Our dogs and cats contribute so much to our lives in terms of loyalty and companionship that we are willing to be inconvenienced by the messes they sometimes create in our homes. Although at times it seems to be a losing battle, keeping your home clean from stains, odors, dirt, slobber and pet hair is a challenge for most pet owners, but not an impossible task with some preventive measures and the right tools.
The most consistent complaint from pet owners is dealing with shedding. Pet hair covers floors, carpets, sofas, chairs, beds, clothing, and towels as well as floats in the air and lands in our food. At times it resembles a snowstorm. All dogs and cats shed to some degree, but if you are adding a new dog to your household and are concerned about controlling pet hair, there are specific breeds of dogs that shed very little. Most of us choose a dog based on other traits but for those with allergies or those for whom cleaning is physically difficult these breeds of dogs allow people normally unable to take care of a dog to become pet owners.
Breathing in pet hair floating in the air can be a health problem and an air purifier with a High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filter can help alleviate at least some of the problem. Clean or change the filter often to keep it operating at peak efficiency. Minimizing the amount of pet hair in your home minimizes the amount in the air. This can be accomplished by grooming and brushing your pet at least once a day when they are heavily shedding. Hair on the brush means it is not in the air or in your home. Groom your pet out of doors to keep most of the hair out of your home. Brushing your dog before and after bathing them eliminates even more hair.
Even when you diligently groom your pet, there will still be some pet hair in your home. A quality, easy to maneuver vacuum cleaner is a must, in addition to a small hand held vacuum, wet and dry mops, a broom, microfiber cloths, Swiffers™ and a good old fashioned dustpan and brush. Use the upholstery tool from your vacuum cleaner or the hand held vacuum to clean sofas, upholstered chairs, beds, blankets and curtains. The vacuum will handle the carpet and the mop or broom will take care of hardwood floors. Adhesive tape will remove pet hair from clothing and any resistant hair on furniture or floors can be removed by brushing it with your hand while wearing a damp rubber glove. Furniture with smooth surfaces such as leather or flat, tightly woven fabrics will clean more easily than upholstery and can usually be wiped down easily and quickly with a microfiber or damp cloth. Smooth surfaced furniture also helps to minimize scratching or clawing.
Pet beds should be made of washable fabrics, both the bed itself and the bedding. A cat or dog bed needs to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to remove pet hair and odors. There are many types of pet beds on the market. Some are very expensive but not necessarily of better quality than lower cost models. There are pet owners who swear that the best pet bed is a cardboard box lined with soft towels or old clothing. Every couple of weeks it can be disposed of and a new one created. If you purchase a bed for your pet, wash the outside frequently with disinfectant that is safe for animals, shake out the bedding and wash in the washing machine with 1 cup vinegar and detergent. If you allow your pet on the sofa or chairs, cover them with blankets or towels that can also be shaken out and washed in the washer frequently along with any washable pet toys.
Another strategy to minimize pet cleaning chores is to restrict your pets from particular areas or rooms in your home. For example, make the bedrooms or a home office off limits to your pet by placing barriers such as gates in doorways or simply closing doors. This eliminates or minimizes the amount of pet cleaning you need to do in these areas.
Avoid tracked in dirt on your pet’s paws by placing washable door mats at all doors leading to the outside, on rainy or muddy spring days wipe off mud and dirt at the door using a damp towel or purchase pet wipes to clean your pet’s feet before they enter your home.
Accidents happen. Clean up pet stains as soon as possible with products designed specifically for the purpose. Be aware that many commercial cleaners are toxic to pets. Purchase products formulated for pet safety. These products can be found online or in your local pet supply store. Pet odor can be controlled by the use of baking soda or pet products such as Febreeze™ for pets that specifically targets pet odors.
Another area that is often messy in pet friendly households is the floor surrounding the pet’s food and water bowls. It helps to place the food bowls in a large plastic tray, such as a cafeteria or fast food tray, that catches food spillage or drooled water. Another option is to use plastic placemats that can be wiped clean. Never leave old moist food in a bowl for a long period of time, as soon as your pet is finished eating wash the bowl with warm soapy water. This eliminates odors and insects attracted to the food. It is fine to leave clean water and dry food out.
A word about cats, you know that cats are very mobile and often walk on the backs of furniture, on window sills and on kitchen counters. Occasionally, they may even walk on the kitchen or dining room table. If you have cats in your home make it a habit to wipe down counter tops, tables or any other eating surface with a sanitizing wipe or warm soapy water before you place food on them.
If you have an issue with your dog or cat scratching furniture, clawing at curtains or chewing on woodwork, table legs or furniture there are animal behavior experts who believe this behavior is caused by boredom. The recommendation is to exercise and play with your pet more often and to supply different and intriguing toys to occupy them. Check the internet for ideas on simple, homemade pet toys made from common household items.
Cleaning your home to accommodate your pet can become a simple process once you have established a routine and gathered the right tools. With minimal effort, it is possible to meet the needs of both pets and their people and to co-exist peacefully in a clean and healthy home.