What is the best type of flooring for pets?

A dog sitting on a floor.

For pet owners, selecting the best type of flooring can be tricky. Homeowners usually think about things like appearance, cleaning and care requirements, and cost. For those with furry and feathered friends, the comfort, health, and safety of pets are additional considerations. Read on to learn why tile flooring is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally practical for pets. We’ll also take a look at how tile and stone measure up to other types of flooring.

Pets Can Be Messy

Cats tend to be less messy compared to other pets, but the area surrounding a litter box may be a concern. Most of the droppings and food messes caused by birds, reptiles, or small mammals are contained in enclosures, but spills can happen during feeding, enclosure cleaning, and other activities. Animals knock things over, scratch, shed, and have medical issues that can lead to stains, scratches, or other damage to flooring. Dogs bring dirt and grime inside after spending time outdoors.

Although farm animals like horses and chickens stay outside the home, the humans that tend to them do not. Using high quality walk-off mats in entryways can help minimize the amount of abrasives and contaminants brought in on the bottoms of shoes.

Elegance and Practicality: Porcelain Tile Floors + Area Rugs

From hardwood to carpet and vinyl to laminate, one category of flooring material stands out for its exceptional combination of elegance and practicality: tile floors. Especially porcelain tile floors. Since tiles can be cold and hard, incorporate area rugs for your pet’s comfort.

The more porous a surface is, the more prone to staining it is. All types of tile are porous to a certain degree, but some have such low porosity that they are called non-porous. Porous tiles include some types of natural stone, cement-based terrazzo, terracotta, quarry tiles, and cement tiles. Non-porous tiles include some types of natural stone, epoxy-based terrazzo, ceramic, porcelain, glass, and vinyl. 

  • Porcelain tiles. Dense, durable, and extremely low in porosity, porcelain tiles are a very popular flooring choice for pet owners. Large-format porcelain tiles provide a sleek and modern look. For a more traditional look, choose porcelain tiles that mimic the look of natural stone or wood. Porcelain tiles resist scratches and accidents are easy to wipe up. 
  • Ceramic tiles. Another great flooring choice is ceramic tiles, but this material does not stand up to staining and wear as well as porcelain. Pet accidents or spills that are not cleaned up right away may cause permanent stains.
  • Natural stone tiles. Some types of natural stone are less porous than others. Penetrating sealers can help inhibit staining or porous stone. Most stains can be removed from natural stone with the poulticing method of stain removal. 
  • Terrazzo tiles. Porous, cement-based terrazzo tiles, like natural stone tiles, can be sealed to inhibit staining. Topical sealers may also be applied, but they will need to be periodically stripped and reapplied. The poulticing method may also be used to remove stains from cement-based terrazzo tiles. Epoxy-based terrazzo tiles are not absorbent, making this flooring material a better option for people with pets.

NOTE: Porous stone tiles or terrazzo tiles that are highly polished may not need to be sealed, since the polishing process closes the pores. This article has instructions for testing porosity and this article has instructions for mixing and applying a poultice.

Fine scratches caused by pets’ nails or abrasive substances tracked in by pets can cause certain types of tiles to become dull in appearance. Fortunately, in most cases, tile floors can be professionally reglazed (not to be confused with painting) or honed and polished to a like-new appearance.

Other Flooring Options

How do tile floors measure up against other alternatives? 

  • Hardwood floors. Hardwood floors are not suitable for pets. They are prone to scratch damage. Moisture from overturned water bowls or pet accidents can warp and stain the wood. If you simply must have hardwood floors AND pets, choose a hard wood species with a strong finish, and immediately tend to any spills or accidents. Use high quality walk-off mats in entrances and waterproof mats under water bowls.
  • Carpet. For pet owners whose highest priorities are the comfort and safety of pets, especially older dogs with mobility issues, wall-to-wall carpets may be a good choice. However, maintaining carpets can be a challenge. You may want to purchase a portable pet carpet spot cleaner to thoroughly clean, rinse, and extract spills and accidents. For homeowners with pets, carpets will need to be professionally cleaned often and replaced sooner.
  • Vinyl floors. Durable, waterproof, and affordable, vinyl floors can be made to mimic the look of hardwood or tile floors. With time and use, vinyl floors will show signs of wear. Occasional buffing can improve the appearance of scratched floors, but eventually, the flooring will need to be replaced.
  • Laminate floors. Designed to look like hardwood floors, most laminate floors are not suitable for pets. Moisture from overturned water bowls or pet accidents can cause the material to swell. If you must have laminate floors AND pets, use the same precautions listed above for hardwood floors.
  • Concrete floors. Stained and sealed, coated, or highly polished concrete floors are ideal for pets. Use area rugs to give pets a soft, comfortable place to rest.
  • Rubber floors. From scratch resistance and traction to comfort and ease of cleaning, rubber floors are ideal for pets. Humans may find them rather unsightly, though!

For any type of hard flooring, older dogs with mobility issues may need some help with traction, such as socks, boots, or toe grips.

What you should know about flooring and fish…

Obviously, fish won’t be spending time on the floor. But be careful with aquarium maintenance and very porous flooring materials. Spills can be absorbed, causing stains or damage. 

Dead load and live load are terms used to describe the weight a floor can support. A dead load refers to the permanent weight of the floor itself. A live load refers to temporary or moving weight, like people or furniture. Small aquariums would be considered a live load, whereas some large aquariums should be considered a dead load. If you are planning to install a large aquarium, let your flooring contractor know. A reputable contractor will consult with an architect or engineer, as needed. 

Selecting the best type of flooring can be a challenge for pet owners. Check with manufacturer’s information, recommendations, and guidelines before selecting flooring materials.

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