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Minimize Pet Messes With These Tips

Along with the joys of pet ownership, comes a lot of not-so-fun tasks. Here's how to keep your home both pet- and human-friendly.

Keeping the home clean and odor-free is a constant challenge for every pet owner.

Dogs and cats all shed at least some fur, even if they are billed as non-shedding or hairless. They bring in dust, dirt and pollen on their paws and coats. Birds molt seasonally, scattering feathers everywhere. Litter boxes, potty accidents, and vomiting by a sick pet can contribute unpleasant odors.

At my home, it never ceases to amaze me just how much hair two small medium-coated dogs can produce.

The dust-puppies that litter the stairs and corners seem never-ending. They disappear into the maw of my hand vac or are grabbed up by dry sweeping cloths, but then they reappear a day or two later, as if they’d never been gone. I don’t even want to think about what it must be like to live with a Nordic breed, German Shepherd, Beagle, Pug, Persian cat, or other animal with lots of fur or a fast-shedding coat.

But pet owners can have a sweet-smelling, attractive home with a good cleaning routine and the right tools.

It helps to schedule activities such as vacuuming or mopping so that they become a regular activity or to thoroughly clean just one room a day so the task doesn’t become overwhelming.

The following tips will help you keep pet hair and odors in check:

  • Dust first, then vacuum. Wiping surfaces with a damp cloth or microfiber duster gets up most of the dust, allergens and other particles. Your vacuum can pick up most of the rest.
  • To keep your carpet in best condition, vacuum at least four days a week. That’s what they told us when we bought our condo. I’m pretty sure it has never happened, but I do use a hand vac for daily pickup of dog hair that gathers on the stairs or in corners. We have wood floors, so I also try to give them a daily going-over with an electrostatic cloth (read: Swiffer) to pick up dirt, dust and hair. (If you want to make your own electrostatic cleaning cloths instead of buying disposable ones, here’s how.) 
  • Consider a robovacuum. An automatic vacuum cleaner such as a Roomba will help keep the floor and area rugs presentable between regular vacuumings. If you have a cat and you’re in the market for a new vacuum cleaner, consider purchasing one with a HEPA filter to help pull in light, floaty cat dander.
  • Make sure your blankets are machine-washable. This is important for those throws tossed over sofas or beds shared by pets. It's a lot easier and cheaper to clean those than upholstery or bedspreads.
  • Don't procrastinate. If your pet pees or poops on the carpet or floor, clean it up as soon as possible. Use an enzymatic cleanser that will “eat” the odor- and stain-causing bacteria. Urine spreads underneath the carpet even if you can’t see it. Soak the spot with the cleanser, making sure you cover a larger area than the actual accident. Then use a clean, dry towel to soak up the moisture, place another dry towel on top of the spot and weight it with something heavy for 24 hours to wick up the rest of the moisture.
  • Lighten the task when cleaning up solid waste. Pick up as much of the mess as possible with a plastic bag or paper towel. Lift off any remaining poop, vomit or mud with a damp paper towel. Apply the enzymatic cleanser, then scrub the area with a clean towel until the stain is gone. Blot the area with another dry towel, weight it with something heavy, and let it dry for 24 hours.
  • Keep that litter box fresh. Scoop your cat’s litter box frequently. As in, every time he uses it or at least daily. You’ll both be happier. Every two weeks, or weekly, depending on your cat’s level of persnicketiness, dump the litter, clean the box with warm water and mild dishwashing soap, and put in clean litter. If you use a basic uncovered plastic litter box, you may want to replace it every six months since plastic retains odors. (If throwing a litter box out offends your environmental sensibilities, consider using a large enameled roasting pan, says Marty Becker, DVM, author of Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual. It’s just as easy to clean as a plastic litter box, and the metal won’t hold onto odors the way plastic does.)

In addition to cleaning the house, keep your pet clean, too. The more often you brush your dog or cat, the less hair is going to drift onto your furniture, floors and clothing. Brushing your cat daily also helps to prevent hairballs.

Brush your pet outdoors or in the garage to limit where hair falls. If you choose to do it in the house, keep the hand vac at the ready for easy cleanup. It’s okay to bathe your dog weekly, Becker says, especially if he shares your bed or other furniture.

Between baths and brushings, rub a baby wipe over your pet’s fur to help remove dust, dirt, dander and pollen. I’ve been wiping my dogs’ furry feet with a microfiber cloth after every outing, and it is definitely cutting down on the debris I find on the stairs.

Gotta go now. I haven’t Swiffered the floor yet this morning.

TELL US: What's your best pet-related cleaning tip?

Pet of the Week

Big Red (pictured) is Pet of the Week at Orange County Animal Care. The 7-year old female Chow Chow mix is up for adoption. Her Pet ID is A1202034. Shelter staffers say: "Big Red is an incredibly sweet dog who can’t wait to find her perfect fit. She’s a bigger gal with an even bigger heart. She loves to go on walks, but she is also quite content sitting by your side."

April Josephson October 19, 2012 at 08:56 AM
Another great informational article, Kim! Speaking as a former pug owner/rescuer, I have to say you're right—you don't want to see what your house would look like with all of their shedding. I took out my carpet and put in tile because of them. Too much work vacuuming...
Matt Ringer October 20, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Pet urine consists of mainly three chemical parts the urea, which makes the urine sticky and allows the other two parts to create odors. Urochrome gives the urine its ugly yellow color that stains carpets, furniture the walls and anywhere the cat sprays or urinates. The third part of the urine is made up of Uric Acid. The uric acid in the urine consists of salts and crystals that give off the extremely pungent odor that turns into an invisible gas. Spray’s and candles are just short term fixes until the next accident. A permanent solution, a product called Air-ReNu, only has to be applied one time, works 7/24/365, removing pet odors and improving indoor air quality
Paige Austin October 20, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Kim, me and my pugs are big fans of your column - especially this one!
Kim Campbell Thornton October 22, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Thanks, Paige and April! I'm glad you're enjoying it. (And I'm a big fan of Pugs.)
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 22, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Hi April, You are right! A very good article. I am a pet lover (Dogs & Cats) and a strong advocate for dog runs in both RSM and Dove Canyon. Check out the following website: www.for-r-dog.com Larry www.larry4rsm.com
April Josephson October 22, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Hi Larry, Did you know that RSM already has a dog park? It is at Canada Vista Park behind the sports fields and skate park, near Chiquita Ridge. Why are you advocating for a dog run for RSM? This park has existed for about a decade already. The South County Animal Shelter Coalition has issued candidate endorsements for South Orange County cities. The endorsed candidates for RSM city council are Mayor Tony Beall, Councilmember Carol Gamble, and Planning Commissioner Brad McGirr.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 23, 2012 at 03:21 AM
April, I am aware of the existing dog run but, there are other areas across Rancho Santa Margarita which need Dog Runs. Our citizens should not have to drive for miles to use a dog run. The politicians Beall, Gamble and McGirr got all of the government and politician endorsements. Surprise Surprise! All I want is the endorsements from the voters! Larry www.larry4rsm.com

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