Choosing Fabric for your Upholstery Project – Part One: PETS!


Choosing fabric.

It’s the toughest part of any upholstery project, bar none. For one, it’s a big investment! Whether you’re paying an upholsterer to do it for you, or you’re a DIYer who is tackling the project yourself, fabric is going to cost you some coin. You’re going to want to be sure that it will look great for years. One of the most common questions I get is: What fabric should I choose if I have a pet?

Well, I too have encountered this dilemma, and there are no easy answers. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice the style you want for the durability you need. From my own experience (though some pets are just more destructive than others!), here’s what I recommend.


Also known as Ultrasuede, microfibre is 100% synthetic and will resist stains and is durable enough to stand up to cat claws. In fact, a cat won’t bother to try to scratch microfibre, as it won’t be able to sink its claws into the surface. Microfibre is extremely common in upholstery applications, as evidenced by popular furniture lines available at the Big Retailers.

Although it comes in many colours, the drawback of microfibre is that it’s boring, and common. You probably won’t inspire any oohs and ahhs from your friends. However, used on an unexpected piece of furniture, such as this tufted antique chaise, it becomes secondary to the finer details of the piece.



I’ve had much success in keeping my cat from scratching velvet. The higher the pile, the less the cat will be able to “grasp”. There are plenty of velvets to choose from: mohair velvets are made of goat hair, and are (in my experience) extremely durable. Wool, cotton, silk or synthetic fibres are also used in some velvet fabrics. It is best to take a pin to the store with you, and scratch the surface of the velvet to see how it stands up to this stress before purchasing, as some velvets are more durable than others.

The drawback in using velvet, is that it is suitable mostly for traditional furniture and interiors. If you are looking for a modern feel, velvet is likely not going to pull it off.


Chenille fabric can best be recognized by its soft, fuzzy feel. Like velvet, it has a distinctive nap, and some will be more durable than others! Do the “scratch test” and look for a rubberized backing – this is the key to a fabric suitable for upholstery applications.

If all else fails:
Industrial Grade Fabric

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Commercial fabric is used for hotels, airports, malls, etc. so you’d think it would stand up to your furry friend! I’ve never had to resort to this measure, but there are many cool commercial fabrics out there suitable for home use.

I also recommend:

*Arm caps. Long ones. Kitties do not like shifty arm caps.

*Removable cushions. If the sofa your dog lounges on has no washable cushion – make one!

*Back cap. If your cat loves to sit on the back of your sofa (whose doesn’t?) a scrap of matching (or similar) sofa fabric will go a long way to keeping your sofa clean.

*Let it be. My cat usually has her one favourite scratching chair…and I let het have it. We have an understanding that way, and thankfully she leaves my good furniture alone.

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