Hong Kong's cramped, high-rise apartments mean many pets in the city don't have access to a garden or other outdoor space and such conditions raise issues that require particular attention, says veterinarian Lloyd Kenda, of Valley Veterinary Centre (www.valleyvetcentre.com.hk).
"More and more people are living closely with their pets, and many pets in Hong Kong are living indoors all the time, with no access to the great outdoors. The only time they spend outside is when they are taken out by their owner," he says.
Kenda says that the primary concern for most pet owners, particularly cat and dog owners, is toileting. "Dogs can easily be taken outside at regular intervals to urinate and defecate, but remember to be responsible and wash away urine and pick up the dog faeces and dispose of it properly."
For cats, the cat litter tray should be cleaned often and the type of litter used needs to be considered. For example, some litter is designed to clump so that just the solid lumps need removing, while other types require complete removal. "There will always be some smell with litter, clumped or not, so the best way to avoid strong smells is to use a quality litter, replace it every day and thoroughly wash and dry the litter box every day," says Kenda. "In my view, covered litter trays are preferable."
He adds that any toileting accident needs to be cleaned up immediately. "It is best to use an enzymatic cleaner that chemically breaks down the molecules that cause the odour, rendering the accident area untraceable." To find out more about these cleaners, do some research on the internet, and for those who want to be as eco-friendly as possible, there are cleaners available that use all-natural ingredients such as citrus peel.
Another concern for indoor dog and cat owners is that their apartment will smell of the animal. Kenda says that this need not be a concern by applying some common sense practices. "Remember to regularly launder your pet's bedding, including blankets, cushions and mattresses as this helps greatly to reduce an animal's smell in the house."
It is also important to ensure good ventilation, especially where the litter tray is situated.
"Leaving wet food out all day, especially the fishy cat foods, will add to the smell of a pet in the house. Dry food is less smelly, especially in the hotter months. Having the feeding area in a well ventilated area also helps," Kenda says.
In addition, he recommends using good quality bowls, such as those made from stainless steel, which can be cleaned thoroughly.
The next big issue, Kenda says, is hair, on the floor, furniture, beds and clothes. "Most cats and dogs shed their coat, some seasonally and some daily. If hair in the house is a big issue, then consider breeds that do not shed."
Alternatively, he says that washing the pet, brushing them regularly and having them well groomed will help to limit shedding. "It is wise to have a handy supply of lint rollers to use before you walk out the door in that dark suit or outfit."
One of his favourite ways to remove unwanted pet hair is the rubber glove trick. "By wearing a pair of dry rubber washing-up gloves and running your hands over the sofa, floor rugs and curtains, you will get the hair to stick to the glove and then it is just a matter of washing the hair off the glove. Obviously, regular vacuuming helps to reduce hair build-up in the house, too."
Flea control is also important for dogs and cats if they venture outside. "Fleas can easily settle into your house and soft furnishings and can be difficult to get rid of," Kenda says.
He adds that there are many safe and effective flea control medications available and these should be used routinely. If in doubt over which is best, seek advice from a veterinary clinic.
"Living with our pets indoors is fine as long as we take the necessary measures. Cleanliness, in particular, is the key to happy cohabitation."
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