Organizing with pets

Over 50% of American homes have pets, so when uncluttering and organising there is a good chance you may have to take into account the needs of your pets.

Surprisingly, sudden changes in a pet’s environment may bring out different behaviour, such as aggression or depression. The following are tips to help you and your pet cope with uncluttering and reorganisation projects safely:

Before the Project

If not already this way, get your pet accustom to wearing ID tags. If people are coming and going with bags of trash and items to be donated, doors and windows may be left open. Pets can easily escape in these conditions. Talk to your veterinarian or local animal control office about types of IDs for your pet. Some pets can have microchips inserted as a second level of precaution. Take photos of your pet and list identifiable markings. Put this information together in a booklet or computer file so it is ready to circulate in the community in case your pet escapes.

If you will be uncluttering and organising in the room where your pet usually sleeps or spends most of his/her time, consider getting your pet accustom to a new area of your home. This will get the pet used to sounds and smells in the new area and make the uncluttering/organising process less stressful. Remember to give your pet some extra attention and affection during this time so he/she is comfortable in the new area.

During the Project

Keep your pet on his/her normal routine as much as possible. If your pet is used to being fed or walked at certain times, keep those times consistent during the organising project. This may require taking breaks from the work, but it will be worth it to keep your pet’s stress levels down.

It may be better to keep the pets away from the area being organised if it is a large project. Pets can be caged or kennelled or simply separated in another room by a door or safety gate. Stick a sign on the door of the room to let everyone know your pet is inside and to remind you to let the pet out later.

Remember to check on your pet every hour or so. Loud banging, thumping and unknown voices my cause some stress in your pet. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs.

If you’re unable to keep your pet away from the area being organised, take extra care for your pet’s safety.

Birds are attracted to shiny objects and cats love strings and elastics bands, so keep small items such as buttons, coins, and other choke hazards off of the floor and out of reach.

Bones and meat-tainted plastic wrap can cause serious illness in animals if consumed. Foods sweetened with xylitol are very toxic to dogs. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is also toxic to pets. Grease, butter, margarine, and oils can get on bird feathers and damage them and make your bird ill when it tries to clean itself. Keep garbage out of reach!

Pets can suffocate in plastic grocery bags or dry cleaning bags. Roll up bags and plastic wrap into small balls and stash them inside a box to keep them out of reach until they can be disposed.

As you clear the clutter, electrical and phone cables may become more easily accessible. Loose electrical cords can become a chew toy temptation, too. Keep cords tied up so your pets can’t get tangled in them, trip over them or chew on them. You may wish to invest in some wire covering to protect both the cables and the pets.

Many pets are poisoned every year by accidental ingestion of household chemicals, human medications, and some common houseplants (e.g. Easter lilies and mistletoe). Remove unwanted chemicals and medications as soon as possible from the area. Secure the rest of these items in a locked cupboard or cabinet away from your pets. Keep houseplants out of reach before, during, and after the organising process.

Pets, especially cats, love to crawl into boxes. Be careful that you don’t close your pet in boxes, closets, or dresser drawers. If you’re working in a crawl space, keep the door closed as much as possible. If you’re working in an attic, keep the hatch down and move the ladder when you’re not using it. Make sure all heating and air vents have tight fitting covers. Small pets, such as rodents, birds, and reptiles, can easily get lost and stuck in the ductwork.

Don’t allow clothing and shoes to pile up on the floor. Immediately put it into bags and close the bags promptly. Animals love to hide and burrow in piles of fabric. Buttons and strings on shoes and clothing are choke hazards, too. If you are bagging up piles of clothing, do so carefully in case small pets (ferrets, rodents, snakes) have taken refuge in the pile.

Rabbits and rodents love to chew soft materials such as cloth and wood. Some fibres when ingested can cause illness. Keep old bits of carpeting and wood, especially chemically treated wood, away from your pets.

Fish tanks can be affected by organising. The removal of clutter from around the fish tank may change the amount of light to which the tank is exposed. This may change the temperature of the water and could lead to excess algae growth. Fish can be light sensitive just like humans. Gradually increase in light over fifteen minutes to allow fish to adjust to the their new surroundings.

Have you been organising your filing cabinet and shredding all that unwanted paper? Turn off and unplug your paper shredder. Mouse tails, bird feathers, and paws can accidentally start up the “auto-shred” function on some models of paper shredders. This could cause your pet to be injured.

After the Project

Look through the area and think like your pet: What looks tempting? What’s eye-catching? It helps if you get down on the floor and see things from their point of view. Check all those places where your vacuum cleaner may not fit, but your pet will, and look for dangerous items like string, coins, buttons, and electrical cords. Clean out those areas or block access to them.

Look for heavy things that could fall over if your large dog barrelled past. Secure the heavy furniture to the wall. Keep stacks of boxes from becoming too high.

Make sure you haven’t inadvertently created a “staircase” out of stacked boxes. Keep piles of boxes at the same height and away from open windows and skylights.

Some animals are fascinated my moving objects, such as the gears of exercise equipment. Unplug this equipment so it can’t accidentally be turned on and injure your pet.

Now that the clutter has been cleared, your pet may have access to rocking chairs and reclining chairs. These pieces of furniture can easily harm your pets. Consider moving the furniture out of the area your pets are in if these types of chairs are a temptation. The backs and undersides of furniture can have nails and staples that can cause harm to animals. Repair your furniture so that it is pet-safe or block access to these areas.

Mirrors and windows are dangerous for birds because they are often mistaken as places to escape and a strong collision may result in injuries. Keep mirrors and windows covered when birds are flying loose. Special decals can be applied to mirrors and windows to discourage birds from flying into them.

A bird’s respiratory system is very sensitive to impurities in the air, such as carpet powders and household deodorising sprays. If you’re cleaning after uncluttering and organising, keep these airborne chemicals away from your birds.

At the end of the day you can let your pet explore the uncluttered area. There will be many new places to explore and investigate. New and different smells may make your pet feel insecure. It may be best to confine the exploration to a smaller space and a shorter time depending on how your pet is reacting to the changes.

Once you are sure your pet is safe and comfortable in the newly organised space, you’ll be able to enjoy it together.

6 Comments for “Organizing with pets”

  1. posted by Kelsey B on

    As someone who has moved several times with my dog, I have a few techniques that really help.
    Of course the easiest thing is to let your dog stay with a doggy friend or daycare that he is familiar with. But I know that isn’t always feasible.
    Providing an animal an engaging activity while you work is my lifesaver. I fill a kong with dog food, hot dog or ham pieces, peanut butter, and other safe goodies and then freeze it the night before. Not only does this lower the chance of my dog trying to get outside when I take bags out, it provides her something to pay attention to other than my strange behavior. If your dog refuses food, even its favorite treats, this can be a sign of distress and it might be worth stopping to figure out why. But once you call it quits for the night, make sure the animal’s reintroduction is positive-maybe by using the new space to play or work for treats.

    Thank you for this post! I appreciate how Unclutterer thinks about people’s different living situations. I could’ve used your safety advice earlier as I have inadvertently left out hazards while cleaning. Oops.

  2. posted by ArJA on

    Great precautions list. Similar considerations would apply to wrapping packages for holidays. One of our cats immediately jumps into any boxes brought into the room. He also plays with packaging materials so he has to be distracted or put into another room to get anything done.

  3. posted by Pat Reble on

    Great advice! Also, check all trash containers prior to discarding to make sure a pet hasn’t crawled inside. I have had cats stow away in bags and boxes with near disastrous results. One was nearly posted in a large crate I was filling for mailing!

  4. posted by Kelly on

    If your pet is particularly stressed out by the loud noises, comforting (a dog especially) by petting is actually telling them being afraid is the right thing to do. It’s the positive reinforcement they are given when they do something right while training.

  5. posted by Roberta on

    I disagree; comforting a dog who is stressed is no more reinforcing fearfulness than comforting a child. I always comfort my dogs who get stressed by thunder or the upheaval in my home and their sanctuary (I have 20 at this time) recently during a deep uncluttering/painting/reorganizing project.

    This post hit most of my concerns spot on. The dogs and I lived in half our home for almost a month. Keeping a good eye out on changes and how each dog may react was crucial (I have several who can purloin something even when I think it is safe).

  6. posted by Michele Laughlin on

    We just moved to the 4th place in 7 years with our 10 year old Yorkie. She gets very freaked out by any changes, so we have always made sure she has her safe and comfy crate, stocked with her toy bear within sight of one of us. We checked in with her every few minutes just to say her name, or let her out for potty, water or food breaks (on a leash). It kept her comfortable and safe during a difficult and stressful time.

Comments are closed.