Friday, December 30, 2011

$40.00 [Animal Cam]

I received the most perfect gift this Christmas.  A webcam.  But not just any webcam.  A webcam set up in my living room so that I can dial in from my iPhone or iPad and spy on the animals from work.  That's right -- an ANIMAL CAM!

Now, while drafting contracts, researching tax law, and doing all the other things I do at work that you don't care about, I can tune in to a continuous feed from the animal cam.  Here are some screenshots from the last few days at work, as taken by my iPhone.

[That little black blob on the chair behind Betelgeuse is Lulu.]

[Highlight of my work day was when Lola sauntered on camera and just sat for 5 minutes while Betelgeuse watched her.]

[When Betelgeuse gets too hot, she moves to the floor.]

The most hilarious part is that it's not a one-way stream.  I can talk to the animals through the webcam, and they can hear me.  I feel sort of bad doing it, though, because they are clearly confused when it's happening.  Their ears perk up and they look around.  Betel goes and waits by the front door.

It's always going to suck to have to work 12-16 hour days at the law firm, but now it's going to suck a little bit less thanks to my bf(f) and my brother.  This is officially the best $40.00 anyone ever spent on me. 

Happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

$158 [Your House Stinks, Part V]

This post continues where we left off after Part I [Furnishings & The Floor], II [Bedding & Other Washables], III [The Air] & IV [The Litter Box].

The Definitive (Over)Budget Pet Guide to De-Stinking Your House and Home

Part V - The Beasts

Merry Christmas Eve Eve / Happy Third Day of Chanukah.  Your holiday guests are about to arrive, or perhaps they're already here. You've cleaned your home from top to bottom, but something still smells amiss.  Maybe the Thanksgiving leftovers you forgot to throw out are rotting in the fridge.  Maybe.  But more likely it's your pet.

Dogs (and sometimes cats, but less often) can be pretty stinky.  Their fur, their farts, their breath, etc.  And maybe they just need a bath and a good tooth-brushing, but please note:  If your pet has a persistent bad odor or develops a new stinky smell, it may be symptomatic of an underlying medical condition.  Talk to your vet about it.

But for the non-medical-condition-induced stink, there are some things you can do.

  • Wash your Dog.  The hard part about advising on what dog shampoo to use is that all dogs are different -- Lulu the Pom-mix is going to require a different shampoo than Icky the whippet, who is going to require a different shampoo than Roxy the dermatitis-stricken Golden Retriever.  There are medicated shampoos for itchy skin or brightening shampoos for white fur.  So here is what I use for our pups, but you should experiment to see what works for your dog.

    Lulu and Betelgeuse essentially have hair instead of fur, and they are active dogs who like to get nice 'n dirty.  We use Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo ($11).  It gets them super clean -- removes dirt, dingles, odors, etc. -- and I love the way it smells.  This shampoo makes them so soft and fluffy, although it is a bit drying on its own.  It can be paired with Earthbath Creme Rinse & Conditioner ($9) for conditioning and detangling.  [You can browse the full line of Earthbath shampoos here.]  I also like Isle of Dogs Everyday Lush Coating Shampoo ($13) for extra Pomeranian poof.  Betelgeuse hates baths and struggles while we lather her up, so I am in the market for a conditioning shampoo or two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, like Aroma Paws Luxury Dog Shampoo and Conditioner in One ($15), but I need to use what I have before trying a new brand.

  • In Between Baths.  So my usual if-it's-dirty-wash-it motto does not always apply to dogs.  Sometimes it's not a convenient time to give your dog a bath, even if she stinks.  Our dogs take a long time -- and several towels -- to dry.  So if our guests are an hour away, and Betelgeuse rolled in a dead something, I need a stop gap measure to address the odor without giving her a full bath.  That's what wipes and waterless shampoos are for.  I like Nature's Dog by Canus Fresh Goat's Milk Lotion-Based All Purpose Pet Wipes ($7) for wiping away dirt, mud, or dingle-berries.  And for cleansing and deodorizing, I like Kiehl's Spray-N-Play Cleansing Spritz ($13), which is a waterless shampoo that smells heavenly.  You spray the dog, foam 'em up, and then towel them off.

  • Clean the Eyes and Ears.  Our two dogs fastidiously groom each other's eyes and ears, which means less work for us. Both pups have dark fur around their eyes, so we don't have issues with eye stains.  But their little triangle dog ears are the perfect breeding ground for mites, yeast, or bacterial infections, so we have to take some extra steps to keep them clean.  There are thousands of ear care products on the market, and I really don't know what is best.  I was using ear drops, and I recently purchased Earthbath Ear Wipes ($7) when I noticed that Betel's ears were a little bit waxy.  They seem to work fine.

  • Get your Dog Professionally Groomed.  You can also pay someone to do all the above for you.  We do this for Betel and Lulu approximately twice a year [previous post on grooming here] ($60).  The groomers' price tag includes "nail clipping, ear cleaning, anal gland expression, a rejuvenating bath with all natural shampoos and conditioner, and hair cut to your specifications."  [I should do another post on just anal glands, but this blog is getting downright gross.]  I loooooove getting the dogs groomed -- I drop them off and pick them up a few hours later totally clean and de-matted, with clipped nails and cute haircuts.  It's awesome.  I just wish it wasn't so expensive.  That's New York for you, I guess.  We let their coats grow long in the winter, but we plan to take Lulu in soon for a "sanitary trim," which means they'll cut her butt hair short.  She's been having some "stool sticking," a.k.a. "dingle-berries," and we're all getting a little tired [Lulu included] of the butt baths.

  • Address Your Dog's Breath.  We're currently working this one out.  Lulu's breath still stinks.  She has a great smile, but there is a demon stink inside of her.  The vet thinks it's just gingivitis on her back teeth and said she would clean them if Lulu ever needs to go under the knife for something else [which I hope is never].  I'll update this guide when I find something that works in the interim.

And now onto cats.  Meeeeeeeeeeow.

Cats are a lot easier.  They can produce a foul stink [see Part IV for litter box tips], but for the most part the cats themselves are very clean.  They spend approximately 10% of their waking hours grooming themselves.  Same advice above is relevant for your feline companions, though:  If there is a bad odor coming from their fur, ears, or mouth, or if the cat suddenly stops grooming herself, talk to your vet.  These are signs something could be wrong.  I have only a few tips to keep your cat smelling fresh and clean.

  • Bathe your cat.  I don't bathe Lola in water.  If I had planned to bathe her as an adult, I should have started bathing her as a kitten.  I value my skin's integrity, and so I cannot bathe Lola.  To be fair, she does a very good job of grooming herself, and she has short hair, so there is no matting or hairball concerns.  The occasional waterless bath with Earthbath Grooming Foam for Cats ($6) seems to be enough to keep her smelling like, well, nothing.

  • Brush your cat.  Lola takes care of most of her own grooming needs, but I supplement her efforts with The Furminator ($32).  Brushing your cat prevents excessive shedding and helps remove dander.  The Furminator is nice because it takes out the loose undercoat.  Lola rolls around and meows while I brush her -- I imagine it must feel like a back scratch. 

  • Brush your cat's teeth.  This advice is hypocritical because I am unable to brush my cat's teeth.  If you've met Lola, you will understand.  I give her tartar control treats, but she has icky teeth.  At the tender young age of 7 years, had four teeth removed.  Apparently orange tabbies are notorious for bad teeth, but if I could go back in time, I would tell twenty-one year old me to brush my new kitten Lola's teeth so that she would get used to it.  But for now I'm just going to tell you instead.

So with that, I conclude the Definitive (Over)budget Pet Guide to De-stinking Your House and Home and wish you the merriest, least stinky holiday season yet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

$337 [Your House Stinks, Part IV]

This post continues where we left off after Part I [Furnishings & The Floor], II [Bedding & Other Washables] & III [The Air].  If you do not live with a cat, I'm a little sad for you because cats make great housemates, but you can skip this part and go play on Facebook instead.

The Definitive (Over)Budget Pet Guide to De-Stinking Your House and Home

Part IV - The Litter Box

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the grand source of stink: The Litter Box.  The litter box gets the high stink award for two reasons.  First, and most obvious, it's an open air cat toilet in your home.  Even if you are the most diligent of scoopers, there are going to be times when the cat blows up the box and thus blows up your spot.  Second, if you don't get the litter box "right" from your feline companion's perspective, she may start down the slippery slope of “inappropriate elimination" -- that is, urinating and defecating outside of the litter box.  At that point, your home will reach the true pinnacle of stink [unless you fight back with some of the tips from Parts I and II of the Guide, but best to just avoid it and make the litter box acceptable to your cat].

A personal caveat:  Lola doesn't actually use the litter box anymore.  She does her business outside with the dogs, so we spend little to no money or effort on the litter box anymore.  But I am an expert [self-professed, but, whatever, that counts] in litter boxes, and your holiday guests are on the way to your stinky house, so let's get into it anyway.

  • Just Scoop It.  The best way to control litter box stink and encourage your cat to use the litter box (rather than your couch, floor, etc.) is to SCOOP COMPLETELY, AND SCOOP FREQUENTLY.  I say "completely" because some people immediately scoop the offensive nose-assaulting poop and leave the pee clumps behind for tomorrow.  Bad idea.  The individual pee clumps can become one giant pee brick, which is difficult to scoop, and -- duh -- it smells like cat pee.  Also, your cat wants the box to be clean, or she'll just find somewhere else to go.  I recommend scooping the box at least twice a day or more frequently.  Your nose and cat will thank you.

  • The Covered Litter Box.  If your cat is amenable to this sort of thing, you can use a covered litter box, which does a lot to reduce odors in the home.  I used the Booda Clean Step Litter Box ($32) with accompanying liners ($4.50 for 8 liners) for Lola and Kitty when we lived in Baltimore.  The igloo shape of the Booda Clean Step is adorable, and it has stairs, which catch litter from your cats' paws as they exit the box.  I had to ditch it when I moved to Brooklyn because (1) sometimes Kitty's pee leaked through the seam in the box because she peed standing up, and (2) there was nowhere to put it in my narrow railroad apartment because the Booda Clean Step is a big round monster. 
    Note:  Bigger is better when it comes to litter boxes -- cats are clean animals and don't want to step in (or even see or smell) their own wastes.  This is particularly true if you've got a big breed or a fat cat.  If you are in the market for a covered box, I would go with the Kattails Kat Kave Litter Box ($79) because it's HUGE, there are no seams, and it will last.

  • The Top Entry Litter Box.  When I moved to Brooklyn, I replaced the abandoned Booda Clean Step with the Clevercat Top-Entry Litter Box ($35).  My goals were three-fold:  (1) to reduce the amount of litter scattered and tracked by the cats, (2) to reduce pee escaping through litter box seams, and (3) to keep cat turds out of reach of my small poop-eating puppy.  Also the Clevercat had a lower profile than the Booda Clean Step and would actually fit in my apartment.  Unfortunately, Lola did not like peeing in this cave, and Kitty had a hard time entering and exiting through the little hole in the top, particularly after her leg was amputated.  We did okay with the top off, though, which just made it an uncovered over-sized litter box (see below). 
    :  If your cat will accept a top-entry box, and you're a baller, get the ModKat Litter Box ($180).

  • The Uncovered Litter Box.  Turns out, the litter box has to be UNcovered for Lola to use it reliably.  Yes, it's kind of gross for your guests to see the litter, but the cat prefers it.  Lola, like many cats, feels trapped in the cave-like setting of the covered or top-entry box, and the lack of ventilation makes it really stinky in there.  But on the bright side, having it uncovered makes it easier to clean, and you are more likely to actually clean it when you actually see (and smell) something in the box.  We currently use an un-hooded Petmate X-Large Deluxe Hooded Litter Box ($30).  If Lola actually used the box instead of going outside, I would probably get a bigger one.  And by bigger, I mean, a plastic storage bin, which is all an uncovered litter box is anyway, or maybe the Petmate Giant Litter Pan ($24).
    Note:  This is our primary set-up pictured.  An uncovered litter box with unscented clay clumping litter [discussed below].  To the right, a Bad Air Sponge [discussed in Part III] and a tissue box full of plastic bags for convenient scooping and waste disposal.  Hanging from hooks are the scooper and mini dustpan-broom.  This is located under our bathroom counter.  We also have a top-entry litter box in the living room that Lola also doesn't use [not pictured].  We keep both litter boxes around even though Lola goes outside because we can't afford to take any chances.
    Another note
    :  Avoid self-cleaning litter boxes or litter boxes with mechanical parts because they are probably just going to break.  Everything is made like crap these days.  And even if they don't break, there are just more things, parts, and pieces to clean and disinfect.  Also, they can be noisy and scare your cat away from its toilet.  If you still want one, do your homework before you buy -- they're expensive, especially when you factor in replacement everythings (e.g., special litter, filters, parts, etc.).

  • Clay-based, unscented, clumpable litter.  I have tried a lot of different litters in my day, but Lola says no, I'm a Tidy Cat.  So we use Purina Tidy Cats Scoop for Multiple Cats clumpable litter in Instant Action or 24/7 Performance or certain of the Premium Scoop Varieties, 27 lbs. recyclable plastic pail ($21).  It's sort of a shame because all of the technological and ecological advancements in modern litter are lost on us.  But there is no compromising on our litter, or my couch and rugs will be compromised.  How much litter?  The right depth in our boxes is approximately 3-4".  This enables you to scoop out the clumps easily without them sticking to the bottom of the box.  Unscented litter is preferable to those yucky, perfume-y scented litters -- I don't even want to know what chemicals they soak the litter in to make it smell like that.
    Notes:  The downsides of clay-based litters are that they're dusty, bad for the environment, and the litter ends up getting tracked all over your home.  [If you live with a cat, remember to wipe your feet before you get in bed and hope your cat does the same.]  You can try a litter mat, but I've never had much luck with them.  They don't catch all the litter, and then they're just one more thing to buy and clean.  If "inappropriate elimination" is an issue, we had luck with Cat Attract Litter Additive ($16) as part of our Operation: Save the Couch.

  • The Scooper.  Get a heavy duty litter scooper made of plastic or metal.  I previously owned the Clean Go Pet Stainless Steel Slotted Litter Scoop ($9.50) because I'm sometimes convinced that plastic = microbial paradise, but I think it was trashed in our last move.  [I sort of hope it was trashed and is not just packed up in a box somewhere. Gross.]  I replaced it with the Petmate Ultimate Litter Scoop ($9).  I like the long handle and that it has a hole so I can hang it from a hook.  Don't put your scooper on the floor -- hang it from a nail or hook instead or get one that comes with a holder, like the Petmate Scoop 'N Hide ($10) or this cute cat-shaped New Age Scoopy the Cat Litter Scoop Holder, which looks like a sculpture ($13).
    Scooping Notes
    :  Try not to break up clumps -- the small pieces left behind are difficult to remove completely, and you'll have to change your litter more often.  Also, no scraping -- if you use your scooper to scrape pee clumps or poop, your scooper will be GROSS.  To prevent pee clumps from sticking to the bottom of the box, keep your litter sufficiently deep.  To loosen anything stuck to the sides, tip the box back and forth and either tap the box on the ground or gently hit it with your fist from the outside.  Then you can scoop sans scraping!  [I genuinely don't care if you think I'm crazy.]  If there's some sort of nastiness that is clinging to the box, just use a paper towel and your regular surface cleaner to wipe it off.  Scraping will just transfer the nastiness to your scooper.
    An Unnecessary Aside:  I just learned that there is a retractable scooper on the market that allows you to stand and scoop.  The package boasts "Never Bend."  I don't see how you can effectively clean the litter box while standing up -- will you even have the control you need over the business end of the scooper?  I just imagine flipping pee bricks around like pancakes if you pull up with too much force.

  • No additives, no preservatives.  I don't use deodorizing powders or sprays on the litter.  They're expensive and only mask odors (and do a poor job of it anyway).  If you scoop your litter box(es) completely and frequently, the litter stays cleaner and you can replace it less often.  Seriously, there are a million products on the market that promise to deodorize, neutralize, freshen, or actually "destroy" odors, but don't just spray your litter, scoop it.  And if the litter is past its prime, change it.

  • Scoop the poop ASAP.  If one of your cats HELLO blows up the box (which he is going to do right when your guests arrive), scoop it immediately.  I keep bags right by the litter box so there is never an excuse not to scoop the poop.  Also, dogs ♥ cat poop, so if we didn't scoop it right away, then the dogs would eat it before we ever could.  Eating cat poop isn't per se bad for Lassie, but the clumping clay litter is extremely dangerous to your pooch's insides.  We end where we began:  Just Scoop It.

We addressed ambient litter box odors back in Part III, so now you have all the tools you need to combat cat stink before your holiday guests arrive.

There is one more part to come in the next day or so -- Part V: The Beasts. And then I can go back to writing about cute stuff like dog leashes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

$443.11 [Your House Stinks, Parts II and III]

This post continues where we left off after Part I.

The Definitive (Over)Budget Pet Guide to De-Stinking Your House and Home

Part II - Bedding & Other Washables
This part of the Guide is pretty simple.  If you can fit it in a washing machine, then don't just spray it with a cleaning solution or sprinkle it with baking soda, WASH IT.  Use your regular detergent or, for added odor-fighting power, an enzymatic laundry detergent, like BioKleen Free & Clear Laundry Detergent ($14.33).  There are even a few products formulated especially for pet laundry, like Petastic Deodorizing Pet Laundry Detergent ($8.29), which can be used as a pre-treat or as your sole detergent [I use it!], or Nature's Miracle Laundry Boost Stain & Odor Additive ($8.99), which can be used in addition to your regular detergent.  If you are an urbanite like us and cannot immediately launder the soiled item because you don't own a washing machine, spray the area with Nature's Miracle Stain & Odor Remover ($6) or pre-treat with one of the above detergents as a stop-gap measure until you can make the trek to the laundromat ($4.50).
In addition to soiled items, regularly wash anything washable that your pets use.  This includes pet bedding, pet clothes, plush toys, leashes and harnesses, pillows, pillowcases, cushion covers, blankets, throws, etc.  If your apartment is squeaky clean but your stinky dog has been lounging on your throws, your apartment will smell like a stinky dog.  Wash your throws.  [Wash your dog, too -- we'll cover that in Part V.]  We recently dropped off $85 worth of laundry at our cleaners for wash-and-fold service because it was time to wash every pet bed, pet toy, throw rug, throw pillow, blanket, and towel we own after the kittens left town.  It was epic.  My apartment smells awesome.
Part III - The Air
Deodorizing the air itself is key.  Once the offending stink has been removed from your furnishings, floors, and fabrics, it can still linger in the air.  We're talking about "wet dog", "I rolled in a dead worm," lingering poop smell, litter box stink, etc.  [Part IV is devoted to the litter box, but we will address ambient litter box stink here.]
  • Pet Odor Exterminator Candle ($9 for 70 hours of burn time).  Another enzyme-based product, which attacks the odor particles instead of just masking them with smelly candle smell.  I have used the Lavender with Chamomile, Cherry Pomegranate, and Luscious Creamsicle scents.  I buy them at Unleash Brooklyn, but you can also buy them online -- there are seasonal scents and this company also makes a smoke-odor line of products, which appear to be the same as the pet odor candles with a different label.  These candles are AWESOME.  Super effective with a subtle fragrance.  I keep one in every room, and it is the only candle that can truly counteract kitten stink.  How can something so small and cute make such an awful smell?  I loooooove these candles.  Seriously, it's like this.  [I read the testimonials and can't stop laughing about this litany of animals: "2 dogs, a Bearded Dragon, 2 tortoises, and a corn snake."]

  • Bad Air Sponge ($12).  I keep one in the bathroom (in between the human toilet and the cat box), one in the fermentation closet (yeup, we brew beer here), and one in my closet with my clothes.  And this product was invaluable when we had the kittens living in the office.  The Bad Air Sponge neutralizes odor molecules in the air (see also: poop particles!) and also neutralizes odors from porous materials (e.g., furniture, carpets, drapes, walls, upholstery).  It is non-toxic, natural, biodegradable, and safe to use around children and pets (i.e, my dog can eat it and not die, unlike the other blue stuff she ate and almost died).  It works for 30-150 days in rooms up to 400 sq. ft. -- that's entire apartments in Brooklyn!  I'm thinking about getting one for the car, too.
    Note:  I've also tried the Fresh 'N Clean Solid Pet Odor Deodorizer, which is a similar product, but the Bad Air Sponge is leaps and bounds more effective and longer lasting.  I may also try the Earth Care Odor Removing Bag ($19.99) when my Bad Air Sponge expires -- it is mineral-based, non-toxic, biodegradable and safe for pets and children.  It has great reviews, and I like that it hangs rather than taking up precious floor or table top space.

  • Air Purifiers.  Air purifiers are a MUST if you live with animals, and I would go so far as to say they're a MUST if you live in an urban area (and probably on a farm, too).  We own the Austin Air Healthmate Jr. Plus Air Purifier ($380), but there are air purifiers at every price point, so do your homework before you buy.  I bought our Austin Air Healthmate Jr. Plus in May 2010 when we had two humans and three animals (including a not-completely housebroken puppy and a sick old long-haired cat) packed in a tiny railroad apartment.  The filter on the Austin Air Healthmate Jr. Plus model only needs to be replaced once every five years, and it cleans a "room area" of up to 700 sq. ft. -- yes, a "room area" larger than our last apartment.  It's not the most quiet model, but I prefer white noise to silence, so that's a pro for me.  This is a key part of our de-stinking strategic plan and also a key part of my boyfriend's de-allergizing strategic plan -- along with allergy shots and nasal sprays.  We also have a number of air-purifying houseplants, which cost significantly less than an electronic air purifier, and which are awesome to have around for tons of other reasons.

  • Adequate Ventilation.  Open your windows, run your fans!  Keep the air moving and the odors at bay.

  • Other.  We've used "room sprays," wall plug-ins, and other kinds of scented candles, but these aren't really necessary.  I like our apartment to smell like nothing (or food), so I stay away from a lot of the fragrant products, other than the above candles, which are effective and neutralize odors with just a subtle lingering fragrance.  And eww to Febreze or anything "clean linen" scented.  Just clean it for real, please.

Friday, December 16, 2011

$188.05 [Your House Stinks, Part I]

Got company coming for the holidays?  Got animals?  Well, I hate to break it to you, but you should know this before your guests arrive:  Your house stinks.  You need to address it.  But I'm here to help. 

I know this stuff.  I grew up in a house that could have doubled for a pet store.  We had cats, dogs, ferrets, lizards, rabbits, fish, birds.  And we had some particularly stinky examples of the species:  a dog with skin allergies, multiple male cats "spraying" their territory (ever had to hop a "pee spot" to get out of your bedroom?), an old ferret (enough said).  Our house definitely smelled like animals.  As an adult, I am determined not to let my home fall victim to the animal stink.  I am at war with pet-related odors, and with my arsenal of specialty pet products, despite living in a small Brooklyn apartment, I have been largely successful in this war.*  And now I'm going to help you.  Yes, my first helpful blog post:

The Definitive (Over)Budget Pet Guide to De-Stinking Your House and Home

Part I - Furnishings & The Floor

  • Anti-Icky-Poo ($29.95 for a gallon).  This odor-eliminating product is a miracle worker.  This is for your worst case scenario:  a dog or, worse, a cat releases its bladder onto your couch, mattress, or carpet.  You know, the one squat (and then it's never just the one) that stinks up something on which you spent a substantial amount of money and where you and your family, friends, lovers sit, lay, and sleep.  Anti-Icky-Poo is for that.  It's an enzymatic cleaner.  It has an active bacteria ingredient that eats the decaying organic matter rather than just masking the smell.  So what's left behind is odorless -- no pee odor and no terrible chemical smell.  Anti-Icky-Poo saved my couch from the wrath of Lola.  You can use this product for any organic or bio odor (including poop, pee, skunk, corpse and odors with a human origin).
    Instructions:  Clean up the mess, spray Anti-Icky-Poo onto the compromised surface, then wait for the product to dry.
    Notes:  First, this is for odors, not stains, so you may need to follow up with a stain remover once this product is dry (see below).  But you have to use this product first  -- if you use it after another cleaner, especially a synthetic cleaner, it is less effective and can cause discoloration.  Don't go to town with tons of cleaners -- just spray or pour Anti-Icky-Poo on the area and trust that it will work.  Second, it takes three times as long as you think it will for this stuff to dry.  Wait it out.  Third, Anti-Icky-Poo even works on old odors.  Seriously, this stuff is the BEST.

  • Nature's Miracle Just for Cats Orange-Oxy Stain & Odor Remover ($10.85 for 24 fl. oz. spray bottle).  This is currently my preferred product for pet stains and for doggie accidents on our large area rug.  Lulu is the only one of our animals who has "accidents" anymore, and I put it in quotes because it only seems to happen when its raining outside [ahem, Lulu], but we also sometimes have accident-prone puppy visitors.  C'est la vie -- I wouldn't have it any other way.  I also use this product on the rug to remove muddy paw prints and to generally brighten it up from animal and human shoe traffic.  [Why do we -- Brooklyn beer brewer and animal hoarder -- have a light colored rug?  Anybody?]
    Instructions:  (1) Wipe up as much of stain/odor-causing material as possible, (2) Spray entire area, (3) For tough stains, use a stiff brush, (4) Allow everything to air dry completely, and (5) Keep pets away from treated area until dry.
    Notes:  First, for cat pee or large areas, don't listen to those Nature's Miracle fanatics, start with Anti-Icky-Poo (above).  Second, this product is good for small spots on carpets or large rugs, but if you're dealing with soiled bedding or something otherwise small enough to put in a washing machine, just wash it instead with an enzymatic pet laundry detergent, which will be addressed in Part II of the Guide.  Third, this product has a slight chemically orange odor that lingers until the spot is totally dry (which can take a few days), so I like to keep the windows open and the ceiling fan going in the meantime for circulation. 

  • Dog Whisperer Natural Stain & Odor Remover for Hard Surfaces ($13).  My past five apartments in Chicago, Baltimore, and Brooklyn have all had hardwood floors.  You can use an all-purpose cleaner for vinyl or linoleum floors [I personally like Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner ($5.29 for 22 fl. oz.)], but you need a special cleaner for hardwood floors.  Cue the Dog Whisperer.  Confession: I have not used this new formulation, but I was obsessed with the old one.  Hopefully it is the same stuff in new packaging.  Currently, for any pet messes (poop, pee, puke, etc.), human spills, or mud on the floor, I've been using Nature's Miracle Dual Action Hard Floor Stain & Odor Remover ($11.78 for 24 fl. oz.), which works just fine.  But I was give-it-to-other-people-as-a-holiday-gift obsessed with the Dog Whisperer cleaner, so I will probably buy the new formulation when I use up my current spray bottle of Nature's Miracle.
    Instructions:  Spray and wipe up.
    Notes:  These products are for finished floors only.  For unfinished floors, soak 'em with Anti-Icky-Poo (above).  I'm officially a broken record.  

  • Dyson DC28 Animal Vacuum ($649.99).  Vacuum everything often.  This is key in controlling odors and reducing allergens in your home.  I'm talking your carpets, your rugs, your hardwood floors, your couch cushions, etc.  I don't actually own this vacuum (I own a cheap old Hoover Nano-Lite), but if I had a large home or carpets + an infinite amount of money, I would sure as hell own this vacuum.  The Dyson DC28 Animal is the vacuum of my dreams.
    Instructions:  Plug it in, turn it on, watch your pets scatter like it's the end of the world.  Empty the canister often (and preferably outside).
    Notes:  Before vacuuming carpets or large rugs, I like to sprinkle a baking soda product like actual baking soda ($4.26) or Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Dirt Fighters Carpet Odor Eliminator - Pet Fresh ($4.85).  Don't use these products on hardwood floors, though -- the baking soda just gets stuck in the cracks.  Oh, and you should mop hard surfaces, too, of course, but that's not animal-specific so I won't get into it here.

  • Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II Hand Vac ($68.12).  I do own this hand-held vacuum (a.k.a. dust buster), on the same theory as the vacuum.  This one was awesome for a hot second and then lost its suction power.  I am in the process of troubleshooting, but I feel like this always happens with dust busters.

  • Flor Modular Carpet Tiles (prices vary).  My next large rug purchase will actually be a bunch of small dark-but-not-too-dark-colored Flor carpet tiles put together, and I will keep a set of back-up tiles in the closet.  Flor modular carpet tiles can be removed and then cleaned, refreshed, and replaced, perfect for a home with pets.  I will use this guide to select them.  In my dreams, I have a Flor rug and vacuum it with a Dyson DC28 Animal Vacuum.  And no, it's not weird that I dream about rugs.

  • Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector ($39.95).  Unless you're one of the well-adjusted non-crazies who don't allow animals in their beds, if you have a puppy, just suck it up and get a waterproof mattress protector.  [We currently have a hypoallergenic mattress protector because Kyler has dog and cat hair allergies, but if we ever have another accident-prone puppy, which is ALL puppies, I will definitely get a waterproof cover.]  Yes, you can get the pee smell out of your bed with an enzymatic cleaner, but it's better to never get to that point -- just get a waterproof mattress cover.  I found this image on the Internet.  Cute, right?  Also, I'm so glad Betel is a "big dog" now and despite her size can hold her pee longer than any other dog I know.  No more "I'm sorry," although I don't believe she has ever been "sorry" about anything in her life. 

I think this concludes Part I - Furnishings & The Floor.

To preview the rest of the guide:
Part II - Bedding & Other Washables
Part III - The Air
Part IV - The Litter Box
Part V - The Beasts

* My most honest friend who also incidentally hates animals (yes, really) had this to say about my apartment: "I would never know you had pets from the look or smell of your apartment. The only give-aways are the cute water fountain and cute plush animals toys and things like that." - Sabrina

** The $188.05 cost in the post title is everything but the vacuum and Flor tiles, although it decreases to $119.93 if I go back in time and never buy the stupid dust buster. Turns out it's not cheap to smell this good.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

$183.59 [Lola's Holiday Wish List]

It is our ninth Christmas together, I can't believe it.  Yes, it's time for Lola's Wish List!

*          *          *

Dear Santa,

I like you.  We're both on the big side and look good in red.  Give me some or all of my wish list, and I'll probably like you even more.

Clockwise from top left:  Sojos Premium Organic Catnip ($3.99) | Armakat Classic Cat Tree, yes we already had this, and no, I was not consulted in the decision to donate it to a cat rescue organization ($132) | Set of Three Shrimp Catnip Cat Toys if the humans are going to keep being grossed out when I kill real mice ($5.39) | Weruva Best Feline Friend Cat Food in Tuna & Bonito Be Mine, 5.5 oz. can, 8-pack, seriously, no more diet food, Santa I know you're with me on this ($10.89).

Clockwise from top left:  Feliway Behavior Modifier Natural Spray, I mean do they want me to pee on the couch or don't they? ($17.82) | Modern Cat Holiday Lynks Felted Wool Cat Toys, set of 3 candy cane red and white ($8) | Pounce Crunchy Tartar Control Cat Treats in Tuna & Salmon Flavor ($3).
[Note from the author:  Lola does not pee in the apartment anymore, not at all, not even in the litter boxes, but she still really enjoys hanging out in places where I've sprayed Feliway.  On the Pounce Crunchy treats:  these are Lola's junk food.  She loves them.  She also really likes Whiskas Temptations treats for cats in Creamy Dairy or Savory Salmon flavor ($2.50).]
Oh, and Santa, please ship all above items in cardboard boxes, which are the best gift of all ($0).

Also, throw away the vacuum.

Sincerely yours,

P.S. I don't know if this was you or God, but thanks again for "taking care" of Kitty this past year because I really like being an only cat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

$271.99 [Betelgeuse's Holiday Wish List]

Next up:  Betelgeuse's Wish List.

*          *          *
Dear Santa,

I'm not a complicated dog, but I like what I like, and you know what I like because I growled it in your ear while I sat on your lap.

Clockwise from top left: 10" Aerobie Superdisc, discussed here ($10) | American Kennel Club Hedgehog Dog Toy w. Squeaker, AKC toys discussed here ($5) | Chuckit! The Whistler, Small, 2" diameter, 2-pack, discussed here ($7) | Wagwear Boat Canvas Carrier, Large, because I like being in a bag ($130).
[A note from the author:  Nothing new here.  I was surprised to see that a replacement inflatable playball did not make the wish list.]

Clockwise from top left:  Block of stinky cheese ($10) | Doggles, assorted colors, size SM ($20) | Dirty sock because the only thing better than you taking your sock off and throwing it on the floor is when you take your other sock off and throw it on the floor ($2) | Satin Baby Blanket with cotton filling, 33" x 33" to cover me in the car and protect me from the sun, covered bridges, trucks, etc. ($55)
[A note from the author.  Two themes emerge from these gifts:  (1) protection from the sun and (2) things that stink.

On the first:  Betel hates that big yellow ball in the sky.  Maybe it's because she spent the first four months of her life in a cage with artificial lighting or maybe it's because she has a big fur coat and gets hot easily.  But whatever the reason, she hates the sun.  When we ride in the car, she gets anxious and sometimes even sick unless and until we cover her with something that blocks out all light (for example, our coats or a dark scarf but not a light-colored t-shirt or towel).  Then she lays down and goes to sleep for the rest of the ride.  She's like a parrot.
If nothing else is available, she'll even try to hide under Lulu. 
It would be nice to have something that is not one of our articles of clothing (or our other dog) to keep in the car for these purposes.  The satin side of a baby blanket would be nice and cool for her, but I think something like the Sleepypod Cloudpuff blanket ($30) would work fine too.  Doggles are hilarious, but I'm not sure she would put up with them.

On the second:  Betel is just gross.  She likes eating her own eye goo and cat poop and hanging out with socks and her favorite treat is the stinkiest cheese in the world.  It's just who she is.] 
And, Mr. Kringle, last but not least:

A bag of 140 replacement squeakers ($32.99), my favorite.  Thanks in advance.  I will leave you some dog food.  Oh, and NO CLOTHES PLS THX THAT SUX.  Also please shrink our cat.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

$284.75 [Lulu's Holiday Wish List]

I am starting the holiday gift guide series with Lulu's Wish List since it is her first Christmas with the clan.

*        *        *
Dear Santa,

Please send the following items RUSH to Brooklyn.  We do not have a chimney, but we usually keep the back door unlocked (shhh), so just sneak in that way.

Clockwise from top left:  Alqo Wasi Alpaca Wool Llama Sweater, size SM ($54) | Merrick Water Buffalo Flossies, 6-8" ($4.49) | Basil PASJA, pet rear bike basket with steel frame cover ($100).
[A note from the author on the bike basket:  The steel frame cover is 100% necessary.  I already have a pet basket that attaches to my handlebars (the Solvit 62331 Tagalong Wicker Bicycle Basket), which Betelgeuse loves, but no matter how well I secure Lulu in the basket, she jumps or wiggles or ninja-style flips out while I'm riding and just hangs from the basket by her harness.  You have never experienced anything so terrible.  I will not even ride with them anymore.  So yes please, this basket.  And it's easier for me to ride with the weight on the back bike rack anyway.]

Clockwise from top left:  Thundershirt, Navy Blue Rugby, size XS ($40) | Nature's Miracle Quick Results Training Pads, 14-ct ($9.31) | Brinkmann Pet Home Decor Cuddler - 24" x 20", purple ($40) | Hammacher Schlemmer Dogbrella ($29.95).
[A note from the author:  Three of these gifts are related to the weather, or rather, Lulu's disdain for inclement weather -- the Thundershirt, which we discussed previously, to help Lulu overcome her top three shake-inducing fears: thunder, snow, and the subway.  Second, the training pads.  We have successfully housebroken Lulu and would never use wee-wee pads, but she HATES the rain.  Her only "accidents" now occur when it's raining outside, so training pads would definitely be on her wish list.  And finally, the Dogbrella for my prissy rain-hating pup, which is just so hilarious.]
Feel free to also throw in some dog or human treats -- whatever, really, although I'm quite fond of the Wagatha's Organic Dog Biscuits in Coconut Grove with Tart Cherry ($7).  And if you hook me up, I might even stop barking at you.  No promises, though.

Respectfully Yours,

$0.02 [Holiday Gift Guides]

What should you get for the person on your list who has everything?  Something for their animal, of course.

Over the next few days, I will be posting for my pets' picks for the holidays [Dog #1, Dog #2, and Cat].  How do I know what they want?  Well, they told Santa, and Santa told me. 

Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ayanami Rei and Battle Angel Alita

Name: Ayanami Rei
Alias: Nami, Namses, Nam-Nam (previously Stripes, Black Friday Kitten)
DOB: Est. September 3, 2011
Genus/species: Felis catus
Common Name: American domestic shorthair
Color: Brown mackerel tabby (tiger striped)
Sex: Female
Weight: Still growing
Likes: Aggressive affection, wrestling and cuddling with Lita, chasing shoelaces, looking out the window, being held like a baby, nibbling noses, watching TV and video games
Dislikes: grapefruit (her humans have a grapefruit as a snack almost every day), having to jump up into a lap instead of being picked up
Special Facts:  Nami makes a lot of super cute cat noises to communicate, from a purr like a chainsaw to a cute little "What's up?" sound when she wakes up from a nap; she meows a lot.  She loves getting in her humans' faces and will give kisses, though these can lead to playful bites (even though she is still gentle with those and can take a hint if you move your face away).

Name: Battle Angel Alita
Alias: Lita, Lita-bear (previously Solids, Black Friday Kitten)
DOB: Est. September 3, 2011
Genus/species: Felis catus
Common Name: American domestic shorthair
Colors: Black smoke with faint tabby markings on underside.
Sex: Female
Weight: Still growing
Likes: Nibbling hands, waking Charlotte up, being carried around the apartment on Charlotte's shoulder, sleeping in laps, being kissed, having her chest rubbed, wrestling and cuddling with Nami, chasing her little black mouse toy
Dislikes: grapefruit, not being allowed in the bathroom
Special Facts: Lita is so quiet that she sometimes does not produce a sound when she tries to meow.  She is an excellent jumper.  She has super soft, silky fur that's curly on her underside -- may have some domestic longhair blood.  Lita will wake up from a nap if she hears the fridge open and run over to try and get inside.

Ayanami Rei and Battle Angel Alita were dropped off in Kyler's family's barn in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania sometime in November 2011.  I met them on Thanksgiving. Following the tragic death of their kitten sibling, Nami and Lita traveled back to Brooklyn with Kyler and me [full story here]. The kittens lived with us and the rest of the clan in Brooklyn for almost two weeks, with Betelgeuse acting as surrogate mama cat.  Nami and Lita were adopted (and named) by our dear friends Charlotte and Zero, and they now all live together in a studio apartment in Chicago.  They are the sweetest, most affectionate and playful little cats.  We feel lucky to have met them and to have the chance to watch them grow up.

All posts tagged Nami and Lita can be found here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

$0.01 [LOL Cat Caption Contest]

Dearest Readers (or Friends of Readers), 

Please send me your best caption for this photo.  If you are not a funny person, consider soliciting a caption from a funny friend.  I would like to submit Lola as a LOL cat so that she can go viral.  It is our destiny.  

Thx very much, 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

$75.00 [Adios, Kittens]

$75.00, the price of a pet fare on Southwest Airlines, which took the Black Friday kittens from Brooklyn to Chicago last night, completing the final leg of their journey to their forever home with Charlotte and Zero.

The two kittens spent the twelve days at our apartment.  During their stay, they met 13 humans and 5 animals -- 7 animals if you count the two mice Lola killed last week and placed graciously at the foot of our bed.  (Yes, we've had a lot of house guests and visitors recently, including of the rodent variety.)

I would also like to report that the kittens now have proper cat names:  Stripes is Ayanami Rei (or "Nami"), and Solids is Battle Angel Alita (or "Lita").  What their third names are, they're not telling.

Oh, you want kitten photos?  But of course.

Kittens with their cousin, Icarus

Kittens and Tiny Dogs basking in the pheromones of Casey's pregnant belly.

 Kittens at the vet for their second check-up, Rabies shots, and micro-chipping.  At 12 weeks, Lita and Nami weigh 2.6 oz. and 2.7 oz., respectively.

They fell asleep on the scale in Charlotte's arms.

Justin demonstrates proper sleeping-with-kittens technique on the tiny office couch.

Tons of videos of little Nami and Lita after the jump (and even more on this YouTube playlist).  Enjoy!  I'm sure you'll be very proud of Betelgeuse for taking her role as surrogate Momma Cat very seriously.  And expect guest posts from Charlotte in the future as these tiny creatures grow up into real life CATS.  Can't wait.