Category Archives: Stylish pet-friendly living

Cement troughs make great litter boxes

With multiple cats, finding anything bigger than the standard size litter box is a problem. So you are stuck with cleaning a lot of boxes!

One day, we were in line at Home Depot and spotted a large – what we thought was a litter box (at Home Depot??) in a customer’s cart.  “Ma’am where did you find the litter box?” we asked. She started laughing and told us which aisle to go to for the “cement trough”!

It never would have occurred to us.  But there they were – a bunch of them — in the cement aisle.  Now, granted, you are not going to find a lot of pretty colors – they come only in basic black.  And there are only two sizes –at least at our Home Depot – medium and large.  But this was good enough for us. We got one of each.

Not only are the sizes of the cement troughs perfect for accommodating multiple cats – about 40 inches by 30 inches for the large and 30 by 24 for the medium —  but how they are made makes them the PERFECT litter box! Instead of being squared off, the sides are curved – to make cement – or in our case, litter — removal easy.  No more corners to have to scrape out!

Another plus was the price. We paid about $12 for the large trough and $7 for the medium one. Scooping just got a lot easier!

cement trough

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Litter box alternative to clumping litter – soft wood pellets

There has been a lot written about the toxicity of clumping cat litters.  Yes, they are convenient – but the risk they pose to pets – and to humans — isn’t worth it.

The clumping agent, sodium bentonite expands when wet so if cats lick their paws and ingest it, it can cause internal obstructions.  Kitty litter dust can lead to human and feline respiratory problems. Quartz silica (sand), an ingredient in most clumping litters, is a known carcinogen.

So it was an easy choice to steer clear from these products. Plus, we were growing tired of the excessive tracking of litter particles all over the house.

Instead – for our multiple cats — we have opted for a natural product called Condensed Soft Wood Pellets by Wayne Davis Quality Bedding.  This product was originally created as bedding for horse stalls. Made in Michigan, it comes in a 40-pound bag that retails for about $6.  We have been unable to find it at any big box pet supplies store, and get ours at an area feed store.  If you call Wayne Davis customer service, they will tell you if and where to find it in your state.  The bag includes their phone of 800-806-0733 and email of mcfitz35@aol.com.

wood pellets close upWhat do we love about this product – besides the price?

  • The fresh wood scent – much better than any of the artificial litter product scents.
  • The absorption – the product turns to a sawdust when wet – so you just scoop out this part and leave the fresh pellets behind.
  • It’s natural – condensed softwood pellets –nothing more, nothing less.
  • The way that the company puts all of their contact information clearly on the bag. They are easy to contact – AND they pick up their phone!

How do the cats feel about  this litter?  We transitioned by placing some of the soft wood pellets on top of the old clay litter we used to use. We did this for about a week – and then switched to all soft wood pellets.    It was an easy transition.  We have found with the soft wood pellets that solid waste is more likely to be deposited on the surface – so we scoop every day.  We like this better knowing that we are keeping the litter box as clean as possible.

wood pellets

Kitty feeding bowls – a solution when company comes

With multiple cats, you have multiple feeding bowls.  It’s not the prettiest site when company comes over. At the same time, of course, your cats have to eat, and, as creatures of habit, will not understand it if you move their dining table!

We recently converted a closest pantry into a more accessible storage area that started as an old, unwanted entertainment unit.  (You can pick these up for CHEAP – sometimes for FREE — check Craigslist, garage sales and eBay.)  Removing the closet pantry freed up some floor space and created a perfect area for us to create a dining area for our kitties.

But there were still a few problems:  Occasional dry food leaving crumbs all over the floor.  Bowls getting moved around.  And the risk of someone tripping on a wayward food bowl. Well, our contractor came up with the perfect solution: the disappearing kitty dining table.

IMG_2409IMG_2410Our contractor installed a feeding DRAWER underneath the unit. The drawer has sides so that loose food cannot get out.  And the best part – it rolls right back into the unit after use. The cats love it –and no more worries about food bowls getting kicked or broken!

Antique storage bin holds leashes & supplies

Caring for and cleaning up after multiple pets can be time consuming as anyone who does it knows!  So at our house, we are always looking for ways to simplify everything and save time.

This applies to making pet supplies easy to store and access. Its fun to try to find storage solutions that can be incorporated into your home’s decor where they are most likely to be used. This prevents the pet family members from having to look for the items in multiple places before using them.

We found this cool antique storage bin at a flea market. I think we paid about $20.  (I recently saw a similar on eBay.) The deep storage area is perfect for concealing clean up bags and the round spindle is great for hanging up leashes.  It’s also large enough to hold doggie coats, sweaters, booties, and whatever other supplies you might have. We hung the storage bin right inside the front door for easy access before walks. In the picture, you see a few umbrellas that have been hung here for easy reach in bad weather. IMG_2406 IMG_2407

What I really like about this piece is that it doesn’t take up floor space. Our home is on the smaller side, so we are careful not to overcrowd. We find that this piece helps to balance the antique railroad station bench that sits to the left of it without taking up a lot of wall space.

This storage bin is a perfect example of incorporating function into your décor. Shop flea markets for unusual storage solutions that add style and interest to any home. We left this bin in the natural wood, but it could easily be painted to fit shabby chic, contemporary or any décor!

Pet-friendly FLOORING – I guess you could say I live ON a Barn!

I used to have carpet.  Key words – USED TO.    With multiple cats and rabbits, the vacuuming and cleaning the occasional accident became overwhelming.  Half of my first floor (kitchen, dining room, entry way) is porcelain tile – which I love – but I wanted a warmer, softer feel in the great room.

So the logical choice was hardwood, but I had a lot of concerns. What if it gets scratched? What if someone has an accident and it ruins the finish? For me, the absolute best solution was recycled BARN WOOD. Not only am I doing my part for the environment (no trees were killed!), but I have a durable floor that looks even BETTER with wear!

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Advantages of barn wood:

I chose an OAK barn wood to match my décor and because I love the grain and durability of the wood.  Plus you will find that many of the old barns were made of oak, so this is a common barn material. I chose the rough-sawn finish since it retains the rustic look of the original wood. This option may not be for everyone. Smooth styles are also available.

Not only will you need to choose the type and style of wood, but you will also need to choose the type of FINISH.  I choose a TUNG OIL finish (3 coats) as opposed to a polyurethane top coat. Why? Because if I do get a scratch or someone has an accident, I can easily sand it and apply more Tung oil to the spot.

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What do I like about our barn wood floor?

  • You CANNOT damage it. It already contains knots and imperfections – that I think are beautiful – but that also easily mask any type of wear and tear.
  • It’s easy to clean. I simply vacuum and occasionally use a soft mop to wipe it with furniture oil – maybe several times a year.
  • It does not show water marks. We have had pet accidents as well as overwatered plants that have dripped onto the floor.  Simply wipe up with a paper towel.

The best place to buy barn wood:

To avoid mark-ups, do NOT buy this kind of flooring through a local retailer. Instead, buy direct from a MILL that salvages and planes the wood.  Searching online, I found that the majority of them are in eastern states like New York and Vermont, but there may be others.  I am in Michigan and shipping charges were more reasonable than you might think. You will need your own flooring contractor to do the installation.

Buying tips:

  • Ask for SAMPLES of the type of wood and the finish that you choose. Most mills will send out at no or minimal charge.
  • Understand measurements. This is one problem that we had with the mill – I did not realize that the tongue and groove was part of the width – so I ordered too narrow of a piece and had to return them.  Again, it’s best to have a sample of exactly what you want.
  • Shop around. We found rather large differences in pricing at the various mills. Do not hesitate to negotiate.

So how do we like living ON a barn? It’s worry free. It’s warm under our feet and paws. It looks homey and warm. We wouldn’t trade it for the farm.

5 tips for choosing a durable sofa for your pet-friendly home

You might think I’m crazy for having a NEW sofa.   I recently replaced an inexpensive sofa and loveseat that lasted about 12 years with a more pricey – and durable – set.  Pet lovers might say I’m nuts for doing this, but I think if you choose the right type of fabric and construction, you can’t go wrong.  Here are a few tips:

  1. IMG_2403Choose a fabric that will not snag or tear. I chose a polyester fiber.  I love this fabric for its durability. The fibers are tight with almost a burlap quality.  I know this sounds not very comfortable – but it is — and how many people lay naked on the sofa?!IMG_2398
  2. Make sure the fabric is protected. Ask the furniture store about Scotchgarding or other protective coatings that are right for the fabric you choose. How do I clean my sofa and loveseat?  I take a damp (cold water) sponge and wipe it across the fabric.  The pet fur will almost “peel” off.   I find that vacuum cleaners for pet hair on furniture are a waste of time.
  3. Choose a style with removable cushions on the BACK (in addition to the seat.) It’s much easier to remove a cushion for a repair than to have to take in a whole sofa, loveseat or chair!  I wish I would have followed this tip long ago!

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    Removeable back cushions are a must!
  4. Buy good construction. I looked for Made in U.S. and solid WOOD construction. My sofa was made in North Carolina.  You want a heavy piece that is not going to move when a larger pet jumps on it.
  5. Buy extra fabric! The salesperson said that NO ONE has ever asked for this.  I was surprised. If you are having a sofa (or other upholstered furniture) made, NEVER forget to buy an extra couple yards of the fabric.  Some stores may throw this in for you at no additional charge. Many manufacturers discontinue patterns and colors after a few years.  If you do need to make a repair, you’ll avoid having to reupholster the whole piece just because you cannot locate the fabric.

My set is several years old now – and – as you can see in the pictures — still looks brand new!