Archives for Pets
I live alone, and I’m pretty healthy. But emergency situations can happen to anyone, at any age — as I’m sadly reminded whenever I read about yet another tragic bike or car accident, or hear about someone who had a heart attack or a ruptured aneurysm at an early age. And it dawned on me that if something happened to me, no one might know (who could do anything about it, at any rate) for days.
I wear a watch with medical alert information on the back, including my allergies and an emergency contact number. But what if something happened where I wasn’t found — if something happened while I was home, for example?
People I was supposed to meet with would notice something awry, and might call, email or text. But would they do anything more? Probably not. The mailman might notice my mail piling up in my mailbox, but he’d be unlikely to do anything because of that.
And when I thought about all of this, I thought about my cats. They don’t have food just sitting out, because one of them is a pig and would eat all the food for both, and eat it much too quickly. So I just put out a measured amount of food at feeding times.
If something happened to me, the cats wouldn’t get fed. Thinking of them going hungry fills me with dread; also, cats can develop medical problems pretty quickly if they go without food. And of course there are other things they’d need, too: fresh water and a clean litter box.
So now I call my neighbors every evening, just to say I’m fine. They know if they don’t get that call to come check on me — and take care of the cats.
In looking around the Web, I see there are numerous programs for daily check-in calls, generally targeted at the elderly who live alone. Some are provided for free by charities, local governments or police departments, and others are provided by businesses that charge a small fee. Some of these programs use automated calls, and others make live calls. All will call a defined list of people (friends and/or family members) or follow an agreed-upon emergency procedure — again, the specifics vary — if no one answers after something like 2-4 calls.
I feel very fortunate to have neighbors who know me (and my cats) and can serve as my check-in service. We trade all sorts of favors, so this is just one more way we’ve helped each other out over the years.
But if I didn’t have neighbors like this, I’d try to find a check-in program that worked for my situation. I hope I never hit the day when my neighbors need to do something, because I don’t call — but knowing that they are ready to do so brings me peace of mind and reduces any stressful thoughts that might be cluttering up my mind.
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.
You’ve uncluttered your home, and now you’re making sure everything you’re saving has its defined storage place. You’ll usually want to store the things you use most often in easy-to-reach places — but please make sure you’re also storing things safely. Here are some of the issues you’ll want to consider.
A recent study by Safe Kids found that parents know the importance of storing medications up and away from children — but emergency department visits for accidental poisonings are still increasing. What’s going on? Children are ingesting medicines found on the floor, in purses, in pillboxes, etc. They get into these medicines not just at their own homes, but also at the homes of grandparents or other relatives.
So when you’re looking at storage requirements, be sure to think about those pillboxes and purses. And, remember that pets can also get into medications.
For more information, check out the Up and Away website, which reminds us to put every medicine and vitamin container away every time you use it — even if you’re going to use it again in just a few hours.
Most everyone knows to keep things like pesticides and antifreeze in places where children and pets can’t get to them. But other hazardous products might escape attention.
For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a safety alert warning about the dangers of single-load liquid laundry packets. These colorful packets look like toys to children, but they often contain chemicals that are dangerous if ingested — so they need to be kept safely away from kids.
If you have pets, please be aware of the materials that may be toxic to them, and store those items appropriately. The Pet Poison Hotline has a detailed list of pet toxins for cats and dogs, including items like chocolate, matches, nicotine, and mothballs. Since so many foods can be poisonous to pets, you’ll want to be sure you have a pet-proof garbage can, one that’s tucked away where pets can’t get into it, or pets that are trained to never raid the garbage can.
Furniture, televisions and other heavy items
Living in earthquake territory, I’ve learned about the perils of toppling bookcases and other heavy items. The Dare to Prepare website reminds readers to tightly secure everything that could injure someone if it falls — as well as any fragile items you would hate to see damaged. The site provides information on how to properly secure bookcases, filing cabinets, etc.
But, until recently, I hadn’t thought about how easily children can get crushed if a television or a piece of heavy furniture were to fall on them — which can happen when a child reaches for something like a remote or climbs onto the furniture to get to an attractive item. The Georgia Department of Public Health has written about these issues, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has a Tip-Over Information Center. Safe Kids has a report providing extensive information about the TV tip-over problem and how to avoid it.
Where do you store plastic bags? Do you dispose of dry cleaning bags immediately, in places where young children and pets can’t get hold of them? These bags can present a suffocation risk, so please handle them appropriately. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that you “tie plastic bags in a knot before storing them out of reach and out of sight” if you have children ages 6-12 months.
Being well organized also gives you the opportunity to be more safe in your home. Storing items securely and safely can help to prevent accidents.
When you leave your home, you may have a babysitter, pet-sitter, or house-sitter watch over your children, pets, or things. Completing an information sheet with important contact and vital data can keep you and the sitter organized and ready for anything.
You can print and fill out these forms exactly as they are, or use them as inspiration for creating your own.
The three hens who live in this modernist dwelling must have very refined aesthetic sensibilities. I can easily imagine them inside the coop perched atop tiny Eames shell rockers discussing the exhibition of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel collection at the Portland Art Museum.
I’ll freely admit that the coop is a thing of beauty, but not everything with a clean and uncluttered design makes your life easier. Call me crazy, but I’m actually glad I can acquire eggs without engaging in small-scale urban subsistence poultry farming. Division of labor means I can make an omelet without the concomitant obligation of having to clean up chicken droppings.
Where Women Create magazine is a product of the Stampington rubber stamp company and is published four times a year. Each issue features 10 to 15 offices and studios of women who make their livings in creative careers.
Since artists typically need lots of supplies to produce their crafts, I thought the spaces in the August/September/October 2010 magazine might feature some atypical storage solutions. Although most of the offices were stuffed with supplies, many of them had ingenious methods for storing items. Here are a few of my favorites:
Camille Roskelley covered her closet doors with white felt to use as an inspiration board for her fabric while designing quilts (image by Ryne Hazen):
Wendy Addison uses an old architect’s blueprint chest to store paper supplies she uses in her artwork. These chests are perfect for organizing flat items (image by Michael Garland):
Artist Jennifer Murphy is clearly a visual processor, and as a result uses walls lined with cork board to store her papers and materials. For people who need to see their work or they forget about it, taking advantage of vertical space can be very helpful (image by Jennifer Murphy):
Editor-in-chief of Where Women Create Jo Packham has repurposed antique shelf brackets to hold ribbon rods and new shelves to store craft supplies in her studio (image by Zachary Williams):
Editor and consultant Nancy Soriano utilizes the space above her office door to store books and the back of her door to hold magazines (image by Scott Jones):
Self-proclaimed “junkinista” Ki Nassauer has made a career of rescuing damaged and discarded items and turning them into artful and usable objects. In this case, she took an old table, sanded, repaired, and painted it, and then added a small fabric mattress to create a kitty bed. It’s not necessarily storage, but it is incredibly cute (image by Heather Bullard):
We’ve talked often in the past about uncluttered cat and dog spaces for the home, but never have we talked about streamlined habitats for rabbits and chickens. Let that now be changed!
On Apartment Therapy we found a mid-century home for a rabbit:
And, on Dwell.com we found a contemporary hen house:
The Eglu by Omlet “is designed to house your hens lovingly, with perching bars, nesting box for egg laying, and even twin-walled insulation. It’s also convenient for the proud owner, with an ‘eggport’ where you can poke your nose in and collect eggs everyday, as well as a sliding tray that catches droppings.”
Compared to the hen houses I have had experiences with, this Eglu looks like a dream. No need to stick a broom up under the hen and let her peck away at the handle while sneaking eggs out of her nest.
Have you seen uncluttered pet homes for the less-popular, but still cuddly and wonderful pets? Please share your finds in the comments.
Our only complaint about the product related to the fact that one of our two cats isn’t always conscientious of ensuring that everything that’s supposed to end up inside the door to the globe actually does.
So we were pleased to find out recently that Automated Pet Care Products now offers a few accessories that solve our problems. They sent us an upgraded unit for review, and here are our thoughts.
The first accessory is a relatively inexpensive lip extender that catches any “misses” and helps redirect them back into the globe. It snaps into place over the existing lip and extends the catch to a total of three-and-a-half inches.
The second is a new “Bubble Unit” globe that creates a skylight in the back. It also adds a few more inches of space for larger cats like our Charlie (who is now on “the light food” to help her slim down a bit). This upgrade is a complete replacement globe and it also includes a lip extender.
We know the idea of a litter box costing over $300 might seem outrageous to some, but we’re convinced the efficiency of the internal sifting mechanism causes us to buy less than half as much litter as we previously needed, so we figure the device is actually likely to recoup it’s own cost over the long run. And you can feel good about the fact that your cat always has a clean and uncluttered box.
You don’t need to take our word for it though. Cat owner’s who have Litter Robots are fanatical about them, so just look at the Amazon reviews to get an idea of how great these things are.
Today, I want to introduce you to Unclutterer programmer Gary DuVall. This post is the first in a series that he has agreed to write for us based on his personal experience of losing everything he owned.
June 27, 2008, was like any other day. It was early afternoon, the sun was out, I was working from home, and I was on a conference call with a client. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a plume of smoke coming from what seemed to be our building’s roof.
As the plume grew larger, I began to realize the smoke wasn’t an afternoon pre-Cubs-game barbeque on the rooftop by a couple of guys playing hooky from work — this was a real fire. I ran up the stairs toward the rooftop deck to check things out. By the time I got to the door leading outside, the fire had grown large enough that I could hear it blazing, and I knew there were a half-dozen propane grills on the other side of the metal.
It was most certainly time to go.
Luckily, before the fire had spread downward through the floors, I was able to herd our two cats into the carrier, pack up my work laptop in the bag I always had close by, and make it down the smoke-filled stairway and out the building with a couple of minutes to spare. Unfortunately, in the end, we lost almost everything — but we had our pets, our safety, and an emergency line of communication.
Months before, when my wife and I first moved into the building, I insisted that vital items like our cat carrier be stored in easily accessible places in our apartment (rather than the basement storage area) in the — we thought — unlikely case of just such a situation. Only a couple of minutes of planning for what could happen made that split-second decision-making much easier when it did.
This is the crux of what I like to call “disaster uncluttering”: Being prepared for the unlikely, in case it happens. It takes but a little time and thoughtful review to prevent mind clutter from getting in the way of your safety when you have very little time to spare.
Here’s a checklist of questions to ask yourself and suggestions of what can be done to prevent both mind and physical clutter should a disaster strike you out-of-the-blue:
- Consider where you store things. You should have almost immediate access to the following items: Pet carrier(s), an emergency line of communication (preferably a laptop, netbook, or advanced PDA), a cell phone, your car keys, a rugged flashlight, and, if at all possible, a copy of your renters or homeowners insurance policy.
- Have an escape route ready, and cover your bases. Being on the third level and without a fire escape, our elevator was out and one stairwell had already become dangerously consumed by smoke. Become familiar with every pathway that leads out of your home ahead of time.
- If you have pets, consider putting Pet Safety Alert decals on external windows and your front door to alert neighbors and authorities you have animals (in case you aren’t at home when an emergency happens).
- Spend the time, and take inventory of your belongings. Even if you don’t use an automated system, a video of everything in your home can help spur your memory. Be sure to backup the video so you can still access it if your home is destroyed.
- Are your vital documents protected and organized? Ideally, you’ll want to store them in a fireproof safe and keep a backup copy online. Check out our series on fireproof safes for more information on this subject.
- Consider where you’ll temporarily live if you’re unable to inhabit your home. Will you need to stay in a hotel, or will you have access to the home of a friend or relative?
In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss what happened after the fire. In many ways, the aftermath was far worse than the fire itself.
The image above is what was left of our oak bedroom floor. In addition to soot, it took only a few hours for mold to begin to grow in the water that helped put out the fire.
All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!
Are you sick and tired of walking your dog? If you would rather stay inside and plop in front of the television while your dog gets its exercise on a treadmill, then you are in for a treat.
The good folks at Jog-a-Dog (since 1972!) have a product for you. The DC 7 is described as “the most impressive dog treadmill to date.” It weighs in at 261 pounds and costs just south of $3000. That is a bit steep, but think of all the time it will save you now that you no longer have to walk Fido. From their site:
The incredible 84” x 24” running surface will accommodate all breeds while allowing large dogs ample room to reach and extend while exercising. Ridged reinforced steel decking provides a secure foundation for breeds exceeding 300 pounds. The powerful 1 H.P. PWM whisper quiet industrial drive system comes standard! Likewise, the proprietary four roller drive system insures a smooth and consistent tread operation that will not slip at even the slowest of speeds. The side guardrails are formed from ½” round steel and are detachable, allowing for easy transport and storage.
It is all so easy. If you combine the Jog-a-Dog with an automatic feeder and a doggy door for access to your back yard, then you will never have to be responsible for your dog again. Sure, the dog may be happy to see you on your couch from time to time, but a little doggy independence will make it much easier to care for you canine.
(Exception: If someone with a disability and/or mobility restrictions has a dog, we understand that this could be helpful. It would be especially helpful for a service animal. However, for able-bodied pet owners, this is truly, truly ridiculous.)
My home has been cat free for eight months now. It wasn’t by choice. Our two cats passed away within a year of each other and we are waiting until our daughter is a bit older to get a new kitten. I definitely miss having a cat, but one thing I don’t miss is cleaning up cat hair all the time. It is a never-ending task that gets old quickly.
We are currently awaiting the possibility of cat-sitting for my in-laws when they travel to Florida for the winter. My daughter (pictured with the cat in question) will absolutely be thrilled with this, and I must admit that I’m excited to have a cat in the house again. After my initial excitement, the next thing I thought of was the return of cat hair. It is definitely a negative aspect of owning a pet. Dogs aren’t much better in this regard, so I’ll include them in this post. My mom spent many hours vacuuming up black hair from her carpets from the Labrador they had years ago.
Here are some tips I came across recently when looking for solutions:
Grooming: Brushing your pet regularly will decrease the amount of hair that ends up on the floor and furniture. You may also look into a corner comb.
Furniture and Floors: Vacuuming regularly is a must. It doesn’t matter if you groom regularly, the hair will find its way to the floor and furniture. You may want to instill a no furniture rule for your pet to curb furniture fur.
Clothing: The lint roller is a necessary evil if you plan to exit the house hair free. Also, don’t leave clothes out on the floor. Most cats love to lie on clothing left on the floor.
How about you? What do you do to keep pet hair from taking over your home?
The October/November issue of Ready Made magazine has a great do-it-yourself project for a Litter Box Hideaway:
If you have been looking for a way to get your cat’s litter box out of the way or hidden from sight, this could be your perfect solution. The Norrebo box they used for the project has enough space in it that you could also use it to store other pet-related items (not food, but things like fur brushes). And, you could use the top of the box for seating or storage.