When you’re choosing a pet, you never consider the mark that your new dog or cat is going to make on your home … literally. Even if you manage to housebreak your pet with complete success, you’ll find evidence of your furry friend throughout the house — from the hair on your bedspread to snags in your sofa to the slight stench that’s been hanging in the dining room ever since Fido shook himself dry after a romp in the rain.
If your furniture is dark and your pet has white, orange or another light-color fur, you’ve got your work cut out for you. There’s nothing worse than approaching a sofa covered in hair, which then transfers to your own clothing. To pick up what your pets leave behind, dampen a cloth (don’t saturate it), and run it over the surface of your sofa, bedspread or chair cushion. This is the easiest way to pick up the majority of that fur and restore your furniture to top condition. You can also use a piece of masking tape. To avoid using multiple strips and experiencing the frustration of having the tape tangle up, try wrapping a piece around your hand, sticky side out. Of course, you can always use a brush or tool on your vacuum cleaner to remove pet hair from your furniture, but that takes more time and often isn’t as effective.
Pet stains are a tricky area. Due to the combination of a high protein diet and their hormones, male cats are considered the worst offenders, followed by female cats and then dogs (dogs tend to have diets higher in carbohydrates, which means less offensive odors). If your dog or cat had an accident on a washable surface — a cushion with a removable slipcover, an item of clothing, a pillowcase or bedspread, for example — you may continue to smell what your pet left behind even after you’ve run the item through the cycle of your washing machine. Try adding some white vinegar to your next cycle along with your laundry detergent. The vinegar should cut any residual odors.
If your pet had an accident on the carpet, you’re facing a challenge. Generally speaking, if you find the accident and clean the affected area immediately, you can restore your carpet to its previous condition. If you do notice the spot soon after the crime has been committed, blot the stain using a white paper towel (colored paper towels might bleed into your carpet, making the spot even more noticeable).
If your pet is clever and chooses a low-traffic spot that you don’t find until several hours later or even the next day, you might experience faded carpet (your pet’s mess actually bleaches the carpet) or a stubborn odor. Depending on the dye used in your carpet, you might see a fading or other type of color change in your carpet. This is particularly true if the spot has time to sit, and your pet’s “accident” has had considerable time to seep through to the bottom lining of your carpet. If the stain sits for several days or even weeks, not only will the dye discoloration become permanent; the fibers of your carpet will begin to weaken and deteriorate.
The area around the spot — and even the room itself on a hot summer afternoon — will take on a strong, acidic odor, reminiscent of ammonia. The bad news is that there’s not much you can do about that smell. Adding to the problem is that the presence of urine in the fibers of your carpet attracts bacteria in the carpet and its padding. Unfortunately, attempting to wet the area with various household cleaners will probably intensify, not diminish, the odor.
Call in the Pros
Some finicky pets are so problematic when it comes to housebreaking that they constantly find new, out-of-the-way places to leave accidents. Their owners find them weeks later when it’s too late. Other pets routinely leave their messes in the same spot, regardless of how much scolding their owners give them. If you’re facing either one of these scenarios, it’s probably time to call a professional. If you’re lucky, a carpet cleaning company may be able to restore the color to your faded patches of carpeting and disinfect the affected areas.
If you’re not so lucky, even the pros won’t be able to restore your carpet to its pre-pet condition, and you’ll be facing the expensive proposition of replacing your carpet. The fact is that once those “accidents” make their way down to the padding of your carpeting, there’s not much you can do. And when the summer months arrive, you’ll constantly be reminded of their presence. Of course, it goes without saying that it’s also time to consider sending your pet to a house training school (if your cat is a perpetrator, you might be out of luck, short of an unconventional kitty training video or book) or even finding him or her a new place to live.
Consult Your Vet
You may want to contact your vet, as well, to see if something in your pet’s diet is causing a proliferation of accidents. If your lifestyle has experienced any upheaval lately — for example, the departure of a child to college, a move, the arrival a new baby or a spouse — that could be the problem. Animals are extraordinarily sensitive creatures. Even the most housebroken, model pets can fall into regression if they’re facing a stressful event.
If you do, indeed, replace your carpet, it’s time to regroup. Do you want to shell out thousands of dollars for brand-new carpeting, only to have it destroyed again by your pet? Many training centers have excellent success rates with their four-legged students. Although pets are considered family members, the expense of replacing your carpeting isn’t something you want to experience twice. Your best bet is to meet with your vet before you empty your wallet for new carpeting or place an ad in the newspaper to give away your pet. Your vet is your best resource for making sure you’ve tried everything possible to correct the problem. Only then is it time to take drastic measures. In more than a few cases, pet owners have pinpointed the problems leading to their pets’ accidents, and they’ve had to replace their carpeting only once — and without saying goodbye to their four-legged family members.