Best Carpet for Pet Owners

Average Cost To Install Carpet Price Range: $845 - $1,650
See costs in your area

Best Carpet for Pets (and Which Carpets to Avoid)

If you could ask man’s best friend and your favorite feline what type of flooring you should purchase, they’d undoubtedly pick carpet for its warmth and comfort.

But if you ask your golden retriever to go easy on your new carpet, she’ll make no promises. Dirty paws and poop on the floor happen. It’s the life of an animal. Some of the more spiteful cats may even “get back at you” by sharping their claws on your new flooring.

Despite the occasional headaches they may trigger, we love our pets. So if we’re going to live with them, we need to adapt. This means purchasing a carpet that will do the best job at protecting against the unique demands of cats and dogs. The good news is you don’t have to splurge on your carpet for it to do its job… you just need to know what features hold up well to pets and which you want to avoid.

Accidents Happen

If it’s going to rain, you grab an umbrella. If your carpet is going to get hit with one of the 3 P’s (pee, puke or poop), it needs to have protection. By protection, I’m talking stain protection.

Every animal, no matter how well trained, will get sick at one point, and they aren’t going to make the toilet… make sure your carpet is ready for it. This makes name brand nylon, Smartstrand, and polyester good options for their stain resistance. Which one of these to pick? There are 2 philosophies I’ll explain below.

Captain’s Big Animal vs Small Animal Philosophy

There are two different approaches you can take when buying carpet that is likely to be damaged. One philosophy is that you should buy the most durable carpet you can, or the new carpet will be trashed before you have time to enjoy it. The other philosophy is to buy a cheaper carpet because your carpet is going to take a beating no matter how durable it is, and with cheaper carpet, you can afford to replace it with fresh, new carpet more frequently—let’s say every 5 years vs every 10 years.

So why do I call this the big animal vs small animal philosophy?

Big animals (medium to large-sized dogs) weigh enough to be considered another child running around the carpet. This requires extra resiliency from the carpet. A cheap carpet will break down quickly, looking old and matted down. Another thing “big animal” stands for is an animal that is better about not having accidents on the carpet. Consider choosing a Smartstrand or nylon carpet with good stain protection for “big animal” carpet, and make sure the density and other carpet performance factors are up to par.

Small animals don’t beat the carpet down physically. In other words, a carpet doesn’t have to be very durable to hold up to a Chihuahua prancing around. This means you shouldn’t have to worry about your carpet being crushed after a year of your small animal walking on cheap carpet. In this case, the inexpensive route may be the way to go because you can replace your stained carpet guilt free in a much shorter time period. Consider going with a polyester or olefin carpet here with low-medium face weight or density.

Captain’s clarification! You can’t just blame it on the animals. When I say “small dog”, I mean that the room doesn’t take a big beating daily. If the room has a lot of human traffic, it may be wiser to take the “big animal” philosophy. Also, if you have a small animal that you’re confident is good about not doing the 3 F’s (see above) on the carpet, then you may want to go with the “big animal” philosophy as well.

The Popular Carpet You’ll want to Avoid

Berber carpet is popular for many good reasons, but it also has drawbacks.

The primary drawback being it’s not animal-friendly… or rather, animals aren’t friendly to it. One reason is that the looped style of Berber is a perfect design for animals to snag their claws and cats sometimes treat it as a scratching post. This results in snags, which can permanently damage the carpet. Even if your animal is declawed, it can cause problems for Berber due to Berber’s unique tight weave. This tight weave helps it resist stains, but it also makes stains difficult to get rid of when they occur. While there are cases where pet owners have been very happy with their Berber carpet, I don’t think it’s worth rolling the dice.

Does the Padding Make a Difference?

If only this question had a simple answer. Many salesmen may direct you to moisture barrier padding. While there are cases where I don’t like moisture barrier padding (such as in damp basements), I do think it can be effective with pet urine. Pet urine can penetrate through normal padding and into the floor board. This makes it very difficult to remove the smell, even for professional carpet cleaners. Moisture barrier padding should keep the liquid from reaching the floorboard, so it can be extracted more easily. Keep in mind, this padding doesn’t work miracles (pet urine may still be difficult to remove), and it also requires that you have a competent installer that you trust to install it correctly (it requires special installation to maintain the “sealed” surface).

Captain’s parting words!

There’s no reason man’s best friend and carpet can’t coexist. It just takes a little extra thought to get the right carpet. While the “big and little animal” philosophy is in some ways self-explanatory, it doesn’t always hold true. Here’s what to keep in mind: the more traffic (bigger animal or a room frequently used by people) and the better trained your animal is at not doing the 3 P’s in your home, the more you consider “big animal” carpet and vice versa. If you want to go with moisture barrier padding, make sure you trust the installer. And after your carpet is installed, remember to always clean up accidents as soon as you notice them—especially urine. Now you and your favorite animal can live happily ever after.

Any questions on carpet for your pet? Let me know in the comments below.

Average Cost To Install Carpet Flooring Price Range: $845 - $1,650
See costs in your area

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

20 thoughts on “Best Carpet for Pet Owners”

  1. We are recarpeting our living room and bedrooms. The rest of the house has hard-surfaced flooring. We are a two-terrier family so I was inquiring about Pet-Friendly carpet at Home Depot. The associate told me it would have to be vacuumed without the beater brush, due to the treatment. She said the carpet was designed (with a loose weave) to release hair and dander without the use of it and will get damaged if the beater brush is used.

    My concerns/questions are: I like a tight (dense/plush) carpet and wonder if that is possible with this feature. I am more concerned about the hair and dander than the occasional accidents. My husband has allergies and asthma. Is this the same criteria (vacuumed without the beater brush) with a stain-resistant carpet?

    We are at the age that replacing carpet often is quite a disruption in our lives. So, I am considering a moisture-barrier pad and a good quality cut (not looped) carpet. What do you think?

    1. I’m not sure about the loose weave “releasing hair and dander” easier. There are carpets that shed with vacuuming, particularly staple fibers. You might check out the vacuuming guide for tips on vacuuming with and without a beater bar. The beater can damage some carpet, but there are plenty out there where you can still use it although damage is always a risk. If you do without it, you’ll want a high suction vacuum.

  2. I fell in love with textured carpets from Stainmaster. It looks like it is part looped part plush. I have a couple of big dogs who have reeked havoc on my Berber carpet. Strips missing everywhere and I have to trim it before I vacuum or more loops get pulled up.
    Will I have this same problem with a textured carpet? Am I better off with a plush carpet?

    1. I’d go plush. The textured carpet won’t be as bad as Berber, but imagine the dogs will still snag some of the loops.

  3. Hi Captain, I have naughty male cat is pissing here and there marking territories. The naughty cat is finally behaving more and stop pissing, and I think it’s time to change my carpet to get rid of the smells that won’t go away even though I clean it professionally many time, I think my sub-floor was soaked. The current carpet i have is cheap and I know the padding is some thin and cheap materials with no moisture barrier. I ran to a local place and got introduced to the SS, SM, Shaw brands, but the price is very steep against my wallet. Then the store came up with a plan saying that’s probably more affordable and I want to ask for your recommendation. For the budget purpose, they said I can just install a cheaper brand nylon or polyester carpet with moisture barrier padding at the bottom. They calculated that will save me nearly 50% of the money comparing to SS SM Shaw big brands. I just want to make sure the cat urine is blot-able and removable from vacuuming or cleaning so it doesn’t smell. Will this work? Let me know your advice, thank you!

  4. marlene kinney

    I have Mohawk silk strand carpet in 2 bedrooms and I like it.I have a client I am buying carpet for a high traffic area with dog. I am also interested for myself for a walk out basement also,high traffic. Silkstrand doesnt have the color I want.
    The salesman ,says Dreamweaver P2 is the same thing.Is this true

    1. Carpet Captain

      You have Smarstrand silk? It’s not the same as Dreamweaver P2. They have similar stain resistance, but you can read more about PTT polyester (Smarstrand silk) and PET polyester (P2) on the page linked.

  5. what is the best brand of carpet for stairs? have 2 med. size dogs? I want very good quality and stain protection (from dogs).

    1. Depends on how much traffic your stairs good. For pure stain resistance, polyester or Smartstrand could be good choices, and you don’t have to worry about brand because stain resistance is built in. However, most people’s stairs take a beating from foot traffic–polyester isn’t resistant. Nylon is probably the most resistant fiber to foot traffic, but it’s stain resistance can vary, so this is the only one I’d worry about brand. There’s too many to mention but Shaw/Mohawk/Stainmaster are some of the major reputable names.

  6. I am installing top quality natural undyed, untreated pure wool carpet in the small bedroom and master bedroom, because I am chemically sensitive. but want warmth for winter. I have a small older dog, read what you say, but risking it. But I put Spillguard moisture barrier underlay in the small room, feels great, but thinking should be the thinner, natural pure felt under the one where I sleep, because concerned about toxicity. I read the moisture barrier prevents off-gassing getting thru, but what is in the moisture barrier itself?! Any thoughts, info? Thank you.

    1. Good question. I imagine the moisture barriers vary but are some type of plastic. Good news is there are some moisture barriers pads that have a CRI green label, which indicates they off-gas very little. Not sure this means all moisture-barriers don’t off-gas much but at least some don’t. You might be interested in this page on carpet and health too.

  7. Our (two) 50 lb. dogs are struggling with some behavioral issues.. They sneak off and potty in our house more often than I’d like to admit, especially when my teenagers are the only ones home. What carpet would you recommend for an active family with high traffic areas but also have pet challenges (urine)? Brand? Carpet Type?
    I have read multiple articles from Carpet Captain, including the ‘big animal vs. small animal’ philosophy portion of the article on best carpets for pets. I know it is hard to specify with infinite detail, but I would greatly appreciate your input.

    1. I think the best carpet for pets article you read gives you most of what you need. Personally, I would go with a polyester with a low face weight and replace it more often. Same with the pad–something like rebond 6lbs. The carpet will go bad in 3-5 years, but then you can “erase” your dogs mistakes and you’re not out more money. Yes, it’s a little of a hassle to have it installed this often, but it’s really just a day or two you have to be out of the house. I think this is better with frequent pet problems than trying to fight it with a high-end nylon or smartstrand, and then getting a moisture barrier pad.

  8. What do you think about the new shaw waterproof backed carpet? We have older dogs who occasionally have accidents. Would this be a good option?

    1. Carpet Captain

      Waterproof backing is newer so things I like about it but I still have some questions. First off, it definitely works (blocks moisture from getting through). My only concerns are similar to moisture barrier padding: if water gets under the “barrier” that could be problematic because it can’t dry up (you can read more about this on my moisture barrier pad article). How could this happen? Your animal pees near a wall or a seam of the carpet (proper installation should seal these but you never know), or is it possible the barrier could break down with wear over time? So a few questions I don’t have answers to but in theory, I like the idea. I might try to “wear test” this backing myself some time. If your dog pees near the edges of walls, I personally would avoid it.

      1. This is an easy-informative site! Thank you for putting it together!
        Since this was posted over a year ago, I’m interested in your updates for Shaw’s blue backing and LVP.
        I thrive 🙂 w/ a messy husband, kids, labs & cats (some aging, one w/ a grudge… insert heavy sigh & eye-roll). I face the occasional baseboard issue and full spilled drinks- not half a drink or even a few sips, FULL! usually tea or COFEE, so after reading this i’m trying to balance my frugal options. Shopping started out so fun, but now I’m ready to quit, rip up what I have and make everyone live on naked concrete! It’s become overwhelming… twists, weights, density, cost, pads, not to mention colors…. where’s a design show ready to swoop in and save my sanity when ya need it?!
        Currently we have 10 yo waterproof pad w/ decent (lowes) light/dense low pile carpet that’s held up well to my H2O/bleach clean ups!, and the MB still has 20 yo light/dense med pile/ w/normal pad that’s still silky/cushy- but only around baseboards & under furniture. Alas, everything needs changed and after reading the above, i’m leery to see what we might encounter when the waterproof pad/carpet gets pulled up around the edges, no matter how OCD i’ve been! (home carpet cleaner & pro steam cleaning $$$)

        Sanity suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
        Main floor/open concept is on 20yo concrete pad- planing to float Florence XL LVP.
        Carpet/bedrooms only: considering Shaw’s BlueBack- for the thought process of: ‘I know how far a spill went VS. I wonder how far it went on the unseen pad.
        I’m looking at Shaw R2X Anso nylon & 1 DreamWeaver Poly. W/ 8lb pad or 8lb Lifetime scotch guard. Shaw’s Blue Back samples- will NOT let water pass thru backing! Yay!, but will NOT handle a simple 25% H2O/bleach for organic clean-ups.- fibers turn orange immediately! Boo!

        *Take the Floor Twist Blue (slightly itchy/not silky, frieze? too trendy? functional, not my normal smooth/peaceful ‘give me 5 minutes, i’m on a smooth deserted beach vibe, so ignore the pile of laundry’, 53.6 face wt, 2068 oz, .74″, 26.08 density?)
        *Find Your Comfort Blue (smooth, not too thick/dense feeling, 55.6 face wt, 4448oz, .45″, density?),
        *Always Active Blue (smooth, haven’t found samples yet, but Shaw recommended I look into it, 58.5 face wt., 4212 oz, 1/2″, destiny?)
        * DreamWeaver’s Reflections II or III poly (less $$, silky/cushy, hold’s up to my 25% H2O/bleach solution- no color change, BUT ALL liquids soak through- leaving me back to where I am now… I really need these 2 to merge(again. I was told DreamWeaver is Mr.Shaw’s start up after he sold Shaw?)
        Opinions of above?
        Options I’ve dismissed?, other than removing all living creatures from our home?
        Thanks in advance 🙂

        1. Mom of many,
          What did you end up getting? I am looking at some of the same Shaw options. Thanks for the info on pile height.

  9. We have a 6 lb. 11-year old Yorkie. He seldom has “accidents” but as he ages, this could change. We would like a nice, plush-feeling carpet in our three-bedroom home. Would a soft-nylon or Smartrand serve our wants and desires best? And, is it best to go with an 10# gel pad with less face-weight or a 8# pad with more face-weight?

    Thank you, Carpet Captain!

    1. Carpet Captain

      I want a dog! I think either of those could work. If you like the soft you can go with it, but I don’t think it’s quite as durable (you can read more here). And I’d (depending on the face weight increased and exact pad), I’d go with the 8lb and higher face weight.

Need Flooring Pros?

Get Free Quotes From Local Contractors