As any pet owner will tell you, cuddling with a furry dog or cat is a dream.
There are, however, some drawbacks. With furriness comes fur. With fur comes shedding. With shedding comes a whole lot of hair to sweep, pluck from carpets and attempt to lint roll off of your clothes (not news: your black slacks will never be all black).
Sometimes there is so much hair, you contemplate relenting from cleaning once and for all.
You could spend all of your time vacuuming and stuffing trash bags with all of that excess fur.
Or you could put your pet's shedding to good use. There are actually tons of ways to repurpose this hairy stuff into something practical.
You can knit a sweater out of it.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so when you rock a jacket made out of your furry companion's hair, you're definitely making a statement. Dog Wool, a small, France-based business, can transform your pet's shedding into strands that can be used to knit clothing. The site says your dog's undercoat makes the best material for knitting hats, scarves and coats -- it's soft, warm and, purportedly, does not smell.
If you care to keep your materials local, there are several instructional books available on the topic of knitting with both canine and feline fur. And if the concept grosses you out a bit, keep author Kendal Crolius' subtitle in mind: "Better a sweater from a dog you know and love than from a sheep you'll never meet." Amen.
You can use it to make jewelry.
Photo: Flora Davis
If diamonds are forever, cat hair jewelry is, well, furever? You can roll and design your cat's hair into beautiful baubles to string around your neck. Etsy retailer floradavis sells intricate necklaces, pendants and earrings in her shop, all of which include hair from her cat. She can also incorporate your own cat's hair, if you want to keep kitty close to your heart everywhere you go. She instructs on her page: "Mail me your cat's hair, approx. one substantial handful." Within a few weeks, she'll return the hair cat hair-inclusive designs for $130.
To make your own felted pet hair jewelry, check out this instructional guide, which includes tips for dying your jewelry with Kool Aid if you want to add a little color for flair.
You can tie fishing flies with it.
This is a little trick used within the fly fishing community. You can adapt your pet's fur to craft separate parts of your lure. Field and Stream writer Kirk Deeter says that domestic pets offer good, cheap fly materials. He personally uses the hair from his short-haired Vizsla to tie his flies.
You can entertain a cat with it.
If your cat is bored and you don't feel like leaving the house to go pick her up a new toy, you can make one yourself. Roll that shedding into a tightly wound ball and let your cat have some fun, or learn the process of felting your cat's hair for longer-lasting entertainment for the both of you.
You can garden with it.
Groom your pet outdoors to kill two birds with one hairy stone: Avoid an indoor shedding disaster and help your plants thrive. According to WiseGeek:
Hair works well to help soil retain moisture and keep plant roots hydrated as well as helping to regulate the plant’s temperature. Over time, the nitrogen will be released from the hair as fertilizer for plants, leading to greener, thriving plant growth. It does take a long time for the nutrients to be released from hair as fertilizer, however, so the first plants grown with hair may not be as vigorous as subsequent plantings. Due to this slow-release quality of hair as fertilizer, it might be better to use hair for plants that have a long growing cycle or slower overall growth.
You can collect it to clean up oil spills.
Matter of Trust, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization, has been accepting clean pet fur (and human hair) donations since the late 1990s to create oil-absorbing hairmats. These up-cyled goods effectively soak up oil -- and they don't require excess resources. The group collected an abundance of hair to aid in the cleanup of the 2010 BP oil disaster (unfortunately, these absorbents were never used for the cause).
You can add it to your compost.
If you're accustomed to tossing those bundles of pooch and kitty hair into the trash, reconsider: Pet hair is entirely compostable, which means with a little thought, you can help reduce waste on the planet.
You can leave some for the birds.
If you're a lover of all animals, this one's for you. While birds don't need your help to physically build their nests, they most certainly appreciate any extra material you can give them. Dog hair in particular is soft, warm, biodegradable and malleable. You can leave a few tufts of the fluffy stuff on the tops of bushes, fences, branches and trees and the birds will surely appreciate your gift. People, on the other hand, might think you're crazy.
You can keep deer away with it.
If pesky deer are tromping in your yard and garden, stuff some of that surplus dog hair into some pantyhose and spread the bundles around your plants and landscaping. The deer will pick up on the scent of your pup (even though he may be safe inside, resting on your bed) and stay away from the potential predator.
You can use it to solve the energy crisis.
Well, at least one man sees it this way. In a 2008 article published on The Christian Science Monitor, Jeffrey Shaffer noted that his yellow Lab Lottie might be able to provide a solution to our national energy problem. "I'm in possession of a remarkable renewable resource," he wrote. After noting Lottie's renewable resources shed around his home, he began to wonder if the fur could be put to use:
Has any scientist researched the practicality of replacing coal-fired power plants with new versions fueled by a never-ending supply of dog hair? Other promising possibilities: (1) automotive fuel additive (great opportunity for catchy brand name – Petkinol, Labrodiesel, or PetroK-9); (2) compressed pellets for use as mail padding to reduce styrofoam production; (3) wall and attic insulation (marketing slogan – "Turns your home into your second-best friend").
Some great ideas here, Mr. Shaffer. Perhaps the scientists will get back to you when they tire of making necklaces from their pet's hair.