6 Unexpected And Practical Ways To Repurpose Dog And Cat Fur

You can curse its existence, or you could use it to control pests, fertilize your soil, and more!

April 18, 2017
balls of dog fur
sorsillo/getty

I love my cats. I really do. But not a week goes by during which I don’t fall into bed after vacuuming every inch of my life and think, “Was I happy? Before the cat hair?” Until now, I assumed I had one choice: suck it up, dump it out, and wait to see how many days it takes for the furry tumbleweeds to recollect on my stairs. (Four. The answer is four, everyone.)

Turns out pet fur can have many a purpose—besides clinging to black leggings. Keep reading for five unique ways to make good use of Fido’s fuzzballs.

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oil slick
1/6 Richard McManus/getty
Donate It To Help The Environment

Think about it: you shampoo your own hair when it absorbs grease and oil; your four-legged friend’s hair does the same, and can be used to soak up a particularly important oil—the kind that’s seeping into our oceans. The Clean Wave Program accepts boxes of fur balls and hair clippings and turns them into giant mats and tubular “booms” used to soak up oil spills, clean up contaminated waterways, and assist storm drains.

rabbit eating dandelion
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Use It To Deter Pests From Your Garden

Nature’s pesticide? Well, one of them. Pack tufts of pet fur around the base of your plants to keep pests like slugs, snails, and cutworms away (they’ll get stuck in the soft stuff). It's also a natural deterrent for animals that are afraid of dogs—like rodents, rabbits, moles and gophers, says Brad Leahy, co-owner of Blades of Green and B.O.G. Pest Control in Maryland. Some gardeners stuff it into old pantyhose and hang or place between plants to keep deer away from juicy produce.

Related: 5 First-Aid Essentials Every Pet Owner Should Know

fertilizer
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Add It To Soil For A Fertilizer Boost

Pet hair contains a good amount of nitrogen, an important nutrient in healthy soil, according to Leahy. And as it decomposes, all that fluff helps soil retain more moisture while giving off that plant-happy gas. Simply mix it into your compost ahead of time, or sprinkle it into soil and turn.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Organic Fertilizer

composting
4/6 Janine Lamontagne/getty
When In Doubt, Compost It

That’s right! Good compost is a mix of brown (think dried plant material) and green material, and hair of any kind is considered a “green” component of compost. Feel free to add what you brush off Buddy’s back, and your groomer may be willing to give you their leftover clippings for this (along with any of the other uses in this article!). Word to the wise: hair decomposes pretty slowly, so anything you can do to speed up the process—like covering your pile with a tarp or turning it more frequently—will also speed up the benefits.

Related: 10 Plants You Should Never, Ever Grow

birds nest
5/6 Jose A. Bernat Bacete/getty
Offer It To The Birds—Safely

Ever wish you could just fall asleep among all that belly fluff? You aren’t alone. “Pet hair is an ideal nesting material for birds, since it is soft, pliable, water-shedding and all-natural, unlike yarn or string that may have artificial fibers or chemical treatments that can be harmful to birds,” says Melissa Mayntz, birding expert and writer. Stuff it into a grapevine globe, suet cage or mesh bag, or simply drape it over your shrubs or trees for birds to use as cushioning and insulation for fragile eggs. An important tip from Mayntz: Avoid putting it low to the ground, where birds would be more vulnerable to predators. And another important note: never give birds fur that’s been exposed to flea or tick medicine, as little chicks are vulnerable to those chemicals.

Safety tip: be sure to dismantle any large clumps of hair. Although it’s an infrequent occurrence, some reports from wildlife rehabilitators suggest a risk of entanglement or injury, according to Robyn Bailey, NestWatch Project Leader for Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Other safe materials include dry grass, moss, and leaves.

Related: 6 Things You Should Never Feed Backyard Birds

dog fur jewelry
6/6 Photograph courtesy of etsy
Make Jewelry Out Of It

Ok, maybe this one isn’t totally practical. But one Google search for “crafting with pet hair” and you’ll find way more than you ever thought possible—including entire books dedicated to the subject, an Etsy jewelry shop featuring beads made from pet hair, and a French company that will turn your dog’s hair into legitimate wool for knitting. It will leave you equal parts disturbed and inspired.

And so, to feed the inspired part, take a look at this handy instructables guide to creating (and even dying) felted beads out of your pet’s fur. You’re welcome.

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