In another blog post, we look at ways to pet-proof your entire home. Here, we move the magic to the car, and explore ways to keep your vehicle from premature ageing under the claw, tooth, drool, poop, and paw of your animal family.
So, you’ve pet-proofed the home space, and you’re ready to take Rover to the park, or Mitzi to the vet for her shots (which our Superior pet cover will subsidize). But how to do it without getting hair or body fluids everywhere, or inadvertently incurring damage to the seats, speakers, hand-break etc?
The long-term answer is to train your pets to travel in the car in a way that suits everyone. This takes time, practise and in the meantime, body fluids and hair will have their way. What to do to make the whole experience less of a mess?
The first rule of pet club is, be prepared
Any animal who eats, feels and loves may leave deposits in your car – fur, scales, feathers, and worse…
- You can pre-treat the fabric of your car interior so that it absorbs liquids less quickly. Think scotch guard for your car seats. Check the manual or ask your car dealer for a list of approved detergents or treatments. It’s important that they be pet-friendly with no toxic chemical residue and that you keep your animals away from the car during and directly after application.
- Keep a clean-up kit handy. Absorbent, washable cloths will quickly and ecologically soak up any spills. You might want to differentiate colours for different spills e.g. poop, urine, vomit, “what-IS-that?” and “I-don’t-want-to-know-what-that-is”. They’re also great for wiping drool and nose marks off the windows.
- Your clean-up kit should also have reusable, sealable bags to temporarily store smelly deposits. Remember, poop and puke can be composted and make great fertilizer for your garden.
- Get strong rubber mats for the floors. They’re claw-proof (but not jaw-proof!), will protect the carpeting underneath, and are easy to remove for cleaning.
- If you’re buying a car, consider the pets you have or want to have, and choose accordingly. It may be that vinyl seats are better (easier to wipe up wee mistakes) or that durable fabric suits you more (less prone to accidental chewathons). You may need a vehicle with a large boot area for your growing pack of puppies, or even prefer a bakkie with a weatherproof canopy for regular trips with the wet ones.
- If you’re choosing a pet and you know you’re picky about your car interior, consider a short-haired one (if it’s appropriate for your climate) which will dirty the car interior less, or one with feathers or scales instead of fur or hair (if you’re not species-specific; we aren’t).
Contain the chaos
Depending on the distance and your pet’s temperament or mood, you will want to travel with each animal in its own secure pet box. This is because a pet should never be loose in a moving car. Yours might be used to driving with you, but all it takes is one sudden scare from nowhere (imagine another car clips your bumper by mistake) and you might have a kitty flying under your feet while you’re trying to break, or a hound in your face blocking your line of vision while you’re trying to see. Not a funny story at anything over 10 km/hr, is it? A pet carrier not only contains your loved one to a safe space, it protects upholstery from nervous chewing and excited scratching. What’s more, the more robust, stress-tested, ones can further protect your pet in the case of impact from a car accident. If there are ‘spills’ (vomiting or defecating due to motion sickness, stress or tension) it’s also easier to clean up if your pet is contained in a dog box or a cat carrier. Pretty please do it promptly, though; pets can smell very well and could get bacteria on their body from touching this (poop is one way disease can be transmitted between individuals). Also, some dogs eat poop. You wouldn’t want to travel in your own vom, would you?
Say you have a pack of pooches, and your back seat won’t fit that many pet boxes. There are other options. You can attach a purpose-made doggy harness to the seatbelt for safety and security. The harness allows some movement but not free reign for Fido in the car. “Simply feed your car’s seat belt through both webbing handles on top of the harness,” advises EzyDog, “and let your dog travel safely in their seat to your destination” as this video demonstrates . This might be surprising and upsetting for a pup who’s never been led on a leash, so practise at home first. Over time, and with positive reinforcement, a dog adjusts and even welcomes the limited movement of being safely secured in a vehicle (because beach!), and the peace of mind it gives the driver is invaluable.
Protect your interior with a car hammock, a pet car-seat cover or a detachable wet-dry blanket (with one fleecy side and one waterproof side to protects the car from hairs and wet). You can flip it over to suit the weather or the state of your dog’s fur coat. Just don’t flip it if the other side is already soiled…! They’re easy to install, secure and remove, quickly. The best ones are also machine washable. Just watch out for metal buckles on this one and stick to a cold wash if there are plastic clasps/attachments. This way it’ll last longer.
Hair, hair, (not) everywhere
Fur and hair deserve special mention for their amazing ability to get basically anywhere. If some escaped the pet carrier and dog hammock (they will), we have a few tricks to help lift them off the inside of your car:
- Rubber glove hack – grab a kitchen glove, wet it, wipe it over the seats, rinse, repeat. It should pick up loose little hairs, but it also depends on the type of hair fibres your animals have, and the kind of upholstery in your car. Failing this…
- Velcro also picks up hair but be sure it’s not going to snag your upholstery. That stuff is strong! Notice, though, how much of your own hair shows up afterward.
- Some dog brushes are both bristly enough and gentle enough to use on fabric upholstery but test a small area that’s out of sight first!
- A vacuum cleaner can help hugely with stubborn hairs. Try a few different nozzles on the end of the hose to see what works. The brush sucker is often a winner.
Avoiding and Removing Odours
Nothing like a car that stinks of wet dog, eh? Apart from a pet blanket, you may want to vacuum surfaces after heavy soiling to reduce lingering scent.
- A stronger method is to sprinkle baking soda on all surfaces, let it sit for a few hours (or overnight) without pets present, and then vacuum it all up carefully.
- Don’t let the wet sit. It can encourage awful smells. If your car seats are sopping after a gallop at the lagoon, soak up the wet with an old towel. Remove that towel, any wet blankets, etc from the car. Leave the windows open a crack if it’s safe and park in the sun to help the car dry faster.
- You can also wash your car seats with shampoo or soap. Make sure they’re pet-safe ones, though.
Now you’re ready to roll with Rover and Sushi. Remember that animals can escape, so a good rule of thumb is never to open the windows more than a nose-width. This way they can’t jump out of the window in alarm at high speed. We have other clever tips for safe road trips with your pets here.
Anything to add? Tag us on Instagram with a pic of your pet and your tricks to keeping the car clean and fresh for you and your passengers.