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Pets and a Clean House: Can They Coexist?

Of course you love Fido and Fifi, but is it possible to keep pets, and keep a house clean too?

Pets and a Clean House: Bathroom Habits

Most dogs, if properly trained, do their business outside; you’ll need to carry disposal bags with you on your walks to keep your neighborhood clean, but you shouldn’t have to be constantly cleaning up your pooch’s messes indoors. If you are, it’s time to consult with a dog trainer to work on Fido’s housebreaking, or possibly a vet to check for medical conditions.

Cats, on the other hand, usually have their bathrooms indoors, in the form of a litter box. This small plastic rectangle can be the scourge of anyone trying to keep a house clean with pets. How do you keep it from turning your home into a toxic waste site?

The answer is simple: don’t skimp on cleaning. “Your litter box cannot be too clean,” says Katz. For a home with two cats and one litter box, for example, she recommends scooping the box at minimum twice a day, and changing it completely about every 10 days. That means after the litter is dumped, filling the box with water, a bleach solution, and a sudsy dishwashing detergent like Dawn, and giving it a good scrub before refilling.

“Don’t clean with an ammonia product, because that mimics the smell of cat urine,” she says. If you have more cats, or cats with medical conditions, you’ll need to clean more often and perhaps have more litter boxes.

It’s also advisable to buy a new litter box about once a year. “When cats scratch a litter box, they create divots in the plastic, and that porous material can absorb the stool sitting on top,” says Katz.

General Cleanliness to Keep Your House Clean With Pets

Some pets -- cats in particular -- tend to walk on surfaces that also sometimes have food on them. (What cat owner hasn’t caught Fluffy on the kitchen counter?) Whether you permit the cat on the counter or constantly battle him to stay off, it’s a good bet that paws that have touched litter will also periodically touch your food preparation surfaces. Even if you don’t see little sand tracks, your cat could be spreading organisms like toxoplasmosis right in the path of tonight’s dinner.

“Always wipe your counters down with a cleansing wipe, or paper towel and cleaning solution, before and after you put food on the counter,” advises Donna Duberg, MS, an assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at St. Louis University in Missouri. “Keep things like cutting boards and cutting knives, and other food preparation tools, inside cupboards or drawers.”

Cats and dogs can also develop intestinal parasites that can spread to people -- especially children, with more vulnerable immune systems -- so keeping your house clean with pets also means keeping them free of these critters. Regular use of medications like Interceptor, which prevents parasites like heartworm, hookworm and roundworm, and Frontline, which combats fleas, protects not only your pets but your human family as well.

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