Keep Your Pet and Your Wood Floors


Do you have to choose between installing beautiful wood floors in your home and keeping the family pet? Probably not, but you will have to take precautions to help protect the floor and do some research to determine what type of wood will hold up best against scratches from animal claws and the damage that can result from an unexpected puddle.

Laminate looks like real wood, and luxury vinyl flooring can be an attractive option as well. However, if nothing less than the charm of real hardwood lumber will do, you should choose a species of three-quarter-inch flooring. Your options include:

  • Brazilian teak
  • Brazilian walnut
  • Brazilian ebony
  • Natural strand bamboo
  • Acacia
  • Brazilian cherry
  • Hickory
  • Red oak
  • White oak
  • Hard maple, sometimes known as sugar or rock maple.

Three-quarter-inch hardwood lumber can be refinished several times. On the other hand, engineered wood flooring — a combination of laminated wood and real hardwood — might not be a wise choice for a family with a dog or cat because it can be sanded down and refinished only once or twice.

Keep the Damage to a Minimum

Regardless of which type of wood you choose, your first concern should be to minimize any damage your dog or cat might cause. Here are some suggestions.

  • Keep your pet’s nails trimmed.
  • When your dog comes in from outside, wipe the sand and grit from his paws before you let him on your wood floors.
  • If your dog sheds, you might want to pick a floor color that is similar to the color of the dog’s hair.
  • Put a mat under your animal’s drinking bowl to keep water off the floor.
  • If your dog or cat urinates or vomits on the floor, clean it up as quickly as possible, using a damp cloth with a mixture of plain vinegar and warm water. Don’t use ammonia: It might attract your pet to the same spot again.
  • Place rugs in high-traffic areas. For example, if your dog runs to the door every time the bell rings, make sure you have a rug along the path he takes to get there. In addition, strategically placed rugs also improve traction for your pet, lessening the chances of injury.

Finish the Job

Scratches from animal claws will probably be the biggest pet-related problem you’ll have to deal with if you have wood floors. However, there are steps you can take to meet this challenge.

  • Use more finish on the floor – Scratches in the finish can be fixed with a new coat of polyurethane, while scratches in the wood must be sanded out. In that case, you’ll most likely have to sand the entire room.
  • Go with a tougher finish – This, of course, will be a little more expensive, but it’s still cheaper and a lot less trouble than sanding the whole room.

Keep Your Floors Looking New

Even if you don’t have a dog or cat, you should follow these guidelines to keep your hardwood floors looking like new for as long as possible.

  • Clean the floors regularly to get rid of dirt of grit, especially between the floorboards. Use a dust mop, a broom or a vacuum cleaner with a special hardwood floor attachment. A wet mop might dull the finish.
  • Wipe up spills right away. Moisture on the floor can damage the wood as well as the finish.
  • This might seem a bit elementary, but don’t walk on your floor if you are wearing sports cleats.
  • Put felt pads on furniture legs to help avoid scratches.
  • Put rugs at all the doors to help keep small stones and other debris out. Keep in mind, however, that rugs with rubber or foam backs can discolor the wood.
  • Clean your floors with products expressly recommended by the company that manufactured your floor. If your floors have been refinished, ask the company that did this work what cleaning products to use. Avoid using a wax-based or petroleum-based cleaner, which can damage the finish.
  • Don’t clean your floors with steel wool or scouring powder and don’t use a buffing machine.
  • Wet-mopping your floor can cause swelling and warping, so it’s a good idea to avoid this method of cleaning.
  • Rearrange your area rugs and furniture every now and then so the flooring will age evenly. Many types of wood darken over time if they are exposed to sunlight.

You don’t have to send your dog or cat packing if you decide to install hardwood floors. With some planning, research and a little extra effort, your pet, and your wood floors can co-exist in harmony.

Featured Image CreditMR photography. / Foter / CC BY


About Author

Chris Long is a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago suburbs. Chris also writes on DIY projects for the Home Depot website.


  1. Wow! We’ve always dreamed of having wood floors, but now I’m not so sure. That sounds like a lot of work–espcially moving the furniture and carpet around. I can’t imagine being able to move the furniture and carpet around in a way that it is functoinal and keeps the wood an even color.

  2. This is really good information to have since many of my friends with pets complain about scratches and are ultra paranoid about getting scratches. I currently do not have wood floors, but hope to have them in the future. I will keep this article in my back pocket for myself and others when that time comes!

  3. Thank you so much for covering this issue. I’m in the process right now for saving up for hardwood floors in my dining room. I had dogs with my hardwood floors in my last home and really didn’t experience real problem keeping the floors from being scratched. I think my kids probably did more than the dogs. 🙂 However, I will say that when they pee on the floor it is problematic as it will change the color of the wood. I haven’t really been thinking about them in regards to putting in a new hardwood floor in my current home. Thanks for giving me something to think about as I save to make this investment.

  4. great post, very informative! I think asking your floor guy to put down an extra coating of lacquer would also be a good idea if it is practical to do so.

  5. I have hardwood floors and they are a work especially if you have pets. I have had both cats and dogs at the same time and on some days I would have to clean up from both ends. The cat would throw up a hairball and the dog would poop or pee. It’s the reason why I don’t have area rugs.

    It has gotten a lot easier now that the my dog is now fully house trained. Great post with some great tips

Leave A Reply