Keep pets in mind when choosing paint

Dear Gail: We’re getting ready to repaint our house and recently rescued another pup, Emma. It seems she’s been a little harder on our walls than her sister, Annie. We wanted to get your advice on if there is anything we should look out for or consider when we paint this time. We were thinking of other wall treatments but not sure it would be the best decision. Thanks. — Roberta

Dear Roberta: Congratulations on your new addition to the family and thank you for rescuing. Also being a fur baby mom, I understand how much our walls can take a beating. Down the halls, around the corners, their rooms and those play areas really need some extra special attention.

In my opinion, paint is your best option in those high-traffic areas. Now it doesn’t mean that all the walls have to be a single color. Stripes continue to be very popular. You could do a chair rail with a different color top and bottom.

Other options are wainscot or even painted brick. Paint is the less expensive option and can still be an impactful way to make a statement. But it can’t be any paint.

We all know that our pets have a remarkable way of getting things on the walls: food flung from their cages, oil marks from their coats on every corner they run around, flying drool and let’s not forget those marks left behind from throwing their ball.

So what type of paint should you get? This is where sheen plays an important role in selecting paint. Sheen refers to how much light is reflected off the painted surface as well as durability. Paint manufacturers may refer to their paint sheens by different names, but, basically, there are five different sheen levels: flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and high gloss.

In my opinion, flat paint has no place in an animal house unless you like to paint a whole lot. It’s true that flat paint has its advantages. Its nonreflective nature masks any surface imperfection. I

t’s easier to touch-up than the others, but unless you invest in the more expensive washables, you just can’t wipe it down without, at some point, going down to the plasterboard. Again, just my opinion as I know many people swear by flat paint.

An eggshell sheen gets its name from the texture and sheen from an actual eggshell. It has a slight sheen and is more washable than a flat finish. A satin is sometimes also called pearl; it has a slight gloss and does offer more cleanability than flat.

Typically a semi-gloss is used in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms because it makes surfaces easier to clean and is moisture resistant. The higher the gloss, the tougher and more stain resistant the paint.

So if you have a real high pet traffic area you might want to consider a semi-gloss. Although it is never my favorite as it will show your walls’ imperfections. But that’s not saying I haven’t recommended it as each situation is different.

High gloss is extremely hard, has a very shiny rich finish and is highly moisture resistant. It’s normally used on trims, cabinets and doors. It’s the toughest and most stain-resistant finish. Being that it has more of a mirrorlike finish, it will also make colors more intense.

Personally, I only use a satin or eggshell as I don’t like the reflection and glow from semi-gloss paint on the walls. I even use it in kitchens and baths. Really, how dirty do these areas get?

If you wipe down any splatters in the kitchen after cooking you shouldn’t have problems. I have it behind Ki Ki’s cage, my blue and gold macaw, and use a scrub brush to clean it. But I did purchase the best quality they offered, and it really does make a difference.

This is not the time for pinching pennies. There are always sales going on. So once you decide on the paint brand you want to use, wait for it to go on sale and buy the best. It will be worth the wait and save you money in the long run.

The paint sheen protects your walls, but now you need to protect your pet. Not all paints are created equal.

With pets, it’s important to use a low or even better, a no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint. This is extremely important if you have pets with a sensitive respiratory system, especially birds.

It’s best if you can board your pet when painting, especially if it is a large project. If you can’t, make sure to keep a close eye on them and that your home is well-ventilated.

Other things to be aware of is that paints are not the only dangerous products, varnishes, paint removers and white spirits can be just as dangerous. Also, remember to watch that they don’t eat or get into the paints or your supplies. You’re doing something different and they will get curious, so make sure to keep your paint and supplies out of reach.

Be sure to consult with the paint expert wherever you buy your paint to find out the particulars on the paints they have to offer. Each manufacturer is different, so don’t hesitate to contact them directly if you have any questions or concerns regarding the safety of their products.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to Or, mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her web address is

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