Pets may help you live longer, according to recent studies. But they're killing your furniture and rugs.
And, let's face it, our furry companions are as spoiled as our children. In most homes, keeping dogs and cats off the couch or bed is not a realistic option. But nobody wants to live with pet hair, stains and odor. What's a pushover pet owner to do?
Depends on whom you ask. Professional housekeepers gamely recommend barring Fido and Fluffy from the living room. More useful are their Plan B strategies.
"Slipcovers are an excellent idea, especially if your pets like to hang out on the furniture a lot," says Kim Wilson, spokesperson for Maids Home Services. The Omaha-based company recommends slipcovers that can be washed in hot water. (It takes a temperature greater than 130 degree to kill allergens and other bacteria.)
If you allow pets on beds, Wilson says, bedding must be washed at the same high temperature at least every two weeks. Always wash those sheets and slipcovers separately to keep hair from migrating to other fabrics.
Removing pet hair
When it comes to removing pet hair from draperies, carpets and upholstery, the vacuum is not always your best friend, Wilson notes. A rubber latex glove, wet or dry, will do the job better because hair will cling to it.
If you have a dog or cat that sheds like crazy, she says, check out vacuum attachments with rubber strips that "has the same effect as the glove."
Veterinarians point out that being a good owner can reduce, though certainly not eliminate, the extent of hair deposits and soiling.
With regard to fur, the more you remove with a brush, the less falls on the floor. "Brushing keeps skin healthier, gives a healthier coat and makes the animal shed less," says veterinarian Jane Jeffries, owner of Noah's Ark Animal Clinic in Kansas City, Mo.
Regular shampooing (once a month) removes even more hair and lifts out allergy-causing dander, Jeffries says.
Some pet owners skip the brush and take the vacuum straight to the pet. Jeffries has heard of clients' vacuuming their dogs with good results. If the dog doesn't mind "it's OK by me," she says. "But I wouldn't try it on a cat."
The specialty pet product market has tons of slick devices for dealing with unwanted pet hair. In addition to the old standby -- the sticky roller -- there are new sponges, cloths and wipers that claim to magically attract pet hair from any surface.
Kerri Mills, store director at PetsMart in Overland Park, has seen about all of them. In his book, the one that works best is -- the sticky roller.
Technology has made a difference, however, in stain and odor treatment, Mills says. Any product containing enzymes (biological agents that attack stain and odor-causing molecules) works better than ones that don't. Mills says different products use different enzymes, but they all perform about equally, including all-natural enzymatic products. The entire category is a huge step up from deodorizers that merely mask odors.
Jeffries is sold on enzymatic products as well, with a caveat. Once a stain gets into the carpet pad, she cautions, you're out of luck for two reasons: One, it's very difficult to thoroughly clean and dry the pad to eradicate the odor source. Two, once the scent is embedded in the carpet, the pet will keep misusing that spot.
For that reason, Jeffries advises new pet owners to "never let a puppy on the carpet until it is very reliable on the kitchen floor."
Wilson says Maids Home Services offers a conventional remedy for urine stains:
l Blot thoroughly to remove as much moisture as possible.
l Rinse the affected area with a mild solution of dishwashing liquid and water; dry thoroughly.
l Sprinkle baking soda over the area; let sit to absorb any remaining moisture, then vacuum.
Vomit is a combination stain that requires a two-step approach: First scrape as much of the solid bits with the back of a knife into a plastic dustpan. Then blot and treat the remaining stain with an enzymatic product to remove the odor.
Another cause of pet odor is the litter box. Or rather boxes.
"The rule is, one litter box per cat plus one," says Jeffries. If you don't make it convenient for them, they will find alternative powder rooms in, say, your potted plants or a corner of the carpet.
Spraying, another source of feline odor, is much less of a problem with cats that have been neutered or spayed, Jeffries says.
Cats and dogs have accidents; understanding why can help solve the problem. "Soiling behaviors are anxiety driven," Jeffries says.