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Dog on a bed

Pet Organizing Tips: Love your pets without living like an animal

by Ben Kirst

We love our pets. Consider these numbers from the American Pet Products Association:

  • There are over 83 million pet dogs and nearly 96 million pet cats in the United States.
  • Sixty-two percent of U.S. households included a pet in 2012, accounting for 164 million pets.
  • Over $50 billion was spent on pet products that same year.

That’s a lot of retractable dog leashes, industrial-sized bags of food, squeaky chew toys and pocket-sized laser pointers. That’s also a lot of potential for furry laundry, clawed woodwork, stained carpets and lawn “surprises.”

We all want what’s best for these guys…

Dog and cat

…but unless we are resigned to living in homes, wearing clothes, driving cars and relaxing in yards that smell like our pets, we need to take control of our surroundings.

We can love Buster and Tiger and Bella and Mimi while keeping our living spaces clean and organized. It simply takes some planning.

Home organization tips for pet owners

A dog or cat — we’ll concentrate on our canine and feline friends in this post — has physical and emotional needs. When these needs aren’t met, we will have a mess on our hands (oftentimes quite literally).

Let’s consider some creative ways we can make life fun and comfortable for our furry friends while keeping our living area in order.

Give your pet a bed. It can be challenging to keep dogs and cats off the furniture, but the job gets easier when your pets have a place of their own. The ASPCA recommends putting pet beds in each room of your home or apartment.

If you have limited space, this may be difficult. Instead, place the bed in the room where you spend the most time. This will allow your pet to be near you without sacrificing your couch cushions to paws and claws.

Consider this an opportunity to add some character to the space — as the Mother Nature Network notes, “you don’t have to sacrifice style when you opt for eco-friendly comfort.” A little creativity and some sewing skills can turn old suitcases, sweaters, pillows and even boat sails into chill spots for your pets while doubling as conversation pieces.

Cool pet beds

Clockwise from top left: Upcycled desk doubles as Four-post bed; boat sail over a pillow offers rugged comfort; thrift store sweaters are comfortable find for a canine; and old suitcases give cats the vertical space they enjoy.

Where to crate? If you choose to crate your dog, the Humane Society advises “(placing) the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room.” This may not be aesthetically pleasing, and you could be tempted to relegate your canine friend to the laundry room.

Bad idea!  “Overcrating, traumatic or stimulating experiences while crated, improper introduction to the crate, and isolation or separation anxieties are the primary causes of crating disasters,” writes Pat Miller of The Whole Dog Journal.

You can add some color to the crate and bring it more in line with the look of your room with a little fabric and — if you are not trained in the crafting arts — a friend who knows how to sew. Kim from the Enjoy The View blog has an inexpensive and relatively easy dog crate cover how-to:

Dog crate instructions

Avoid toy takeover. My cats’ veterinarian once told my wife and I that we should leave only a few pet toys out at a time and store the rest. This creates novelty for the cats and keeps our apartment from resembling a pet store. We’ll strategically leave a couple playthings in the living room and reading room, and store the rest of the toys in an open wicker basket in our bedroom. When the cats muster enough ingenuity to pull out their favorite stuffed mouse or bouncy ball, they can — and sometimes do.

Jenny from the I Heart Organizing blog has a similar setup for her dogs. She writes:

We keep a small basket on each floor of our home filled with puppy play toys.  The baskets are kept at dog level, small enough for the dogs to use their paws and dump them out and see-through so the dogs have a visual reminder to chew on their toys {vs. my slippers}.  Now, if I could train them to pick up when they are done….

Dog supplies storage

#PetFoodProbs: When it comes to table manners, dogs are not going to score high marks. They nose around their food, they spill, they slop, they lap — it’s not pretty. Cats are a little more refined, but are also quite capable of making a mess with their meals.

Here are some feeding rules of thumb that will keep your living space from turning into a buffet:

  • Dogs and cats don’t want an audience while they eat! Keep your pet’s food in a quiet  but easily accessible corner of your home.
  • Avoid carpeted areas or (if possible) wooden floors. Cleaning wet food or even dry kibble out of carpet or the slats of a wood floor can be tedious. A water dish can also be a source of potential damage. Linoleum is your friend when it comes to pet feeding.
  • Remember that cats like to have their water dish separate from their food dish — preferably in another room.

Dalmation

Cleaning up: Tips to keep your pet-friendly home clean

You can train your pets, reward your pets, scold your pets, even reason with your pets (note: this does not work) — but, from time to time, into every pet owner’s life, a mess will fall. These messes can arrive in the form of a bathroom-related accident; an upset stomach; overaggressive play; seasonal or regular shedding; and more.

Here are some quick tips and tricks to make sure your living space is never labeled “stinky” by an all-too-honest friend or relative.

Cleaning stains: The worst has happened — your dog didn’t get outside soon enough. Your cat somehow managed to miss the litter box. You are now forced to deal with the dreaded “mess.” Yes, THAT “mess.”

Ashamed cat

Oh, the shame.
  1. Clean the mess AS SOON AS YOU SEE / SMELL / STEP IN it. There are few home-related problems that require faster action. You need to do this NOW.
  2. If the waste is solid, picks it up and throw it out. When we’re done with this process, remember to immediately remove this garbage bag from your home. No need to deal with the lingering memory of this “incident.”
  3. If the waste is not solid, spray the affected area with a pet stain remover (there are several choices at any good pet store). Blot — don’t grind — the stain remover with a dry cloth, a strong paper towel or even a plastic bag until the stain disappears.
  4. If you don’t have stain remover at home, or prefer not to use harsh chemicals, RedBeacon.com has a good recipe for a DIY cleaner:

If you are looking for cheaper, more eco-friendly ways of cleaning the stain, you can go the DIY route. Make a mixture of half vinegar and half water, then apply it using a water bottle. Next, cover the area with baking soda. Really grind the baking soda in so that it gets all the way into the carpet fibers. When the baking soda is dry, vacuum it all up.

I can personally attest that this works — I have one cat who will occasionally overdo it on her dry food, and that food makes a comeback a few minutes later. Our carpet remains stain-free thanks to the vinegar-water-baking soda combo.

Removing fur from furniture: You will have pet hair on your furniture. It is unavoidable (kind of like your dog when he wants attention). You can simply wipe the fur off with a damp glove or wet sponge, according to Dabney Frake of Apartment Therapy.com.

Frape also recommends “lightly (spraying) a mix of water and fabric softener onto your upholstered furniture, then wipe off.” This probably smells great, too.

A soft cloth and furniture polish works on wooden furniture.

Litter box love: Know who hates to look at kitty litter? Everyone on the planet. A covered litter box is a good way to contain smells and avoid the, shall we say, unpleasantries within.

Litterbox

Know who hates a smelly litter box? Your cat. With that in mind, you should live by the following litterbox rules from About.com:

  1. Cats are possessive. It’s recommended that each cat you own should have its own box.
  2. Keep two to three inches of litter in the box at all times.
  3. Scoop twice daily — once in the morning, once in the evening. Let your nose be your guide, too: if the box smells, it’s time to scoop.
  4. Empty, clean and refill the box with clean litter weekly.

The vacuum is your friend. Vacuum your house regularly! I actually vacuum daily, because the cat hair bothers my allergies (and I love a clean carpet, what can I say). Regular vacuuming will also help eliminate the “lived-in” smell that pets sometimes bring to a home.

Wondering what vacuum eliminates pet hair the best? Consumer Reports actually ran some tests that are worth checking out.

Dog grooming

Grooming is key. Grooming your pet is important for several reasons. Grooming builds trust. It removes hair and dandruff. You notice any health issues or problems that may be cropping up. Most importantly — from your pet’s perspective — it feels good. Grooming your pet creates a bond, and that bond is key as you lay down rules and guidelines for your furry friend.

Do you have any cleaning, organizing or living tips or tricks for pet owners? Share them in the comments — we’d love to hear them.

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