If you own pets, you know the joy that furry friends can bring into your life. But they come with some sacrifices, too, from changing your living space to meet their needs to cleaning up their messes. Our companions are worth the effort, but there's no shame in trying a few hacks to make pet care a little easier.

Avoid Irritated Paws in Winter

One issue many dog owners face is the struggle of wintertime walks. Most dogs love to play in the snow, but the cold temperatures, ice, moisture and additives such as de-icing salt can cause some major paw irritation. Petroleum jelly is surprisingly effective against all those problems. Simply slather a thick layer on your pup's paws before heading out, and be sure to reapply it regularly if you're outside for long.

Vaseline protects dogs' paws from snow Chalabala / Getty Images


Clean up pet hair using a rubber glove

Our beloved pets leave their mark in many ways, one of which is their copious shedding. If you need to pick up some pet hair in a small area, try putting on a rubber glove and getting it a bit damp. Simply rub your hand back and forth over the area you need to clean, and most of the hair will cling to your glove. Alternately, grab a dryer sheet from the laundry room and rub that over the area. It should have a similar effect.

DIY alternatives for fur clean-up smrm1977 / Getty Images


Give your digger a healthy outlet

Some dogs love to dig, which can take a toll on your landscaping. If you own a pup who loves to dig, consider building a digging box. You can make your own using woodworking skills, or simply buy a portable children's sandbox from the store. Fill it with sand or dirt, whichever your dog prefers to dig in. To teach your pup to use it, bury toys or treats inside of it.

Provide room to dig geoleo / Getty Images


Use floating shelves to make a playground for your cat

Keeping cats happy in an urban apartment can be a struggle due to the lack of space, but thinking outside the box can help. While your square footage may be limited, you can take advantage of their natural urge to climb and jump by giving them platforms on your walls. A standard floating wall shelf is easy to install and strong enough to support most cats, so pick up a few and create a path for your cat to enjoy. You can also make your chairs or tables do double duty by installing a cat hammock under them.

Install floating shelves for cats cunfek / Getty Images


Give your pup a pool during the dog days of summer

Many dogs don't do well in hot weather, but you can help your beloved pooch stay cool by picking up an inexpensive plastic kiddie pool. These affordable and easy-to-handle pools give your pup a comfortable place to take a cool dip in hot weather. Frozen treats are also a great warm-weather reward. Multiple recipes are available, but anything that involves dog-friendly foods will work, and some pups are happy with a simple cube of ice.

Buy a plastic pool for dogs GoDogPhoto / Getty Images


Keep it clean using items in your pantry

Every pet owner has to deal with some kind of mess eventually. Whether you've got a new puppy who is still potty training or a feline friend who just ate something unpleasant, odds are you'll have to clean your carpet or furniture at some point. Most people recommend using a commercial enzymatic cleaner, but you can replicate the effects of store-bought cleaners by using regular white vinegar and baking soda. Blot up any excess liquid first, then pour vinegar onto the soiled area. Shake baking soda on top of the vinegar and let it foam before cleaning it up.

Clean accidents with vinegar CasarsaGuru / Getty Images


Your pet needs proper dental care, too

Most pet owners just have their veterinarians do an annual dental exam and otherwise don't think much about their pets' teeth, but there's a lot more you can do. Weekly or even daily tooth brushing can help fight plaque build-up and reduce the need for costly cleanings and extractions down the road. Just don't use your human toothpaste on your pets, as it can be toxic to them. Instead, buy a specially made toothbrush and toothpaste for your pet.

Brush your pet's teeth Seregraff / Getty Images


Encourage your cat to drink water with a pet fountain

Cats are notoriously bad at drinking enough water to stay properly hydrated, especially in hot weather or arid climates. This can cause serious health problems, including urinary tract crystals that may require surgery. One of the contributing factors to this problem is that cats are very finicky about drinking stagnant water. Instead, try buying a pet fountain for your cat. Many cats are much more eager to drink running water than water out of a bowl.

Give your cat running water Lightspruch / Getty Images


Encourage your old pet to eat by making their food more appealing

Older dogs and cats or animals who are suffering from health problems may become hesitant to eat their normal diet. One quick and easy way to help with this is to soak their kibble in chicken or beef broth. Look for natural broths with no added sodium, as some commercial formulas are too salty. Soak the food for at least a few minutes beforehand to let it soften up. You can even pop it in the microwave for a few seconds since warm foods smell more strongly and are more enticing. Just make sure it isn't hot enough to scald, and of course always speak to your veterinarian before adding something to your pet's diet.

Use broth to help older pets RobertPetrovic / Getty Images


Hide the Litter Box

Everyone loves cats, but not many people love the sight of a litter box. There are commercially available covered boxes, but if you tend to be more of the DIY type, there are a few ways to make a discreet, enclosed box that still allows easy access for cleaning. The easiest method is simply to cut an access door into a large plastic storage bin, then open the lid for cleaning. Some ambitious cat owners have converted Ikea cabinets or simply cut their own wood to create a more upscale litter box.

Build a covered litter box Lightspruch / Getty Images


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