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Green Spring Cleaning: Raising Earth-Friendly Pets in an Earth-Friendly House
By Diane West

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If the springtime air has stirred thoughts of a clean house in your head, read on. Here's some tips on not only how to keep your home clean when living with pets, but how to do so in a way that is better for you, your pets, and the world.

Stopping The Spread of The Shed

There are preventative measures to keep fur and hair at bay. This is especially helpful for those with allergies who--Heaven forbid--may have considered life without a pet. (By the way, it's not actually your pet's fur or hair you're allergic to, but the dander--old skin cells and dried urine and saliva on their fur or feathers that become air-borne as it dries.) The longer you let shedding hang around, the more dander burrows into your carpets, couch and pillows.

Regular grooming and washing is key. Take your pet outside or into a room which can be wiped down easily, like a bathroom, and brush. Follow with a "dry wash." The North Shore Animal League suggests "Petal Cleanse," which is made with mild ingredients. Put a few drops on a clean, damp sponge, wipe down your pet, and towel-dry. Visit to find local retailers who sell it.

But fur and hair will still get on your rugs and furniture. "Sticky rollers" we have for clothes also work on furniture and rugs. We even found "Sticky Sheets" ( on the Internet. "Stick it. Rip it. Done!" is their motto.

Suck It Up

Vacuuming--both routine with a HEPA vacuum and occasional deep cleaning--is essential. One asthmatic reader who loves her cats (one who happens to be asthmatic, too) searched "high and low" for a carpet cleaner who used 'non-toxic' chemicals. She eventually found Ron Ami of York Carpet. "We discussed options for basic cleaning and for allergy relief treatment," she said. "There has been a great improvement in the asthmatic cat's health and I have had no allergic or asthmatic effects from the carpet treatment."

"We are concerned with the environment," Mr. Ami says. "Some carpet cleaners get a 'commission' if they use a certain company's products, so their service may be cheaper. We don't do that." Mr. Ami gives each customer a brochure of what he'll be cleaning their carpets with.

Out, Out, Darned Spot (and Smells)

A dose of dishwashing liquid, vinegar and baking soda will banish stain producing smelly spots your pet occasionally spews. Visit to hear how. In general, baking soda is a good non-toxic, all-around cleaner, and works wonders in litter boxes and on carpets.

Earth Care Products ( also gets rid of litter box and other odors pretty fast. Hartz is coming out with a new line of "Clean Earth" products too. We tried the Hartz "Stain and Odor" remover to pick up a crusty hairball from a wood floor, and the water, enzyme and corn-based alcohol solution picked it right up without bleaching the floor.

Raising Earth-Friendly Pets

Earth Day is April 22--celebrate by making earth-friendly choices for yourself and your pets.

Conscientious waste disposal is the number one thing you can do to make your pets earth-friendly. For cats and caged animals, choose biodegradable litter. Yesterday's News (recycled newspaper pellets), SweatScoop (wheat grains) and World's Best Cat Litter (corn grains) all fit the bill. Unbleached pine shavings and CareFresh are popular with some caged-animal owners, but you'll use twice as much Care-Fresh than "compressed" litters, so it's a judgment call.

Biodegradable poop bags are the thing for dog owners. Indeed, Duboce Park in San Francisco is working with a recycling company who provides biodegradable poop bags and collection stations. The poop is collected and, um, "dumped" into a natural gas converter--talk about poop power! New York isn't quite there yet, but we can use biodegradable poop bags. Several companies make them--one is BioBags, which also makes biodegradable cat pan liners.

Enough crap. Let's talk toys! Several companies are now making cat and dog toys out of recycled or biodegradable materials. Planet Dog makes the "Orbee-Tuff Recycle BALL" and RecycleBONE out of sanitized rubber scraps. They also make collars and leashes from hemp.

Finally, recycle pet food cans. Do the math--if only 25,000 New York pet owners recycled three empty pet food cans a day for one year almost two million pounds of metal would be salvaged!


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Most recent update: 5/13/08
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