It’s Easy Being Green: Earth-Friendly Pet Care

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Pets. People really love pets. Keeping an animal around means more love from our furry (or scaly!) friends but also, most likely, more messes. Making sure you have the right supplies on hand helps keep Fido or Fluffy safe from toxic chemicals and helps protect the earth. Here are a few basic items to keep in your pantry to combat accidents and odors—all of which are nontoxic to pets and safe for the environment.

Baking soda. Baking soda’s greatest property is its ability to soak up stink. Sprinkle it on carpets, rugs, and your pet’s bed or favorite snuggling blanket, let it stand for 15 minutes, and then give the treated areas a good vacuuming to remove lingering odors. You can also give your dog or cat a quickie bath by dousing them with the white stuff and then using a gentle brush to remove excess powder. This is especially good for cats that hate water.

Baking soda can also be used in Fluffy’s litter box to keep it fresh between scoops. And if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you make your own cat litter altogether using a small box of baking soda mixed with enough sandy clay soil to cover two to three inches of the bottom of the liter box.

If canine or feline friends aren’t your style, bird and rabbit cages, ferret houses, and hamster homes can be wiped down using a wet sponge sprinkled with baking soda. Use a thin layer in the bottom of the cage to combat future odors as well.

Vinegar. Vinegar is another wonder deodorizer as it’s both a solvent and antibacterial. If your pet has an accident inside, use a white vinegar and warm water solution to remove the lingering smell, which will discourage future accidents in the same place. Vinegar can also be used for litter box deep cleans—spray the box down with the stuff and let it stand for 10 minutes before wiping away with a fresh rag—and for cleaning cages and other small animal homes.

Looking to add some natural stones to your aquarium? Clean rocks you collect from outside with vinegar to make sure you don’t introduce any strange organisms to the aquarium’s delicate balance, and then rinse them well with fresh water. If adding vinegar causes the rock to “fizzle,” you should leave it out of the mix. This likely means the rock will affect the tank’s pH balance.

Vinegar is good for more than just clean up. Use a few drops on surfaces you don’t want your cat to sleep on or scratch to keep them away. You can also use a solution of one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water to soothe a pup’s irritated skin. (Be sure to check with your vet, however, if you think your pet has a serious medical issue.) And apple cider vinegar applied with a cotton swab can also be used to combat ear yeast infections in dogs with floppy ears.

Other options. Further nontoxic products that can be used to clean up various pet-related messes include salt, which can be used to remove hard water stains in fish tanks and aquariums (remember to rinse with fresh water afterward); and club soda, lemon juice, and cream of tartar, all of which can be used to treat stains (use a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar for best results).

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series