Pet owners looking for new carpet have two main priorities: stain resistance and durability. After all, pet accidents and wear and tear from four-legged traffic can really take a toll on your carpet and shorten its life span, though this seems like a fair trade for the health benefits pets bring to their owners. Many 21st-century consumers have added health and environmental effects to their list of flooring priorities, and finding a carpet that meets these concerns is getting easier.
What makes carpet a good choice for floor covering if you have pets? Wall-to-wall carpeting is more comfortable for pets; after all, many pets spend lots of time lying around on the floor, inspiring spasms of envy in their owners. Carpet is also a nonslip surface that can be safer for animals, whose footpads tend to slide on tile and hardwood flooring. Lastly, carpet absorbs sound and can make your home a more peaceful place to live [source: Canadian Carpet Institute].
A common concern with carpeting is that it may contribute to asthma and allergies by collecting dust and pet dander. Both The Carpet and Rug Institute and the Canadian Carpet Institute claim that wall-to-wall carpeting actually traps allergens until they can be vacuumed up. They say that it's the best choice for allergy sufferers as long as you vacuum and deep clean your carpet regularly. Most allergy experts, however, still recommend hardwood or tile flooring [source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America].
If you have your heart set on carpet, you'll want to take the following factors into consideration when making your selection.
Materials: Carpeting is usually made from wool, a natural fiber, or from synthetic fibers like nylon, olefin and polyester. Wool carpet is the softest and most luxurious, is naturally flame-retardant and breaks down more quickly in landfills, but it's more expensive than synthetic fibers and not as stain-resistant. Carpeting made from nylon fibers is the most popular because it's durable, stain-resistant and affordable, making it the most suitable for households with kids and pets. Olefin and polyester are cheaper than nylon but less durable [source: Bernick; Tremblay and Williams].
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Carpet and other common materials found in homes may contain VOCs. These chemicals can cause eye, nose and throat irritation and have neurological effects [source: Environmental Protection Agency]. Newer carpets contain lower levels of VOCs, and carpets that carry The Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label are certified to be low-VOC. Manufacturing of newer carpets may also require less water and energy, and they're often made from recycled materials [source: The Carpet and Rug Institute: Sustainability Report 2008].
Carpets made just for pets: Some carpets have been specifically designed to prevent pet stains from soaking through to your carpet padding, where the moisture can foster bacteria and mold growth. You might also consider carpet tiles, which make replacing damaged sections of the carpet easier. Some colors or patterns hide pet hair better than others, so consider this when choosing new carpet, too.
Once you've installed your beautiful, new, pet-friendly carpet, be sure to clean it often and well. Keeping carpet clean and dry prevents mold from growing [source: Berry]. To best care for your carpet, choose a vacuum approved by The Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label program, which can reduce airborne dust by 94 percent [source: Asbury].
For lots more information about choosing pet-friendly carpet, explore the links on the next page.