Five of Your Pet's Common Messes and the Easy Cleanup Solution for Each

Five of Your Pet's Common Messes and the Easy Cleanup Solution for Each
©Nils Jacobi / Getty Images
By Kristina Grish, Martha Stewart

You love your cats and dogs, but not the wear and tear they bring to your home. That means tracked-in dirt, cat litter spills, potty-training accidents, and more. Here, we consulted the experts on five of these all-too-familiar messes and the easy cleanup solution for each one.

My dog tracks in the dirt.

Dogs can bring mud, water, pesticides, and even viruses into your house on their feet. Since they don't like to have their paws touched, get your pets used to the sensation when they are young, with light, brief touches, suggests veterinarian Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City. Keep towels and all-natural pet wipes by the door for cleanups.


My cat spills litter on the floor.

How to keep the litter-box area neat? To control odors, keep litter boxes clean, scooping feces, or wet litter at least twice a day. A floor-protecting mat or a covered litter box will help with kicked litter, but cats can still track the granules all over the house since they get caught between paw pads. To avoid a mess, try paw-cleaning mats, such as Archie & Oscar's Cleo Litter Catch ($56, wayfair.com) or Petlinks Purrfect Paws Gray Cat Litter Mat ($9.73, chewy.com).


Pet hair, begone.

"To reduce shedding, feed pets a high-quality diet with little to no grains and carbs," says Melinda Miller, hospital director of Smith Ridge Veterinary Center in South Salem, New York (where Martha's pets are cared for). To clean up pet hair, try one of Miller's recommended tools, starting with the Scotch Fur Fighter Hair Remover (starting from $6, 3m.com): This tool has tiny rubber grippers that pick up hair from upholstery and more. For daily brushing with a de-shedding tool that removes loose hair, use the FURminator deShedding Tool (starting from $38, furminator.com).

Out of vacuums designed for pet hair, the SV780 Shark Pet Perfect II Cordless Hand Vac ($60, homedepot.com) is "my new favorite," Miller says. Otherwise, try the Sweepa Natural Rubber Broom ($16, swedeclean.com). "This really keeps fur from flying all over the place on hard floors," Miller says.


What about accidents?

If accidents are not the norm for your pet, have the vet rule out a medical condition. If your dog is healthy, it may never have been properly house-trained. Cats may eschew a litter box that is dirty, is cleaned with a harsh cleanser, has a liner or litter they dislike, or is in an inconvenient spot—all easy to fix. For cleanup, "if you don't completely remove an accident's odor, your pet may return there to eliminate," says Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the ASPCA. Never use strong chemicals to clean up. Also, to pets, ammonia-based cleaners smell so much like urine that they can encourage more mishaps. Instead, use an enzyme cleaner made for pet stains.

If scrubbing doesn't prevent repeat accidents, introduce a deterrent that makes the area unpleasant to stand on, such as double-sided tape or foil. Or make the area your pet's dinner spot or bed. "Pets don't like to potty where they eat and sleep," Miller says.


My dogs lounge on the furniture, and it shows.

Letting dogs on furniture is a personal decision, but a well-trained pet should move when asked. Keep furniture in good shape by training dogs to use a "go-to place" marked by a mat, a throw blanket, or a towel. You can move the mat and bring it with you when visiting other homes.


My pet scratches walls, doors, and furniture.

"Scratching is a normal feline behavior," Miller says. Dogs, however, can scratch from boredom and when they're anxious about separation. To curb this behavior in cats, provide your feline friend with a stable scratching surface in a prominent location. Trim your cat's nails regularly. If scratching is a real problem, consider putting plastic nail caps on your cat's claws (your vet can show you how). For dogs, interactive toys and more exercise may help. To address anxiety, visit the ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist for tips on finding professional help near you.

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