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Apartment Living: Enjoying Pets Without the Smell

Many pets adapt well to small homes and city living, becoming wonderful companions treated like members of the family. Nevertheless, they’re still animals, and develop odors quickly (unless you own a chinchilla – rumor has it they don’t smell). Being confined to a small space essentially amplifies even slight pet odors and makes them hard to hide. Nobody wants to be the person known for a home that always smells like its furry inhabitants, or even worse – becomes the cause for politely declined invitations to dinner. If you enjoy sharing your apartment with your pets, you shouldn’t have to choose between them and your social life.

But Wait…I Don’t Have a Pet Odor Problem!

Just because you can’t smell anything offensive doesn’t mean your apartment doesn’t have pet odor. You may have become accustomed and desensitized to it. Ask an honest friend what they think, and pay attention when you come home after a few days away, when your senses are sharper. If it turns out your apartment smells like the animal that lives with you, don’t feel embarrassed. It’s simply a part of pet ownership. The good news is there are easy ways to prevent it them from deterring your (non four-legged) guests. Tackle pet odor by targeting its source, adopting consistent cleaning practices, and using the right tools to eliminate and prevent it.

Getting to the Source: Pet Hygiene, Litter, and Bedding

Free-roaming pets transfer their odors onto your furniture, carpet, and linens, which is why the first key to an odor-free apartment is pet hygiene. Regular brushing keeps fur and dander from transferring to other surfaces, and bathing keeps both odors and pet dander at bay. Even your pet’s breath could be a problem! Following the recommended grooming routines at the right frequency for your pet will help prevent odors before they start. Don’t wait until you can smell your pet before you bathe them – chances are, everyone else already has.

Living in a small apartment with fewer discreet and closed-off areas for your pet’s bathroom means you’ll need to refresh your pet’s litter and bedding more frequently to avoid odors. Besides daily cleaning, completely replace litter (or bedding/newspaper for caged pets) at least once a week. In between, adding baking soda is a non-toxic way to increase absorption of moisture and odors. If possible, choose a litter pan that’s mostly enclosed and/or self-cleaning to keep odors from overtaking your apartment while you’re away.

Wash pet beds frequently, and sprinkle them with a little baking soda or homemade odor spray (1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 2 cups water). Having a designated area for your pet to nap also keeps hair, dander, and odors containable. Most pets like to have their own spot, and if they’ve already chosen one, line the area with a blanket or towel you can quickly throw in the wash on a regular basis.

Other Sources: Carpets, Linens, and Furniture

Maintaining your pet’s hygiene and keeping their litter and bedding fresh will help prevent new odors, but won’t do much for odors that have already permeated floors and furniture. If you’re noticing any odors when you enter your apartment, do a ‘sniff test’ on suspicious fabrics and surfaces, and deep clean anything that has even a slight smell before it sets in.

Many people think steam-cleaning is the perfect solution to clean up pet accidents from carpet, but the added moisture can actually send the odor deeper into and under it, masking the smell with perfumed shampoos. Odor- absorbing substances like straight baking soda or carpet powders effectively eliminate the source of odors.

Upholstered furniture can be harder to clean since you can’t shampoo it, but regular hand-vacuuming with odor-absorbing powders should help significantly. If there are older pieces of furniture that smell funky no matter what you do, consider getting them professionally cleaned. If they’re really bad, donate them and start fresh. Keep pets in mind when buying furniture by choosing un-upholstered furniture that’s much easier to keep clean and odor-free.

The Right Tools

Pet owners in small quarters should have a good cleaning routine and the right tools to work with. While pet-specific cleaning tools and products aren’t necessary, you may want to invest in key items such as:

  • A full-sized vacuum designed for pets
  • A hand vacuum for cleaning up patches of hair or litter spills
  • Odor-absorbing powders and sprays
  • An air purifier

These are some key strategies for dealing with pet odors in a small space. The longer you live with pets, the more cleaning tricks and tips you pick up along the way. What are your methods for keeping your apartment pet-odor free?

Photo Credit: A derivitive of Pitiful by latteda on flickr.

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