Worried that toxic chemical cleaners are harming your pet’s health? Try these safe, non-toxic remedies instead.
We love our pets, but they sure do make a mess. They upset their food and water bowls, leave muddy pug marks all over the floor and carpets, carry a distinct odour and sometimes, topple household articles.
In the monsoon season, when insect growth is abundant, the moist, damp nooks and crannies of our homes are ideal spots for bugs and fungus. And our pets’ coats are no different, acting as magnets for bacteria, ticks and fleas. The skin between their paws, too, picks up mud, dust, faeces, and mites which they bring indoors and transfer to household textiles such as carpets, mats and upholstery.
If you have pets, it is essential to keep them clean and well-groomed and keep your home environment safe and bug-free.
Unfortunately, commercial cleaners carrying harsh chemicals are not always the right choice for pet cleaning. Several of the ingredients they contain, including bleach, ammonia and phenols are toxic to animals, triggering nausea, headaches, vomiting and causing damage to their sensitive olfactory receptors. Animals, with their heightened sense of smell, are especially sensitive to citrus and pine fragrances in cleaning products such as floor cleaners.
Since animals spend most of their time close to the floor or on it, they are at risk of ingesting toxins when they eat food off the floor. They also absorb chemicals through the soft skin on their paws and noses. Their relatively small size makes them more vulnerable to chemical poisoning than humans, increasing the chances of toxin build-up in their organs.
There are several natural alternatives to harsh chemicals when cleaning the stuff our pets use and the areas they frequent. These products, often easily-available pantry ingredients, do the task of cleaning, deodorising and stain removal.
Food and water bowls
Food bowls are hosts for stuck-on food which attract bacteria and fungus, and, if not cleaned regularly, they can make your pet sick. However, regular dish soap leaves behind a residue that pets ingest. It is crucial to dilute whatever dish soap or liquid you are using to minimise the chances of residue. However, if you wish to eliminate residue, make a paste with equal parts baking soda, salt and warm water. Apply this simple mixture to ceramic, stainless or plastic food bowls before scrubbing and rinsing well with water. Use hot water as an additional precaution. It will help get rid of food particles, bacteria and dirt and keep the surface clean and safe.
To save yourself the effort of scrubbing off the tough, sticky mess at the bottom of food bowls, create a non-stick layer by applying a bit of coconut or olive oil at the bottom of the bowl. It will prevent food from sticking and help give your pet a shiny, healthy coat.
It is important to air out your pet’s bed regularly as the sunlight can destroy any bacteria hiding in it. Wash the bedding at least once a month with a mild, pet-safe detergent such as The Better Home. Unlike regular cleaners that leave residue clinging to the fibres of sheets, pet-friendly detergents are free of bleach and strong synthetic fragrances. To get rid of any odour, add a cup of washing soda to the bucket. Do not use bleach, fabric softeners or other scented products that could irritate your pet’s fur, eyes and nose. Make sure to let the bedding dry entirely in the sun to reduce any chances of bacterial and fungal growth.
To freshen up stale-smelling pet bedding, sprinkle it with one or two spoonfuls of baking soda. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes before dusting or vacuuming.
Collars and leashes
Leash care varies with how much wear and outdoor action it sees. Collars, harnesses and leashes can be breeding grounds for ticks, fleas and foul odour. If your dog lives in his collar or harness and spends a lot of time outdoors, you will need to wash it at least once a month. Begin by soaking the collar and leash in boiling water with a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice for 30 minutes. You can also add a dog-friendly shampoo or detergent to the wash water and follow up with vigorous scrubbing. Dry the washed collar and leash in the sun.
Cats and dogs eliminate toxins through their skin, and a regular grooming routine keeps their pores open, letting the skin breathe. Brushing also removes any dust, dirt, dry skin and insects from their coats. Pets carry environmental toxins in their fur, ingesting them as they lick and groom themselves. Brushing and bathing ensure your pet ingests fewer toxic chemicals. While bathing dogs, choose a mild, natural, fragrance pet shampoo. Do not use shampoos and personal care products meant for human use as the chemicals and fragrances in them are sure to irritate your pet. Cats can be groomed by spraying a natural cleaner on the coat followed by brushing.
For instant odour removal, take a fistful or two of baking soda and rub it into your dog’s coat. Follow with a good brushing. You can also use baking soda to brush your pup’s teeth.
Baking soda is non-toxic to animals and can also be used for odour-removal from kitty litter boxes. After you empty, wash out and refill the litter box, sprinkle a spoonful of baking soda on the top to keep the tray odour-free.
No matter how hard you try, if your pup ventures outdoors, chances are she will encounter ticks and fleas and carry them home in her fur and paws. You can easily identify a tick infestation if your pet scratches herself often and appears restless. If left untreated, ticks can put your pet at risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Avoid chemical sprays and make your homemade tick repellent using neem oil. Dilute 9-10 drops of neem oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, olive oil or almond oil. Rub the mixture into your dog’s fur, making sure to get it into the skin. Neem oil can also be diluted with apple cider vinegar to make an effective tick repellent. Before using any essential oil, it is important to remember that animals react differently to different fragrances, and all oils might not suit your animal. Before applying oil on or around your pet, first, dilute a small volume of it and use it sparingly.
Animals interact with their toys using their mouths and feet, making the toys tiny bombs of saliva, bacteria and grime. Pet toys must be cleaned regularly to reduce the build-up of bacteria and dirt and minimise the risk of transferring them throughout the house. Skip the commercial detergents and soap while cleaning pet toys. Opt instead for a non-toxic cleanse. Mix equal parts warm water and vinegar in a tub. Drop the toys in and agitate them to get rid of any dirt. Please get rid of any extra dirt by scrubbing them with an old toothbrush topped with baking soda. Rinse and dry them in the sun to get rid of odour and bacteria. Soft toys can be hand-washed or machine-washed using a pet-friendly shampoo or detergent.