As you probably know if you’ve been reading Swoon Worthy for any length of time, it’s that we love our animals. We have two cats and one dog and the house is basically a little crazy at all times. They are very much like our children – sometimes loveable, often times hilarious, sometimes badly behaved and most of the time a pain in the backside. Yeah, we love them anyway.
However, trying to keep a fairly ‘nice’ home and still be able to have pets has proved challenging at the best of times. I never had my own pets as an adult until moving in with Wayne and his two cats – Pablo, who is now our little old guy at 12 years old and Senna who sadly passed away a few years ago. My friends warned me, “Are you sure you want to move in with two cats? There will be hair everywhere!!” Ahh yes, love is blind, eh? I moved in anyway.
Once Senna was gone, we felt the emptiness in the house and realised we were definitely a 2-cat household. So we brought home Meisha, our completely insane Bengal who I love despite driving me nuts on a daily basis.
A couple of years later, I was finally working freelance and based at home so we decided to round off the family with a dog. Enter Quito, our Shetland Sheepdog.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have a nice house and have pets too. Of course, it’s going to be a lot easier to keep things clean without them (again, no different really to children I imagine) but it just requires a little diligence in terms of ensuring things don’t get out of hand.
I admit, keeping everything tidy was easier with two cats. Once we introduced the dog, things got a little crazy. Anyway, here is what I learned about keeping a clean house and still allowing your animals to well, act like animals.
I always have a pair of these handy because they are perfect for removing hair from furniture and soft furnishings. Simply don the glove and rub in one direction on the fabric. The hair will easily start to ball up, making it a cinch to remove and throw away.
Designate areas that are no-go zones
While the dog is allowed on the sofa, he’s not allowed on our bed. However, the cats are. I know it seems mean but it’s cramped enough when both cats are trying to sleep with us, never mind an 11kg dog as well. We had to draw the line. Plus, aside from a bit of shedding, the cats are actually incredibly clean while the dog couldn’t care less about jumping around with mucky paws. So on my white bedding, he is absolutely not allowed. Start them very young so they know where they are invited to be and where they are not and ensure you always enforce it.* If your other half loves a cuddle with the dog in bed and you are insistent he is not allowed, the dog is going to get mixed messages. Determine the no-go zones before you invite the pet into your home and stick with it.
*Clearly dogs are easier to train than cats. While Pablo knows he’s not allowed on the counter tops, I have tried literally every suggestion out there to keep Meisha from doing the same. It doesn’t work. She will still get up there when I’m not looking.
Throws are your sofa’s best friend
Saying that, we use throws everywhere in the living room because we enjoy a bit of a snuggle with the animals when we’re watching TV. I rarely get to see my ‘naked’ sofa anymore sadly (and when there are no throws, the door is shut) but at least I know the fabric is still in good shape underneath. I want to eventually get a throw that matches the colour of my sofa exactly to make it less obvious but obviously, you can just find something that works with your decor. I remember reading a quote from a designer who said they get an extra cover for the seats made up of the same material as their sofa that’s removable and cleanable because they had dogs. I always thought that was a nice (if pricey) option too.
Zone Your Home
We use a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs to keep Quito in “the zone” we wish him to be in. Meisha’s territory is the upstairs, Pablo loves hanging out in the finished cellar. Quito tends to spend most of his time on the main floor with us. They all have their own areas (the cats obviously choosing their own) and it allows them all to live separately but peacefully. Obviously they all spend some time in each other’s company too but there’s always somewhere they know they can retreat if they want to get some peace and quiet.
Also, the cats’ litter tray and food are kept in the cellar (which is finished and heated, we’re not sending them into some dungeon, I promise). Quito is obsessed with both and so having a cat flap on the door to the cellar means the cats have full access and Quito does not. It also means the cat ‘paraphernalia’ is not in the main living areas of the house which keeps things a little cleaner. I realise not everyone will have a cellar so designating a small area for kitty things with floors that are easier to keep clean is always best – consider the bathroom, kitchen or utility areas as alternatives.
Quito’s dog bed is in the dining room (it’s not pretty but well, what can you do – I might find him a nicer one that I don’t mind leaving out). We moved his crate to my office when while we were doing the dining room remodel and I may just leave it there as it’s out of the way. He only really sleeps in it at night or goes in when we are out so it makes sense that it’s not in the main part of the house anymore. Again, I realise not everyone will have this option if you are crate-training so finding an area out of the way is not always possible. It is what it is!
Keep the vacuum easily accessible
We have two vacuums that we use all the time. A large Dyson and a small handheld Dyson. Keeping the vacuum in an area where it can easily be grabbed means we hoover every single week (more lately as Quito is shedding and his hair is everywhere!) and the little hand held is great for removing any cat hair on the bed between washings. If the hoover is left in the cellar, for instance, I feel really lazy about going down and dragging it up to the main floor. If it’s in the main cupboard, I find I have less excuse to not pull it out when the house needs a tidy and that just means the house stays cleaner because I’m doing it more often.
Eggshell paints are better than matt
We used an eggshell finish in the dining room and already I’m seeing the benefit of this. Any dirty marks easily wipe clean with a damp cloth. The white matt finish in the kitchen? Not so much and the difference in terms of sheen is negligible. When I’m ready to repaint, I’m going to again use an eggshell finish to make it easier to keep clean without having to repaint each year. Lifesaver.
Steer clear of looped fabrics
More for cats than dogs but I love using velvet fabrics. My main sofa, my smaller settee and my headboard are all velvet as are the curtains in my living room. Not only does it look good, the cats don’t touch it. Reason? Velvet is not a looped fabric. This means the cats can’t get their claws in it to tear it to shreds. The whole reason they are making a mess of your fabric sofa is because it’s so handy for getting their claws in those loops and pulling, shedding the top layers which keep them sharp. Without the loops, the cats have nothing to hook in to so they don’t bother messing with it.
If you have pets, it’s probably not the wisest idea to have carpets in my experience. I know this country can get ridiculously chilly and so carpets are still a popular choice but they will hang on to stains (yes, animals have accidents when they have eaten the wrong thing and yes, cats like to vomit to rid themselves of hair balls) so harder surfaces are a million times easier to keep clean and wipe up any accidents when they happen. The other problem with carpet is that it absorbs smells and I don’t care what they say about enzymatic cleaners (I’ve used them all), once an animal marks a spot, they just know to keep going back to it. Eradicating that from a carpet is nearly impossible in my experience. Make your life easier and skip the carpet and use area rugs instead which are easier to spot clean. If you are insistent on getting carpet, then consider carpet tiles which can easily be replaced when things go wrong. Also? If you aren’t opposed to cowhide, then I strongly recommend it. They are virtually indestructible and so easy to keep clean.
And finally, learn to let it go
Yes, there are animals in my home. That means that there are animal hairs about, there are dog toys strewn around the floor at any given time, there’s probably a cat on our bed, I’m forever disinfecting the counters and the dining table, there are little paw prints in the bathtub because for some reason Meisha likes to hang out in there and yes, I have do a 5 minute tidy up every evening before I go to bed. There comes a point where you do your best to keep on top of it but at the end of the day – these are signs of a lived in home. I am no longer obsessed. It’s a home that’s filled with animals that we love, that entertain us endlessly and that we couldn’t see ourselves without. And sometimes, you just have to realise that things aren’t always going to look perfect and that’s okay.
What do you do to keep your home from going to the dogs and cats? Any tips you can share?