The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Common Pet Messes (and Preparing for Future Ones)

published May 24, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Woman wiping hardwood floor with window and sheer white curtains in background
Credit: PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura/Getty Images

Are you interested in becoming a first-time pet parent? Make your way through our starter pack. This content was created independently by our editorial team and generously underwritten by the Toyota Corolla Cross.

Having a pet yields a lot of mutual benefits: You provide a much-needed home for an animal, and in return, they give love, affection, and companionship. 

But for all of the many positive aspects of pet ownership, there is one unfortunate truth: pets make messes. Whether you’re awakened by the sound of your pet vomiting — probably on your rug — or stay late at work and come home to unwanted excrement, there are times when your pet just can’t help making a mess. 

Fortunately, most are easily fixable if you deal with them quickly and correctly. Here’s our ultimate guide to keeping you, your pet, and your home mess-free.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6 Supplies to Have on Hand for Pet Issues

What you’ll need depends on the sticky (or drippy or goopy or smelly or… you get the idea) situation, but you should have a few things at the ready. Tip: Place all of these items in a bucket that you can easily access, should your pet have a mishap.

  • A lint roller
  • A nylon brush
  • A dustpan and brush
  • Rags or microfiber cloths
  • A carpet cleaning solution specially designed for pet messes
  • Enzymatic cleaner

About that last item: Pet experts are big on enzymatic cleaner, which works to dissolve messes and odors instead of simply masking them. While you can clean some messes with soap and water, it’s best to tackle excrement with a cleaner that can handle organic stuff. “These cleaners include good bacteria that will break down and digest the odors lurking in your home, which is critical since most pets will habitually return to spots where they smell their odor,” says Daniel Caughill, the co-founder of The Dog Tale.

Dog groomer Katlin Primrose specifically swears by the enzymatic product EZ Clean for urine and poop. “We’ve used it on carpet, tile, and concrete flooring to clean up many unfortunate accidents,” she says.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3 Tips for Preventing Pet Mishaps

Obviously, accidents happen. You can’t avoid everything! But there are ways to stop some issues before they even start. 

Monitor your pet’s eating habits.

“Pets may occasionally vomit due to various reasons, such as eating too fast, an upset stomach, or motion sickness,” says vet tech Amber LaRock. So if your animal tends to vomit or have runny stools, pay attention to not just what, but when and how they eat. Digestive issues that continue may also require a visit to your veterinarian, as your pet may be allergic to certain foods, and prolonged vomiting or diarrhea can cause dehydration. 

If you have a cat, regularly cleaning the litter box and using the same litter consistently will encourage your pet to keep using it instead of finding another area.

Entertain your pet.

Some messes occur simply because a pet is bored, playful, or exhibiting natural behaviors, such as scratching. Make sure to provide cats with a place to scratch. “Ensure they have plenty of scratching posts, and try to make these more appealing by sprinkling catnip on them,” recommends veterinarian Dr. Jamie Richardson

She also advises giving dogs and cats toys to engage their natural tendencies, such as chasing, pouncing, chewing, and climbing.

Don’t skimp on grooming.

The continual shedding of hair by both cats and dogs can also cause a mess. Nicole Ellis, a pet expert and trainer at Rover, suggests beginning at the source. “Good grooming is the first step to limiting shedding,” she says. “Set some time aside at night to brush your pet out, removing any loose fur that will otherwise stick.” 

Ellis also recommends using a steel pet comb nightly to remove loose hair and putting blankets on surfaces where your pet likes to lay to collect loose fur.

Credit: Getty Images/inside-studio

How to Clean Up 5 Common Pet Messes

You prepped, you prevented, and you’ve still got a big mess on your hands? Unfortunately, there will probably be a time when you will have to deal with an unpleasant situation. Although finding a mess can be upsetting, take a breath. It’s important to realize that your pet is most likely ill or just doing what comes naturally. (If your pet is consistently exhibiting bad behavior, schedule a vet appointment to see if they can get your animal on the right path.)

Hair or Fur

Pet hair is one of the most common pet mess-makers, and after vacuuming the area thoroughly, you can easily clean up stubborn hairs by using a brush or roller. “There are a few different ways to deal with this issue, such as using a lint roller or pet hair remover brush,” says LaRock. 

That said, “if your pet is shedding excessively, it might be a good idea to consult your veterinarian to rule out any possible health issues,” she adds.

Urine, Vomit, and Feces

Where food-laden vomit or feces are concerned, you are dealing with solid pieces (sorry for the picture we’re painting here), so “the first thing to do is to scrape it off the floor,” says Jack Miller, a home improvement expert and founder of How I Get Rid Of

Once you’ve rid the area of solids, Miller advises applying an enzymatic cleaner to any mess as a pretreatment and leaving the area covered with a damp towel for a few hours to break down the matter. Then give the site a deep clean with a liquid or foam carpet cleaning product — try Nature’s Miracle — and use a fan to speed up the drying process. These are the same steps you should take when it comes to liquid mess, such as urine, diarrhea, or vomit. 

And whether it’s liquid or solid, you want to clean it up immediately, especially if it’s on the carpet. 

Bad Odors

You’ve got a gross-looking situation and you’ve got a smell situation? Primrose suggests adding a product with baking soda — or try baking soda alone — to the equation above. “After you’ve let the spray soak in, we also recommend sprinkling the area with a little bit of baking powder,” Caughill says. “This will further soak up any lingering odors.”