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Don't let pets become a home maintenance problem

February 24, 2005|by MALINDA SHAVER of HomeSource

Sharing your home, sweet home with pets requires the flexibility to blend the practical and the artistic. Today there are dozens of furnishing and decorating options that offer easy maintenance, durability, and style at the same time.

It's important to make choices that protect your pet's health and safety, too. Chewing, for example, can be bad for your pet as well as your furniture if fragments either get stuck in the animal's mouth or get swallowed.

Here is a three-part plan for peaceful co-existence.

Part 1: Help your pet learn what you expect.

Or, in other words - training. There are many good sources to help you with this. Basic ideas include remembering that you have to decide what you want your pet to learn, then communicate the message. Be consistent; stick to the subject; practice with your dog or cat. Most animals want to please their people and you can show them how.

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Part 2: Consider pet furnishings.

If you're particular about your surroundings, choose animal accommodations are a little more stylish than the ol' plastic dog dish. Introduce a change gradually, but a colorful ceramic or sleek stainless utensil is also easier to clean. Then add a color-coordinated, washable place mat that can protect your floor, too. Add a sturdy, washable cover for your pet's very own floor pillow or bed. Check out the classy selections on L.L. Bean's Web site, for instance; you'll want something that cozy for yourself!

A cabinet or shelf right next to the door can accommodate the collar, leash, sweater, umbrella, boots, scooper, bags, and what-have-you. Use a decorative, unusual container and make an artistic statement while you contain the clutter.

Part 3: Plan for easy maintenance.

Today's furnishing and decorating materials offer plenty of choices that will fulfill your decorating dreams and withstand any wear and tear that life with animals may produce.

If an emergency happens, three basic steps will help you cope: 1) blot quickly with absorbent cloth, 2) follow with some cool water and more blotting. And 3) apply one of several anti-odor products from a pet store, home center or even the supermarket. Neutralizing odor helps keep the animal from being enticed to repeat the mistake. (To be safe, test the product first on a hidden spot of floor - you don't want to make the problem worse!) Your periodic professional cleaning may need to include some professional spot-removal as well.

Consider some other options, starting at the bottom:

Flooring

Choose a hard-surfaced flooring material, if possible, to handle any occasional mishaps that might occur. Also, pet hair is more easily removed from smooth surfaces. Selections today include many types of laminate flooring, surfaced to look like wood or stone or marble and resistant to all sorts of hazards. Vinyl sheet goods can look dramatic. Hardwood flooring can also be an option, since modern polyurethane finishes seal the wood.

The key, said Allen Kennedy of local dealer Hagerstown Floors, is regular maintenance. "It's just like a car: the better you take care of it, the better it will take care of you."

If you find your smooth-surface floors seem too bare, add that dash of bight color or pattern with a less expensive, washable area rug, placed over a non-slip mat or secured with a piece of furniture. Avoid fringe, until your pet is past teething age, or you are more confident of her manners.

Window treatments

Dangling blinds or cords are a hazard for pets, just as they are for small children. These items can strangle a pet. Best bet: don't use them. And unless you're into the fuzzy effect, select smooth, washable fabrics. Keep curtains and shades at or above the window sill when you can. Try a platform to extend the window sill - your pet will love it.

Furniture

At Kipe's Upholstery Shop on Longmeadow Road, pet owner Cheryl Kipe suggested some simple ideas for your pet-wise living room. With easy cleaning in mind, choose smooth, tightly woven fabrics. High-durability but attractive designs for commercial spaces will stand up to even an energetic pet. A simple transparent plastic protector can shield corners. Another idea is to have a second cushion cover to exchange when you need to clean the first, or for guests.

Whatever the fabric, Kipe advises attending to accidents promptly, using the blot-dilute-clean process. Fabric protectants may slow the effect of a stain, but can't entirely block it.

In formal or informal rooms, you can cover upholstered furniture with slipcovers that are sturdy and washable, and enjoy the added benefit of an easy change of color scheme if you like. Slipcover your pet's bed or cushion, too.

When a pet is part of your household, making some decorating changes helps you enjoy your pet more. And if your pets could tell you, that's good for them, too.

[sidebar]Moving to a new home with your pet

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