course there are training tactics you can experiment with, some of them involving spray repellents (pet-supply stores sell many different kinds). A trick designer Stephanie Wohlner (1442 Waverly Rd., Highland Park, 847-432-8735; swohlnerdesign.com) has used is to put double-sided tape over an area the cat has been scratching. Frustrated by the tape, a cat should resort to using (with a little encouragement) the nearby scratching post or sisal rug you’ve thoughtfully provided.

And finally, there are slipcovers and throws, which can be called into action (or removed, if you want to perform the maneuver in reverse) when the look of your room matters more than usual.

 

Have a design or renovation question? Just drop us a note at chicagohome@chicagomag.com and we’ll do our best to answer it. Sorry, we cannot take questions by phone, or guarantee individual responses.

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