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Keep your home pet-clean

Frequent brushing allows you to limit where the fur flies, which means less hair all over the place. ©iStockphoto.com/Alberto Perez Veiga Frequent brushing allows you to limit where the fur flies, which means less hair all over the place. ©iStockphoto.com/Alberto Perez Veiga
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By
Sarah Mahoney

For animal lovers, life without pets is just unthinkable. Still, there are days when hair-covered couches, stained carpeting and the constant scent of Eau de Woof get to even the most tender-hearted, causing a domestic meltdown: "Why am I the only one cleaning up after this dog?!" Clever moms, however, know it doesn't have to be this way.

Having children care for pets fosters both responsibility and compassion. Here are seven ways to make keeping your home pet-clean a family affair:

1. Simplify cleaning.

"The important thing is to make it as easy as possible for kids to clean up messes as they happen," says Tracie Hotchner, host of both Dog Talk and Cat Chat radio shows. "Feed animals on plastic place mats and keep a chamois cloth close by water bowls."

2. Exercise pets.


Well-exercised dogs tend to be more relaxed -- and that translates into a cleaner house. Mellow pooches are less likely to shred that box of tissues or unstuff the couch cushions. (They're also less likely to have an accident on the floor.) Plus, when kids walk them, kids stay fit too!

3. Grooming.


Brushing your pet is an easy chore for kids and a boon for housekeeping. Frequent brushing allows you to limit where the fur flies, which means less hair all over the place. Find a nice spot where kids can sit comfortably, and store the brushes there for daily use. "Just like kids, dogs like a routine -- it's comforting. If you brush your animals outside, the kids can see how birds and mice use hair for their nests. Plus, you don't have to vacuum," says Hotchner.

4. Wipe out stains.


When your pet urinates on the carpet, speed is your best weapon against staining. The Humane Society recommends these steps for cleaning up the mess: Place a thick layer of paper towels on the wet spot, covered by a thick layer of newspaper. If you can, place newspaper underneath the soiled area as well. Stand on the padding for about a minute. Remove and repeat until the area is nearly dry.

Put the wet paper towel in the area where it belongs -- the litter box or typical outdoor spot where your pet goes -- to reinforce the right behavior. Rinse the accident area thoroughly with clean, cool water. Then remove as much water as possible by blotting with paper towel or using a wet vac.

5. Wash your pet.


Giving your dog a footbath right after returning from the outdoors can dramatically reduce the amount of dirt your pet tracks into your home. "Use one of those plastic under-bed storage bins, fill it with 1 inch of water and put a towel down on the floor for the dog to step on," says Hotchner.

6. Scoop cat litter.


Neglected cat boxes are the main reason kitties go where they shouldn't. Boxes should be cleaned daily (after all, people flush every single time) and topped up with fresh litter. Monica Leighton, president of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters recommends putting out an extra box so there's plenty of room. (Note: Not all kids can handle cleaning a cat box, and cat feces can carry disease. So be careful when delegating this chore.)

7. Open the windows.


Many clean-air experts advocate airing your home for 10 or 15 minutes per day to let a variety of household toxins out. Dander, dust and odor can all be managed by daily airings, except during the most extreme weather. 

Sarah Mahoney is a contributing editor at Parents and Prevention magazines. Her work also appears regularly in Family Circle and Good Housekeeping.

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