Hairballs, Dander, And Paw Prints—Oh My!

February 2016 Feature Austa Cook

“Will you look at that hairball—it must be the size of a blimp!”

“Watch it, Jim, you’ve got Lake Michigan spreading across your carpet…”

Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! So sorry, I’m allergic to ludicrous amounts of pet dander.”

These are words you don’t want to hear when people step aboard your houseboat, but heaven knows keeping Fido or Fluffy onboard can bring mountains to climb in terms of cleanliness! What are some tried-and-true tips for keeping your houseboat squeaky-clean while still enjoying the company of your four-legged (sometimes squeaky-clean-resistant) friend?

Linda Exton, a houseboater down at Dale Hollow Lake State Park in Kentucky, offers wise advice to start, and it’s encompassed in one word: “Prevention!” Making sure your dog or cat is houseboat-trained will save you tons of clean-up time. For the Extons, this requires many, many trips to a place they refer to as Pooper Island.

“On dock C, we make it an adventure and load a bunch of dogs on one pontoon and head for Pooper Island,” says Linda. The dogs have a ball and we get to enjoy some great conversation and laughs along the way.”

For those last-minute moments of terror when you can’t get to shore on time, Linda advises that Potty Pads are an excellent resource to have onboard. For some good options, check out PetCo’s Pooch Pads for a variety from $37.99 to $49.99 or Wee-Wee Pads Gigantic for $25.59 from Chewy.

“Of course,” Linda adds, “when we are out on the lake tied to a bank, potty problems simply do not exist. Our little furry friends have a whole forest at their disposal.” 

When there is an accident onboard, cleaning up urine is like administering CPR—lock your elbows and start on those carpet compressions right away, because there’s no time to lose! You might not be saving a life, but you’ll be saving yourself from a stress-induced heart attack later when you run the risk of repeat episodes, unless you get rid of that attractive (to pets, that is) ammonia odor. Blot up as much of the wetness as you can and follow up with a pet-grade cleaning product that’s formulated to remove ammonia as well as deodorize. One good option is Nature’s Miracle Pet Stain & Odor Remover, which is sold at places such as PetSmart for $9.99 to $11.04.

What about the ever-present shedding problems? Prevention! Regularly brushing your cat or dog will seriously cut down on hair balls and heavy shedding—just ideally do this outside and make sure you have the right kind of brush to match the breed. Some brushes like the Furminator do really well; prices vary depending on the cat or dog size and breed. On Linda’s houseboat, they also keep a dog blanket on one couch for shedding or dirty dogs.

“The dogs have their very own spot.  They love it and when company arrives, simply remove the blanket,” she says.

They also keep a heavy rug on the seat where their dog sits to solve the problem of doggy toenails tearing up or scratching the leather or vinyl seats.

“It beats a towel because it is not as likely to blow away,” she explains.

Fellow houseboater Laurel Trahan chimes in with this advice: “Match your decor to your dog so there's less vacuuming!” Whenever she and her husband have to replace furniture or rugs onboard, they keep this trick in mind.

“We always say it needs to be ‘pug’ colored,” she says. “If you can't see the hair, it appears cleaner!” 

If you have an air filter, also make sure it’s regularly checked and changed as needed. This will help you save money and heating/cooling system efficiency to boot. If you don’t, a few cost-conscious and portable air purifiers are out there; check out the Breathe Easy In-Duct or Portable Air Purifiers at Dometic Group, or the various air purifiers found at the Allergy Buyer’s Club.

Some other final cleanliness tips include getting a removable cover for your pet’s bed for easy washing, and investing in a rubber-backed mat to prevent food and water bowl sliding, spills, and messes while your pup or cat chows. 

Linda adds, “There are also these wonderful gloves/towels made of microfiber.  We hang a couple on the front deck and they are always handy for drying a dirty, wet dog.”

With tips like these, you can’t go wrong!

Second photo credited to Linda Exton

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