If your pup or kitty gets uncomfortable or a little anxious when you start to spruce up your home, you are not alone…
Dr. Laurel Davis, western NC’s integrative veterinarian, offers Stories from a Holistic Veterinarian, the blog of a holistic vet and “animal interpreter.” With a clinic in downtown Asheville, NC. Dr. Laurel also offers animal health, lifestyle and vaccination advice for cats, dogs and their human friends across the country.
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Beware The Vacuum Cleaner Monster! and Other Spring Cleaning tips
Is the vacuum cleaner your dog’s nemesis? Does your cat run and hide any time the broom makes an appearance?
If your pup or kitty gets uncomfortable or a little anxious when you start to spruce up your home, you are not alone. This happens to plenty of animal-lovers out there, and, in my check-ins and consults, I get questions from people like you about how to help your fluffy friends calm down. Clients want to know, why does Fido try to attack the vacuum cleaner? How does Lucy take it when I tidy up the living room, and suddenly none of her toys are where she put them anymore?
To answer these questions, look no further than your own cat or dog and how he or she responds to change. To us humans, cleaning is a part of everyday life. While we human animals may consider tidying up the living room or cleaning the floors an important improvement, it may not feel that way for every animal in your home. Some animals are more compulsive in their reaction to change, and they can become obsessed when items in the room are changed in any way, even if that means just the act of cleaning. This is why my office manager, Billie’s, pup, Julep, gets anxious and roams around their house sniffing and moving things out into the center of the room after Billie does some house-cleaning. According to Julep, she’s gotta have her mom’s smelly socks exactly where she dropped them. If that’s in the middle of the living room floor, so be it!
If you think about it, when it’s time to do a little spring cleaning, not only are you changing the appearance of your dog or cat’s environment, but also you are changing the smell of it too.
Remember, dogs have 300 million scent receptors, and cats have 80 million. Our inferior human noses may not notice the difference when we wash the favorite couch blanket or vanquish the dust bunnies, but chances are high that your dog or cat will. And then, not only have you changed the look of their home, but the smell of it too! I find that hound dog types are especially aware of scent changes.
Another thought is that many dogs don’t really mind, and may truly love, stinky things or items that smell like themselves or the person that they adore. It’s a compliment…. no, really!
Some dogs and cats are naturally more sensitive to changes. This is just who they are, and by taking the time to know and understand your animals, you can do a world of good in helping them navigate uncomfortable situations, including shifts in their environment.
Here are some tips to help all of you tuned-in, connected dog and cat parents soothe your furry friends as you embark on your spring cleaning adventure:
- Be aware that one of your buddies may be more impacted than the others and may need some extra nurturing or attention. Some cats and dogs are totally fine with the vacuum cleaner, and others will do anything to leave the scene and get as far away as possible. Honor their boundaries.
- Keep your animal outside the area that is being cleaned, and don’t let them back in until the area smells less like the non-toxic cleaning agents you used. When you introduce them to their “cleaned and renewed” environment, take them on a tour of the space. It can be helpful for some animals to encounter the changes with their trusted humans.
- Let your dogs and cats know what is about to take place. Go slow and take a moment to connect with your precious pup or perfect feline to let them know that the changes are nothing to be afraid of and that you will be with them every step of the way.
- Set aside some time after cleaning to play with your four-legged love muffins. Take your pooch for a walk, lounge around with your cat, and engage them in sweet, bountiful play. After a while, they will begin to associate your cleaning rituals with a fun time for all.
- If your dog or cat is sensitive to changes in smells, make sure that they have a blanket or safe space that you don’t touch during your cleaning frenzy. It will be comforting for them to have familiar smells to return to. You can wash their favorite blanket another day.
How do your animal friends react when you undergo a cleaning project?
What do you do to keep it a calm and relaxing experience for everyone involved? I’d love to hear about it in the comments for this post or over on our Facebook page!
Dr. Laurel Davis is western NC’s integrative veterinarian, offering phone and Skype consultations for animal lovers everywhere. Call 828-254-2221 or order an Ask Dr. Laurel™ phone or Skype session or bring your dog or cat to her downtown Asheville, NC clinic. Read more patient stories.
Get to know Dr. Laurel by reading her blog.
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