Keeping a Pet-Friendly Home Clean

If you lay down a few ground rules, sharing your home with an animal needn't mean too much extra work. Don't worry that you might not be able to train your animal well enough to follow house rules — the rules are for you, not your pet!

  • Decide which parts of the house you want to share with your pet and be consistent about enforcement.
  • Restrict your pet to its own bed — not yours!
  • Carry out regular grooming. Fur caught on the cat comb is fur that isn't lining your carpet.
  • Give your pet sufficient exercise and spend quality time together. It's bored dogs, cats, and rabbits that get scratching and chewing.

Feeding your cat and dog cleanly

Consider an outer room, if space allows, such as a utility area to feed your pet. A utility area often has a sink so you can wash your pet's dishes and any knives or spoons you use to dish out the food away from your own. Store your pet's food here too — only opened cans need the fridge.

To clean food and water dishes, use hot water and dishwashing liquid, then rinse bowls thoroughly before drying with a paper towel.

Stand food and water bowls inside a large plastic tray and you protect the floor from spills and can also keep the tray clean by washing it in a solution of bleach and hot water each week.

Avoid feeding your pet on carpet, which is a chore to wash. Remember, cats don't have to be fed on the floor. A worktop (but not, of course, a kitchen worktop!) may be suitable.

Limit feeding times. How often you feed your pet is probably dictated by your working day, as much as its needs. But for good hygiene, you need to get those bowls cleared up promptly, especially in hot weather. So teach your animal to eat right away so you can wash up his food bowl before you go to work. (Leave the water out of course and, if you're out all day, some dry food.)

Winning the war against animal fur

A quality vacuum cleaner is an essential tool in your campaign to lift pet hair from your home. If anyone in the household is asthmatic or prone to allergies, get a vacuum with a high-grade filter. The filter helps keep the microscopic allergens sucked up by the vacuum safely inside the machine.

Use the upholstery tool on your cleaner to suction hairs off sofas and curtains. But don't bother with those gadgets that use an adhesive roller to lift up hairs. You'll be there all day, just cleaning one armchair. To rid your clothing of pet hair, wrap a circle of wide adhesive tape around your fingers, sticky side out, and dash up and down your clothes, pressing the tape firmly against the fabric. Pay attention to the bottom of your legs where your pet may have brushed against you. The fur sticks to the tape, leaving your clothes smart again.

For chairs, beds, and blankets (or anywhere your pet sits), brush the area wearing a wet rubber glove. Use your fingers to get right into the corners of cushions. Afterwards, simply rinse the gloves under the tap to remove fur. (Remember to scoop this out of the drain and drop it into the bin.)

Groom your cat and dog outdoors, to minimize airborne skin particles that contribute to allergies. Get loose fur off a molting cat or dog by rubbing over its body while wearing damp rubber gloves. Metal flea combs make good grooming brushes for cats. They're quicker to use and clean than traditional wood and soft-bristle brushes.

Rub off mud and dirt from your dog using a damp towel. If it's cold, follow up with a rubdown with a warm one, straight from the clothes dryer or a radiator.

Go with the flow. If you've a Dalmatian, buy cream or beige carpets, and avoid dark floor coverings and seating. Black Labrador owners should do the reverse.

Vetting the bedding

Quilted fabric pet baskets look cute. Probably they're snug and cozy, too. Unfortunately, in cleaning terms, they're hopeless. A bed for your cat or dog has to be one that you can clean out and disinfect regularly. Failure to do so means that your pet's bed is likely to become home to mites and fleas that live to bite your pet, making that basket not so cozy after all.

Wicker is a better choice because you can wash down the basket. Take it outside to clean. Shake out loose dirt then use a small stiff brush or the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner to get out the rest. After vacuuming, always change the bag with care or empty the cylinder, as adult fleas may now be in your cleaner. Repeated wetting can weaken wicker, so only give the basket a thorough hose down occasionally. Choose a dry, sunny day so that it can air-dry quickly and thoroughly. The rest of the time, content yourself with spray cleaner.

You can try removing odors by sprinkling baking soda in the smelly dog or cat's bed. It won't harm your pet, and freshens him as well as the bedding.

Avoid cleaning out your cat or dog's bed altogether — a cardboard box lined with old T-shirts makes for a super disposable bed. Each week, take it outside for a thorough shake and air. Each month, throw everything out (straight into the rubbish, sealed in a plastic sack) and begin again.

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