We love our pets — and they love us. Which is the main reason dog and cat dander seems to get everywhere: on the sofa, your clothes and your carpet. Your furry companion loves to sit wherever you do.

There's a tip making the rounds these days: use a dryer sheet to repel pet fur. And it seems to work. Dryer sheets cut down on static, which is what makes fur cling to fabric surfaces. Some owners even use dryer sheets directly on their animals to reduce the static buildup which accompanies thunderstorms and alarms jittery pets.

But is this safe?

First, hats off to Bounce for its truly generous support of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The 2007 Bounce Everywhere campaign donated $10,000 to the ASPCA. It's part of a bid to promote dryer sheet usage by pet owners that goes by the slogan, "Share the love, not the hair!"

Dryer sheets repel static and smell so darn good because they're full of chemicals. Formulas vary from product to product, but your favorite fabric softener or dryer sheet (not necessarily Bounce) might contain such unpleasant substances as benzyl acetatecamphor or even chloroform.

Possible health risks

None of this stuff is good for humans, and the same is true for pets. The Merck Veterinary Manual warns that cationic detergents, which are present in fabric softeners and dryer sheets, can cause a variety of problems for animals ranging from minor irritation to widespread systemic distress and pulmonary edema. Bounce's own product literature cautions pet owners to keep dryer sheets away from animals to avoid accidental ingestion.

Animals lick their fur and the areas on which they rest, so using dryer sheets to repel dander may needlessly expose Fluffy or Fido to health risks. The danger is increased when pets are allowed to use sheets as toys — and cats, in particular, just love them. Some owners have reported kidney failure in animals that have ingested dryer sheets. 

A better way

Want to keep pet fur at bay — the safe and natural way? Brush your animal companion daily. A stiff brush or rubber squeegee will make quick work of any hair which gets on furniture. Use a lint brush or length of masking tape to remove danger from clothing.

A few minutes of extra work means fewer chemicals in the lives of you and your pet. Take a little extra time with your cat or dog — and show you care.

How do you beat pet hair in your home? Please share your best ideas in the comments section below!

Copyright Lighter Footstep 2008

MNN homepage photo: tudor/Flickr