How to Fur-and-Smell-Proof Your Home When You Have Pets

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!

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34 thoughts on “How to Fur-and-Smell-Proof Your Home When You Have Pets

  1. I was always astonished visiting people whose litter box was so foul my eyes literally watered from the ammonia. They seemed utterly clueless. Growing up, we always had outdoor cats, so no litter boxes. And our dog is regularly groomed by my terrific husband.

    1. I kept a litter box even though Sao (my cat in Jamaica) never used it once she got outdoor access. I had kept her indoors for the first year of her life and she didn’t venture far from the yard. I wish I could trust Shadow to do the same!

      When cleaning Shadow’s litter box, I use a toy shovel instead of that ridiculous litter scoop. I don’t understand people who only remove the poo. That’s insane. Like you said, that ammonia smells! I remove all wet marks, plus the poo. He also has his own bin.

      1. Certainly. And, to make matters worse, I just found out my dog in Jamaica was attacked by two German Shepherds and suffered for 4 days before succumbing to his injuries. They were hoping he would pull through. Vet did all he could. It’s a sad day for us today! Makes me appreciate Shadow even more.

      2. No, he was in his yard but it doesn’t sound like it was fenced. Two German Shepherds from next door cornered him and tore him to bits. He suffered for 4 days at the vet’s before he died. They were hoping he might pull through, but he didn’t.

        I bawled for 2 days. I’m tearing up again just writing this. Skittles was the sweetest thing in the world. He’s not a fighter. Such a violent death….he’s the last doggie to deserve that. And all while minding his own business in his own yard.

      3. Yes it is, thank you. Even worse for my friend. I only had him for a year before she took me in. She’s had him since March 2015.

  2. All good points. I have labs and as they are a water dog they have an oily coat. I find it helps to wash the slip covers for their beds weekly as odor tends to linger where they sleep.

    1. That’s a good point. My lab never took to soft bed things. He liked to sleep on hard surfaces, like concrete. I suspect maybe those are cooler spaces in Jamaica. So, I never had to wash anything of his besides his toys. He loved bath time. I bet your labs do as well!

  3. My house does not smell of cat and never has. People are often surprised. Cleaning out the litter box every single day keeps the cat happy so that she doesn’t use other parts of the house in protest. Vacuuming is also very important. (I’m American)

    1. You are a unicorn, Ruth! I think Americans 40+ tend to be better about keeping the house clean when they have pets. Millennials, not so much.

      And yes, vacuuming is super important.

      1. Haha, then you’re in the safe zone! Please teach your younger countrymen 😂

      2. Oh dear. Ruth! You’re not giving me much hope to go on here! 😂😂😂

      3. I think when hygiene was taught, some didn’t pay attention. I had to retrain my husband on a lot of things that he felt were perfectly normal and sufficient and I thought were gag worthy. Goodness!

  4. When I had a house, I kept diffusers in the hall, lounge and bedroom. In the motor home, I keep them only in the living area and in the winter we burn scented candles. In the summer, Beano gets to swim in lakes and rivers, keeping clean that way.

    1. Do diffusers help with smell? I didn’t know that. I thought they just helped with dry air.

      I still think a dog needs a bath with shampoo and water. Humans wouldn’t be clean if all we did was stand under the shower for 5 minutes and get out, and we live far more hygienic lives than our pooches. Even Shadow has had a bath at least 4 times since I’ve had him.

      1. Of course he has showers with shampoo too! I was just referring to the house itself. We buy reed diffusers for scent, not for dry air: they come in bottles with bamboo sticks and you can refill them with whatever scent you like. I love Bergamot!

      2. Oh, that makes sense! I’m glad to hear Beano is getting his baths. 😂 I’d be scared to visit otherwise!

  5. You hit the nail on the head about making sure your home is smell free of animals. I don’t own any but you’re right on all points made. Open your windows and vacuum regularly. And make sure they are bathed properly.

    1. Thanks, Sheila! I don’t understand how people have dogs sleeping in their beds without bathing them for 9 months and then these same people often jump out of bed and put on clothes without taking a shower. It’s disgusting. 🤢🤮

      1. Same problem with Shadow. For some strange reason, he hadn’t started shedding yet. Weird. It’s usually when the weather switches from cold to hot, and then hot to cold.

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