How to Keep Your House Tidy and Your Pets Happy

How to Keep Your House Tidy and Your Pets Happy

We love Rufus and Mr. Fluffykins, but we don’t love their mess—here’s how your well-designed home and your animal companions can live in harmony.
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Growing up, I was extremely woe is me about the fact that I was deprived of any pets. I asked for anything—dog, cat, bird, rat, hamster, ant farm, you name it. But my dad didn’t believe in pets in the city (even though, years later, my mom admitted that a cat probably would have helped with the mice problem) and so it wasn’t until my late 20s—post college, grad school, years in cramped shared apartments—that I was ready to bring one home. However, this inflection point also coincided with me moving in with my sister, who is decidedly not a pet person. But she knew it was important to me, and therefore acquiesced when I said I was going to adopt a dog even though, judging from the name of the rescue I had my eyes on (Big Dog Rescue Project), it was likely that whichever pup I brought home wouldn’t exactly be inconspicuous.

The happy ending here is that my sister, predictably, has fallen in love with my dog Basa, all 70 pounds of her. Still, pets shed fur and track in dirt. Some claw up furniture and chew shoes. And a lot of their supplies aren’t exactly cute, designed more for function than aesthetics. So when you decide to bring an animal into a house with someone who isn’t a pet person, it is generally polite to take steps to make sure your home doesn’t look like a home for pets but a home where pets happen to live—so I called in some products to thoroughly test my thesis.

Start at the source

First, a note: The best approach if you really hate shedding is to avoid any dogs with fur, which sheds, and opt for a dog with hair. A couple caveats are that hair doesn’t stop growing, so your dog will need to be groomed and clipped regularly, and that if you’re trying to rescue, you often don’t have the choice. Also, despite the proliferation in doodles of every perplexing permutation under the sun, they are simply mixed breeds with no breed standard, and there is no guarantee any given doodle won’t shed (you are better off getting a standard poodle or another truly non shedding breed if that is very important to you). Short haired dogs shed less, obviously, but presuming you have a cat or a furry dog that blows its coat seemingly every other day, there are some steps you can take to mitigate fur build up. 

Fur can be obvious, but it can also be sneaky: for a while I thought Basa didn’t shed much, until I looked closely at the horrifying build-up on our low-pile rug, and discovered large tumbleweeds of it collecting in room corners. I’ve found that a once a week full house vacuum is good (a special vacuum bristle head for rugs is key here, too). But even the best vacuum likely won’t get all the fur, so a twice a year a deep carpet clean is a smart idea to keep your rugs fresh; if you don’t want to buy a whole carpet cleaner, I learned that you can rent one from most hardware stores.

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum
Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum
Pet owners know little messes are inevitable. It doesn’t matter if it’s hair on the couch, food spilling out of the bowl or litter tracked outside of the litter box – the BISSELL® Pet Hair Eraser® Lithium-Ion Handheld vacuums it all up. It’s lightweight, convenient and built with a 14.4V...

Basa isn’t allowed on the couch (sister’s rule), but I let her sleep with me. I’ve found that the ChomChom Roller works wonders, and I like to run it over my bed every other day or so, which takes less than two minutes. I’ve recently upgraded to a Bissell Pet Hair Eraser cordless hand vacuum, which has also been great for regular maintenance. But if you’re looking for something lower budget (or something for traveling), the ChomChom or even a lint roller is quick and easy.

Protect what you can—but make it nice

Still, fur is insidious, and no matter how diligent I am, I cannot keep all of it at bay. Rather than dealing with hair all over my duvet, I layer a throw blanket or quilt on top that can be washed weekly. This keeps another layer of protection between dog hair and my sheets. A lot of "dog friendly" blankets I found looked exactly like what you would imagine dog blankets to look like, and so instead I looked for easily washable and dryable throws (machine dryable is key, as the dry air following a wash cycle is necessary to fully remove all stuck on pet hair). 

For colder months, the Brooklinen lightweight quilt is durable and warm, as is this beautiful Pendleton blanket, one of the few machine washable wool blankets I could find. In the summer, this linen bedcover from Parachute or a cotton gauze blanket from Quince are nice, lightweight options. 

Parachute Cloud Linen Gauze Throw
Parachute Cloud Linen Gauze Throw
Think of it as your own little cloud. Casual yet sophisticated, this oversized throw is soft, fluffy, warm and lightweight. Take it from the bed to the sofa to the backyard—even to the beach for a picnic.

For when Basa isn’t sprawled on my own bed hogging space, I like dog beds that don’t quite look like dog beds, such as the national park-inspired Pendleton beds, a more refined option from Lay Lo, and the linen dog pillow from small business All Walks. 

Manicures for pets 

Just like humans, dogs have nails that need to be trimmed. You can either do it yourself or punt the job to your vet (guilty). But while long dog nails can damage floors or tear fabric, the real enemy of your precious vintage sofa or credenza or pie safe is your cat’s razor claws and their manic need to scratch.

Providing alternatives—such as this sleek scratching post—is your best move. Cats actually have been shown to be picky about scratching posts (of course) — some prefer a vertical option, while others prefer horizontal — so if she isn’t taking to a particular post, investigate different options. You can also wrap lower portions of furniture, such as couch legs, in sisal, a material the cat can scratch, to protect the furniture itself. Soft nail caps are a safe route that don’t prohibit your cat from natural nail motion or retracting, but should only be used for strictly indoor cats, as they do handicap a major defense mechanism.  

Bringing the outside in 

Basa loves nothing more than to belly flop in a large muddy puddle and use it as a bidet, so I am constantly waging a war against dirt. I keep a special "dog towel" (read: a ratty old regular towel) in my hall closet that I use to wipe her down for less catastrophic days. If she’s dirty and it’s not realistic to give her a bath (such as when we’re traveling), doggy wet wipes can help. Real sticklers can opt for dog paw cleaners, but I’ve found them more cumbersome than they’re worth. 

Dealing with the restroom

When I first adopted Basa, though she took to house-training quickly, she was confused by one of our fully carpeted rooms, mistaking it for the outdoors, and therefore a place she could relieve herself. Good old fashioned baking soda and vinegar—always a savior and usually already around the house —works well. Sprinkle baking soda on the wet stain, let it sit overnight, and then vacuum it up. If some stain remains, mix a 1-1 ratio of water to vinegar, plus a teaspoon of baking soda, spray on the stain, and blot up. 

Ultimately, though, I found that for carpet fibers, a specialized enzyme cleaner, is ultimately your best bet for lifting the stain and neutralizing the smell. It’s important to not treat an enzyme stain with steam, as the heat can set the stain. 

Cats pose a different problem when it comes to household cleanliness and it’s purely because unlike dogs, they use the restroom inside. If you’re trying to keep your house spic and span, your first line of defense is the kind of litter you choose. Clay litter leaves puffs of dust and tracks across floors. Litter made of corn or soybean pellets will reduce the amount of litter, but a mat in front of the cat’s restroom does wonders, too. (These litters are also flushable, which takes care of the other nasty part of cat ownership, but know the strength and integrity of your own plumbing before doing this.)

When it comes to litter, if you’re willing to shell out for a fancy, self cleaning option, by all means go ahead. However, be warned that many automatic options such as Litter Robot are large and conspicuous, have been shown to malfunction easily, and may be more trouble than they’re worth. If you don’t mind scooping, a streamlined low tech option such as The Modkat might be your best bet; alternatively, there are many clever litter box covers and enclosures you can buy to conceal the litter box in end tables or other household furniture. (And if removing the tiny clumps of joy Mr. Fluffypants leaves behind is a problem, a Litter Genie will become your new best friend.)

Litter Genie Easy Roll Pail
Litter Genie Easy Roll Pail
Litter Genie Easy Roll Pail and its sliding handle provides an air-tight design. Together with our multi-layer refills with odor barrier technology they lock away odor from soiled cat litter. One refill cartridge lasts up to 6 months (for one cat).

You can’t win ’em all

Follow some of the tips above and you can mitigate some of the wear and tear from the domesticated creatures we’ve welcomed into our homes. Still, unless you are outrageously diligent, chances are you won’t keep your house immaculate: there will still be paw prints on the floor, a scratch or two on your cushions. But of course we hopefully don’t adopt pets with the hope that they’ll be invisible, and we’ll still love them no matter what—mud, nails, fur and all. 

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