If you haven't already jumped on the pet bandwagon, why would you consider becoming a pet owner? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are many health benefits. Having pets can help you decrease your blood pressure, as well as cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, and alleviate feelings of loneliness. They also provide opportunities for socialization and, in the case of dogs, opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities.
Having a pet in the household could pose some special cleaning challenges, particularly if family members or friends suffer from asthma and allergies. Following are some suggestions to keep things under control.
Vacuum regularly to keep up with the pet hair. An upright vacuum or a canister style with a power nozzle will pick up two-to-six times as much dust from a rug as canisters without a power nozzle. Be sure to move the pet to another space when you vacuum; otherwise, the noise may upset them. If possible, use a vacuum that has a filter and/or exhaust filter, or use a special bag that holds allergens inside.
Brush your pet frequently. This advice is not just for dog owners! Cats, particularly elderly ones who may have trouble grooming themselves, can also benefit from regular brushing. If possible, do it outside, away from those with allergies. When you are finished, wash your hands with soap and water.
Pet-proof the environment. Tuck electrical cords out of the way. Install safety latches in lower kitchen cabinets. Don't leave small items around that might be mistaken for chew toys. And don't leave any type of cleaning liquid out where pets might be tempted to take a drink.
Wash pet food dishes daily. They can be a magnet for ants and other crawly critters. Store dry food in a securely closed container. This keeps out the bugs, exploring toddlers, and foraging pets.
Keep bedding clean. Choose a pet bed with washable, removable cushions to make cleaning easier. Dust mites love to eat pet dander, so consider dust mite covers for your pet's bedding.
Protect the furniture. Put a towel or a washable blanket or throw over your pet's favorite chair or corner of the sofa. Have multiple covers so that one is available while the other is in the wash. Change and wash the covers weekly.
Keep the outdoors out. Keeping cats indoors prolongs their lives and lessens the chance that they will bring you small wildlife as "presents" or drag in dirt and dust. But dogs, even city dogs, need to be walked outdoors. Keep a few old towels near the door. Teach them to wait until their feet are dried to remove rain, snow, mud or even the morning dew. In the winter, if you've walked your pet on salt-treated paths, keep a small pail of water handy to remove the salt from their feet.
Be asthma-aware. Many people are surprised to learn that it isn't the pet's hair itself that triggers an allergy or asthma attack. Rather, it's the interaction of pet hair, dander and saliva. Dander consists of tiny scales that shed from the pet's skin. During self-grooming, the pet's saliva causes the dander to stick to the hair. It is actually the protein in the saliva that is the true source of the asthma attack. If a family member has an allergic or asthmatic reaction to a pet, discuss the problem with both your physician and your veterinarian. Together, they may have some solutions to minimize the reaction.
Information adapted from article in Cleaning Matters Newsletter May/June 2011.
If you would like more information on "Housecleaning with Pets" feel free to contact Gail Gilman-Waldner, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus University of Minnesota at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus information in next week's paper.