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Can You Get Rid of Pet Odors with an Air Purifier?


Did you know that more and more people have welcomed pets into their homes in recent decades, and 67 percent of American households now have at least one pet? More than that, almost everyone with a pet considers that animal to be a part of the family. If that includes you, there will be many things you love about your cat, dog, fish, pet rat, snake, or whatever other pet you have — but there will also be some that you dislike.


Pet odors have got to be high on the list of things you would rather your pet did not bring into your home. The smell alone can be bad enough, but in some cases, pet-related odors also seem to be associated with pests, other household infestations, and allergy symptoms. In either cases, you may be wondering if you can control your pet’s less pleasant odors with an air purifier.


What Causes Pet Odors?


Returning to basics for a moment, it is always good to remember that our sense of smell is, in fact, the result of a complex interaction between our noses and our brains. To make it simple, the more odor-producing chemicals enter our nostrils, the more easily our brains are able to identify the source of the smell, and that is why odors become stronger when we actively “sniff” something. This mechanism indeed means that you are physically interacting with smell-producing chemicals whenever you are able to smell them, and that is a somewhat scary thought when you consider the most common sources of pet odors:


  • Most mammals, including cats, dogs, mice, guinea pigs, ferrets, and of course humans have scent glands that produce odors. These tend to become especially unpleasant if the animal remains unbathed and the odor becomes stale. Some pets that are not mammals, including lizards and snakes, also have scent glands.
  • Animal urine and feces nearly always produces a foul smell. This is a common problem in case of pets that “do their business” indoors (such as cats and pet rats), unless you take prompt steps to clean it up.
  • Many animals experience flatulence, and cat and dog flatulence can have a particularly offensive smell.
  • In many cases, health problems in pets also lead to bad odors. These can range from skin infections and abscesses to dental and digestive issues.


Not all of the odors pet owners may associate with their pets are directly produced by the animal itself, on the other hand. In the cases of fish and caged animals like guinea pigs or rabbits, food debris and other waste may accumulate over time if the pet’s habitat is not cleaned thoroughly or frequently enough.


Animals that have free range in the home, which may include dogs and cats, but also birds and ferrets, will potentially purposely hide food items or otherwise accidentally drop them in hidden spaces, where they are allowed to decay and cause odors. This can quickly attract other pests and infestations, each of which can cause their own foul smells.


Pests like cockroaches or flies certainly produce odors, and the same is often true for mold, which easily builds up in almost any humid environment, especially those rich in humidity. In many cases, that includes animal cages.


Is an Air Purifier the Solution to the Unpleasant Pet Odors in Your Home?


You may have heard that air purifiers improve the indoor air quality in your home, and assume that this means an air purifier will automatically help eliminate smells from your property. Although some air purifiers do help with smells, the truth is a little more complex.


True HEPA air purifiers are those air purifiers that are equipped with true HEPA filters. They have, over the years, become the gold standard — because these complex mechanical filters perform extremely well at removing particulate matter from a space. In fact, true HEPA air purifiers are able to trap 99.97 percent of particles with a size of 0.3 microns, the hardest particles to eliminate. They do an even better job at filtering larger and smaller particles.


Because of this, purchasing a true HEPA air purifier for all the most important rooms in your home may be an excellent choice for you as a pet owner. Not only will these air purifiers help you with pet dander (which, as an aside, is not what causes pet odors), they also greatly reduce your exposure to pollen, household dust, and other common allergens that include mold spores. True HEPA air purifiers are not, however, designed to eliminate odors, which emerge as gases — and which, even in the case of pet-related smells, often fall under the category of Volatile Organic Compounds.


To be able to get rid of smells, any air purifier you buy will additionally need a carbon filter. These filter out gases, and thereby odors. Because the molecules a carbon filter traps and thereby removes from your space remain in the filter, saturating it over time, such filters need to be changed often; as frequently as the manufacturer recommends, or even more.


By choosing an air purifier with a true HEPA filter as well as a carbon filter, you will attain a significantly cleaner air quality inside your home as you reduce your exposure to odors, Volatile Organic Compounds released by hundreds of common household products (from cleaning agents to furniture and building materials), and harmful particles.


What Else Should Pet Owners Know About Animal-Related Odors?


Although the right air purifier will help you reduce pet odors in no time, it is always superior to deal with the underlying cause of those odors — whether they are produced directly by your pet, or accumulate in their environment. Steps you can take to reduce not just your exposure to smells, but also their cause, include:


  • Frequently cleaning your pet’s bodily waste, and in the case of caged pets or fish in aquariums, their entire habitat. This will not just reduce the smell, but also the risk of additional infestations in the form of mold or pests.
  • Bathing pets if that is appropriate.
  • If dogs or cats frequently have “accidents”, be aware that these can be extremely hard to clean up properly if those happen on carpets or upholstered furniture. The moisture may instead seep deep into the fabric, where you can no longer feel it. The smell remains, along with the potential for mold growth.
  • Taking your pet to the vet for general health checkups as often as recommended, and seeking medical attention for your pet whenever you suspect that a health problem may be going on.
  • Increasing ventilation in your home by opening your windows every day, for at least 15 minutes. The air circulation will increase if it is windy outside or you employ box fans as you air your home.
  • Some pets, like certain snakes, require high humidity environments. This poses a mold risk.


If, by any chance, musty odors are among those you attribute to your pet, you would be prudent to examine the possibility that you have a mold infestation in your home. Cats who spray and dogs who have accidents create wet spots in the home that raise the risk of mold growth, and any food matter hidden by pets can also become a nutritional source for certain molds.


Signs that indicate you may have a mold infestation can, besides smelling a musty odor and seeing mold growth, include:


  • High humidity levels in your home, which you can check with an inexpensive humidity meter.
  • Allergy symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, irritated and itchy eyes, and a sore throat.


Exposure to certain types of mold can cause a range of health problems in people, including allergies and infections, but many molds affect our pets in much the same way as they do humans. This offers yet another reason to tackle any mold infestation you may have as soon as possible.


MI&T can, as a nationwide mold inspection only company, perform a thorough visual mold inspection that covers both common hot spots and hidden problem areas that homeowners often miss. The air samples we take and have analyzed at an independent laboratory subsequently let you know whether you have mold in your air, how much, and what types. Armed with this information, you will then be able to move forward with a successful mold remediation plan that will reduce odors and improve not just your health, but also your pet’s.