When I was still a seedling in the womb, my biological parents bought a dog and named him Brutus. By the time I was born, he was still a puppy. He and I grew up together, and on one occasion, he even saved my life at risk of his own. My essays at school were littered with stories about me and my four-legged sibling. This relationship with my dog sparked a love for animals that has only grown over the years.
These days, my pet of choice is a pompous PR puss by the name of Shadow, who doubles as my womb fruit and my employee. When people visit my home, they are often surprised to find that there is no pet hair on my sofa and that the litter box doesn’t foul the air.
I can’t say the same for some of my friends, so I’ve learned not to visit Americans’ homes if they have pets. If I absolutely must, I wear something slick that pet hair won’t stick to and get prepared to toss everything short of my own self into the washer as soon as I return home. That said, if you could use some pointers on how to reduce animal smells and shedding in your home, keep reading.
1. Groom Your Pets
Last night, while spending way too much time on Twitter, I saw a woman tweeting that she had bathed her dog for the first time since the fall. I just want to remind everyone that it’s currently springtime! This woman let a whole three seasons pass before giving her dog a bath.
She is not alone. Of the Americans I know personally with pets, months elapse before they ever bathe their dogs. Dogs roll in dirt and poo, lick their butts, lick other dogs’ butts, get sweaty in the backyard and on hikes, pick up ticks and fleas, and then are allowed to sleep in beds without a bath for three seasons or more.
My Jamaican genes cannot withstand this. Aside from the obvious eww factor, if you want to lessen the dog hair in your home, the best remedy is bathing your dog regularly. When I lived in Jamaica, I bathed my dog like clockwork at 12 PM every Sunday.
My mother, who is a total neat freak, was terrified of getting dog hair on her clothes when she came to visit. She never found a single strand. I had a cat as well. Like Shadow, she was regularly groomed. Needless to say, none of my cats have ever had a hair ball.
2. Vacuum Every Week
Shadow is the only pet who spends every single day in our home, and even with regular grooming, he can leave a few patches of fur here and there. Because of this, we vacuum every single week. In both residences on the property—Shadow has access to both—we vacuum on Fridays.
We don’t just vacuum the carpets and rugs either. I also vacuum the office chair, the ottoman, the sofa, the cushions, and his cat tree. When Shadow is shedding horribly, such as right before or after the cold or hot season hits, I sometimes also vacuum the bed.
It may sound like a lot of work, but in my 628 SF apartment, I don’t think it takes me half an hour to vacuum. Imagine spending just an extra half an hour per week to have a shedding-free home. Also, if your dog spends a lot of time in your car, please vacuum there too.
3. Share the Bathroom
I’ve seen people choose very interesting locations for a cat’s litter box. The absolute worst one in my opinion is the bedroom. We share the bathroom with Shadow. Even when he has up to four litter boxes to himself, they are all in the bathroom.
I place the litter boxes on mats to protect the floors and I use disposable trays. Plastic trays will begin to absorb scents over time. By using big metal bake trays, I can change them once per month for about a dollar.
4. Open the Windows
Most American homes regulate the temperature using central air. The idea of opening a window to ventilate a room or let fresh air in might seem insane to some people, even when the weather is ideal. In Jamaica, we regulate temperatures mostly with fans and windows.
If you have pets, opening the windows can also help to release the stale and stinky pet air. If you are worried about pests coming in or your pets getting out, there are protective screens that you can put on the windows and even on sliding doors.
We have these in my home, so my windows are almost always open. I opted not to include central air when I renovated the mother-in-law suite on the property and I didn’t buy a window unit until last summer.
5. Get HEPA Air Purifiers
As great a solution as it may be, sometimes opening the window is not an option. Even though I live in the ‘burbs, I think leaving windows open or unlocked when no one is home is just irresponsible. So, when I’m away all day or sleeping through the night, I turn on HEPA air purifiers.
These really do help to eliminate pet odours in the house. In fact, I don’t have an exhaust fan in my kitchen. I bought an air purifier and set it up right next to the stove. It works just as well. After a lot of research, I settled on Hamilton Beach HEPA purifiers. I use this one in the bedroom and kitchen, and this one in the bathroom. This is not an ad. I’m just sharing what has worked for me.
For some people, I’m sure these suggestions are just good old common sense. For everyone else—you’re welcome!
Do you have your own ways of smell-and-fur-proofing the home you share with your pet? Share them with me in the comments below. Horror stories about being invited to homes where pet owners can’t seem to keep up with cleanliness are also welcome!