- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Rover and Miss Kitty can be man's best friend, spreading unconditional love and affection and calming frazzled nerves.
They can also wreak havoc on our homes, tearing furniture, chewing shoes and going to the bathroom indoors.
The two major ways to keep your house in order and your pet happy (and nondestructive) at the same time are consistent pet training and persistent housecleaning, say pet and cleaning experts.
"You have to remember that having pets is like having kids. You have to train your animals, just like you do your kids," says Linda C. Cobb, the author of "Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean," published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.
Aside from training them, you have to pick up after them.
"You have to vacuum more often if you have a cat or dog," Mrs. Cobb says. "I think that's the most important thing."
If you normally vacuum once a week, you may have to increase it to two or three times a week when you get a pet.
Dog and cat hair that lands on upholstery can also be removed with a vacuum cleaner, but Mrs. Cobb recommends using
a damp cloth or sponge on the fabric.
Another common concern among pet owners is the odor that pets kick out, especially when they are wet.
"If the dogs have been out in the rain, it's important to towel dry them right away," says Dennis Bourgault, owner of Doolittle's pet supply store in Southeast.
Good ventilation also helps remove pet odors from the house.
Mr. Bourgault sells various kinds of shampoos and conditioners for bathing dogs and cats. He even has cologne drops labeled "baby powder," "floral" and "tropical fruit."
Scented shampoos can be nice, but spray deodorizers don't always help, says Mrs. Cobb, who is headquartered in Phoenix and whose books on cleaning have sold in the millions.
"Deodorizers usually just turn the smell into lavender- or vanilla-smelling urine," she says.
If the cat or dog has an accident inside, it's important to clean it up as quickly as possible. But stay away from ammonia, she says, since that can make it smell even worse.
Mrs. Cobb recommends pouring a generous helping of baking soda on the accident, letting it sit to absorb the fluids for five to 10 minutes and then scooping it up.
This way, you avoid rubbing the mess into the carpet or floorboards, Mrs. Cobb says.
For those pet owners who are allergic, it can help to keep the cat or dog out of certain rooms, especially the bedroom, says Candace Ashley, a veterinarian with an Anacostia clinic.
"Using a filter system, like an air purifier, can also help," Ms. Ashley says.
Keeping a pet crate or cage in a well-ventilated area also helps alleviate allergens and odors alike.
When brushing or bathing a dog or cat, it's advisable to do that outdoors, because the dander the scaly skin that makes many people sneeze and wheeze then can spread in the wind instead of on your carpet and furniture and ultimately into your respiratory system, Mr. Bourgault says.
Also, remember that saliva and urine also contain allergens, Ms. Ashley says.
Cleaning the litter box daily and using a good-quality litter is another important component in keeping the house odorless, or close to it.
Always wash your hands after handling a pet and before food preparation.

However, all the cleaning in the world won't do you any good if Rover or Miss Kitty scratches and chews your furniture to pieces.
This is where the second component of good housekeeping/pet rules come into play: Pet training.
"We recommend that people bring their dogs in at eight weeks for our head start program," says Carlos Mejias, owner of the Olde Towne School for Dogs. The idea is that the sooner you get your dog into training, the more impressionable and responsive the dog will be.
The dog of course learns the sit, stay and down commands, but perhaps more important for the well-being of the home is the "no" command.
Mr. Mejias, who has trained dogs since 1968, gives clients homework to do with their dogs between training sessions at the school.
"You have to apply it every day and apply it in their daily routines," Mr. Mejias says.
While teaching the dog what not to bite with the help of bitter apple spray or cream as well as the "no" command it's important to give them something they can bite, such as chew toys and bones.
Mr. Bourgault recommends puppy-proofing the home when introducing a new dog.
"You have to prepare your house for the puppy," says Mr. Bourgault. "You might want to remove remote controls and newspapers" from the puppy's assigned space, he says.
If the puppy goes for food on the table or counter, Mr. Mejias recommends dishing up the antithesis of a scrumptious meal: A bitter-apple sandwich.
"That way they can outsmart themselves," Mr. Mejias says. "They won't trust food on counters after that."
Another method to enforce the "no" command is to use a choke collar and leash inside. Whenever the dog if you can catch him or her in the act seems too interested in eating human food or chewing on shoes, give him or her a tug.
But a certain amount of destruction is normal. Most dog owners have lost one or several pairs of shoes, Mr. Mejias says.
"I think the average material loss is $100 to $500. And that's doing everything right," he says.

A cat is, well, a different animal altogether.
"How do you train a cat?" says Ms. Ashley. "Cats train us."
"You can try to train your cat and some things will work and others won't … Some people think they have conquered the cat when the cat is no longer scratching up the couch. But the truth is the cat has just decided they don't want to scratch that particular fabric anyway."
As a cat owner, you might be faced with either accepting the scratched-up couch or you might have to clip or remove the cat's claws, Ms. Ashley says.
Another, newer method to avoid scratches is to glue on little fake nails, she says. The "nails" have to be replaced every 30 to 45 days.
The cat should be provided a scratching post, "which they may or may not use," Ms. Ashley says. There are also cat repellent sprays that can be used the way bitter-apple spray is used with dogs.
"There is no way to predict what a cat is going to do," she says. "The cat's brain is not wired that way, and you have to accept that streak of independence," Ms. Ashley says.
But being a good housekeeper and a cat owner can go hand in hand.
The "Queen of Clean" herself has a cat, Princess Zoe Elizabeth, who's a redhead, just like her mother, says Mrs. Cobb referring to her own red hair.
"I know with myself that no matter how hard the day has been, as soon as she starts purring in my lap, I start feeling myself relaxing," Mrs. Cobb says. "A pet can bring so much joy to a household."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide