By Victoria Schade
Cleaning up after a pet can be a full-time job. Pet parents must deal with potty training and the accidents that go along with it, as well as wiping muddy paws, toweling rain-soaked fur, and all the pet hair that covers the house during shedding season.
Maintaining a tidy home with a four-footed mess-maker takes work, which can be challenging, especially as you age. If you’re a senior living with a dog or cat, things like reduced vision and smell, as well as balance and mobility issues, can impact your ability to stay ahead of the mess. The following pet cleaning tips can help make tidying up more effective and efficient.
Having a pet in the house usually means that there are a variety of toys scattered around, which can be a major tripping hazard for seniors. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older Americans, so keeping walkways clear of obstructions is crucial. Bending over to pick up dog and cat toys can be tough for people with reduced mobility, so a “reach and grab” tool with a long arm and gripping claw can be a lifesaver.
Aging skin is fragile, and cleaning up after pets with harsh cleansers can take a toll on the hands. Tamara Owoyemi, education and training manager of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, suggests wearing gloves when cleaning, and using environmentally friendly green cleansers that are gentle for both pets and pet parents.
Pet accidents aren’t always obvious puddles or piles on the floor, particularly with smaller animals. Sometimes the stain soaks into the couch or bedding before it’s noticed, leaving behind odors that might go unnoticed by a senior homeowner. A black light that makes urine stains fluoresce can help seniors with a decreased sense of smell hunt down invisible problem spots and ensure a proper clean up. This will discourage pets from urinating in the same spot in the future.
Cheryl Sousan, a cleaning expert that runs the popular blog TidyMom, suggests using an easy-to-clean blanket or towel on top of shared sleeping spaces like couches and beds. This solution makes interim cleanup simple. Rather than stripping the bed or vacuuming the couch, just remove the cover, wash and replace.
Some dogs leave a trail of food, water and slobber when they eat and drink, creating a mess that can be challenging for older pet parents to keep up with. Using vinyl placemats beneath the pet bowls makes clean up a snap. Instead of dragging out the unwieldy cleaning equipment, simply pick up the mat for a quick and easy wipe down. Mats with edges or even rigid boot trays can help control bigger messes.
Traditional mops and brooms can be tough for seniors with strength challenges, so Owoyemi recommends a microfiber cloth mop for quick floor cleanup. The fabric’s dust-attracting properties make grabbing grime and fur easier, which means the person cleaning won’t have to exert as much effort to collect the mess.
Preemptive paw cleaning can go a long way. Sousan suggests placing dirt-busting mats on both sides of the door so that muddy paws have two opportunities to get clean before coming in the house. Mats created specifically for dogs have a higher absorption rate and are great at cutting down on the mud and dirt that dogs undeniably track in. Just make sure that any mats you use lie flat and have a non-slip backing to prevent falls.
If bending down to scoop the litter box is physically challenging, try investing in a self-cleaning model that does most of the dirty work for you. Some boxes scoop continuously and leave the clumps in an easy to access disposal section. Keep in mind, abruptly changing a successful litter box setup can cause felines stress, so transition to a new litter box slowly. There’s also no guarantee that your cat will accept a self-cleaning box, so only use this type of box if your cat is comfortable with it.
Although long-handle pooper scoopers are typically relegated to the yard, Sousan thinks they’re a perfect fit for mobility-impaired seniors dealing with potty training challenges inside as well. She suggests collecting the solid waste with the long-arm scooper, then using a stick mop with a removable wet pad that’s been sprayed with an enzyme cleanser to tackle any remaining residue.
This solution doesn’t come cheap, but Sousan thinks it’s a great option for seniors who feel like they can’t keep up with the dust, dirt, and fur accumulating on their floors. Traditional vacuums are cumbersome for even the most able-bodied homeowner, and a compact robot vacuum gets the job done without the need for much operator intervention. Since the risk of tripping and falling is a concern with older pet parents, robot vacuums should always be used with caution.