Text by Evelyn Battaglia
1. Set up a grooming regimen.
Remove hair and dander by brushing your pets' fur weekly. Not only does this keep both from collecting on your floors, it also helps increase the animals' blood flow -- which in turn moisturizes the skin and inhibits shedding, says Raymond E. Bishop, a veterinarian and founder of Animal Health Care P.C., in Naperville, Illinois.
Shampoo pets once a month (for finicky felines, a trip to the groomer might be in order). Never use hot water, which can dry out skin and cause irritation. Clean grimy paws with a damp cloth, or stow gentle premoistened wipes, such as Burt’s Bees Hypoallergenic Dog Wipes ($12, petsmart.com), by the door for Fidos that won’t sit, let alone stay while you fetch a washcloth.
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2. Treat accidents right away.
First blot the accident with rags, then treat messes with a squirt of dishwashing liquid diluted in a little water. Try an odor neutralizer designed to prevent pets from continually marking the same location, such as Nature's Miracle (from $9, petsmart.com). Saturate carpet fibers for optimum results, and let them dry naturally. Never use steam cleaners on rug or upholstery stains, as the heat can permanently set the splotch -- and its scent -- by bonding the protein to the fibers.
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3. Designate a refreshments station.
Wash food and water bowls daily in hot soapy water. Store kibble in a tightly sealed bin. And make it a habit to feed your pets in a tucked-away space, such as the back corner of the kitchen. If a stench develops, spray the floors with a solution of two cups of water, one tablespoon of white vinegar, and one teaspoon of baking soda, says Kay Gebhardt, a product analyst at eco-friendly cleaning company Seventh Generation.
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4. Take control of the litter box.
It's important to give your cat options, says Bishop. So if you have one cat, keep two litter boxes (two cats need three, and so on). Place each in a secluded space, such as a bathroom or closet, and prevent odors from lingering by placing an activated-carbon air freshener, like Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag ($11, mosonatural.com), nearby. Scoop and throw away the waste every day, and top the container off with new fragrance-free litter as needed.
Scrub the box weekly with a rag or sponge dipped in a mixture of fragrance-free dishwashing liquid and warm water. Dry thoroughly, then sprinkle baking soda into the bottom. Place a litter mat (or just cut one out of a regular doormat) outside the opening, so your kitty can march away without a trace.
5. Launder bedding and carriers frequently.
Once a week, wash fabrics and cushions in hot water with gentle, fragrance-free nonchlorine-bleach laundry detergent. "It's a great alternative to bleach in removing smells and stains -- but also nontoxic," says Gebhardt. Roll a lint brush over them daily, and spray them with the baking soda-vinegar solution from the third tip. Ditto with any upholstered parts of travel carriers, especially if they're toted regularly. If they're used only occasionally, clean after each trip, so your pet's home away from home is always equally clean and fresh.
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