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How to Keep a House Clean with Cats

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

My husband and I are borderline insane people.

We’re insane because we own not one, not two, but five indoor cats.

Fluffy gray tabby cat sleeping on furniture. Fluffy cats can shed often and can make keeping your house clean with cats challenging.
Mr. “Vomits-Hair-All-the-Time”

And two of them are of the very fluffy sort, as you can see. So keeping a house clean with all of these cats is certainly a challenge!

We have tons of experience with cat hair. Lots of cat hair. And strewn litter. And puke (lots of puke….more on that in a second).

I think I should first explain how we got to five cats, as that number is always met with a lot of surprise. Well, the cats had a way of finding us as strays. And then we got really attached to them.

But with a great big ‘ol cat family comes great responsibility. There’s no real shortcut here for all of the tasks needed for how to keep a house clean when you have several cats, but I have some helpful recommendations on how to reduce some of the pain.

Disclaimer: If You Own Cats, Don’t Expect Your Home to Be Fur-free Always

I feel like many cat owners (or dog owners) would understand why I put that little disclaimer up. Part of having pets (whether cat, dog, hamster, etc.) is that some of their DNA is going to end up around the house. There’s no getting around that. But, don’t worry, you can minimize it!

And don’t be hard on yourself. : )

To Keep a House Clean with Cats, Ensure Your Cat Also Has a Clean Bill of Health

Before we cut to the tips section, instead of fighting hair or accidents on a daily basis, it’s important to take active steps to try to reduce all of this in the first place.

I would recommend you first make sure all is well with your cat underneath the hood first. If your cat sheds excessively, it could be an indicator of a larger problem. Elderly cats tend to struggle to groom away excess hair due to joint or weight issues. Cats that vomit excessively may have kidney problems or may be able to switched to a hairball diet. Cats eliminating outside the litter box can be having a stress response or some condition that is much more serious. I am not a vet, but I’ve had cats with all of the above issues.

So, if all is well with your kitty’s health, or you’ve worked with your vet to manage any problems, then you can embark on keeping your house a sparkling, mostly hair, litter, and urine-free zone.

Shed Reduction: Feed Your Cat a Good Diet

A lot of your cat’s health is affected by the food it eats. Although no one should be forced to feed their cat the most expensive premium diet, there is a difference between bottom-shelf grocery store food and a mid-grade food. When we first got our fur-babies, it was obvious they had been on a diet of cheap food or table scraps, but once they were consistently eating a better food, we noticed a huge difference in the amount of shedding.

Shed Reduction: Brush Your Cat, If Your Cat Will Let You

This is a habit that has to be started early. Since a couple of our cats were much older when we adopted them, they had not been accustomed to being brushed, and so will still hiss and bite when we try, so we are somewhat limited.

However, I am able to use the Furminator on two of our short-haired cats and a different wire-type brush for the long-haired cats.

Ultimately, brushing really does help, and is a form of bonding with your cat, but don’t beat yourself up if you have a cat that just doesn’t enjoy it much.

Photo of orange tabby cat being brushed. Brushing your cat is part of several suggestions for how keep your house clean with cats.
Photo credit: Cottonbro at Pexels

Home Setup: Consider Your Home Interior and Furnishings (but Don’t Go Crazy)

Don’t go and throw out your couch and your curtains, but do know that surfaces of fabric or upholstery are going to attract fur no matter what. If you happen to be in the market for a new couch, and it drives you crazy to brush fur off daily, consider vinyl or leather that could easily be wiped off with a damp cloth. If you’re remodeling, for flooring, you could switch from carpeting to hardwood or tile.

I’ll be honest, I would love to have hardwoods everywhere, as they’re so much easier to maintain, but the sound of clomp-clomp-clomp all day would drive me crazy, so we opt for carpeting in some areas.

What do we limit as much as possible, though? Curtains, especially the heavy ones that drape close to the floor and pick up everything. If you can limit window draperies, you are eliminating a good amount of work, as fur is going to float upward and stick to them every. single. time.

Opt instead for blinds, plantation shutters, or woven wood shades, which only need to be wiped down with a microfiber cloth or a long dusting tool. I have some bamboo shades, and I love them.

Tools: Invest in a Good Vacuum, and Commit to Using It

Vacuuming. Agghh. It’s a chore most of us dislike.

There are hundreds of vacuums on the market, and I’ll spare you any reviews for now, but a higher price tag may not always get you better results. What matters is that you purchase something that you like to use.

Some like a big, powerful machine with tons of suction; others want lightweight and maneuverable; others some combination of both. The point is that you use it a few times a week if you can, and that it’s something that you can easily pull out without a whole lot of fuss.

If this sounds overwhelming, don’t fret.

If you’re in a time crunch during the workweek, hit the very high traffic areas only. It might only be a room or two. And when you have a bigger block of time, do a more thorough cleaning. Look at where your cats hang out most, and that’ll be where you focus.

It sometimes helps just to have a couple of options, too.

For example, I use my old (ok, ancient) upright vacuum for whole house vacuuming, a narrow, lightweight one for getting into smaller areas and for spot or single-room jobs, and this other battery-powered one for wooden stairs, baseboards, and for any stray litter I find around litter boxes.

If the expense of more than one vacuum cleaner worries you, there really are some deals to be had if you’re patient and willing to look. Our other two vacuums were purchased for virtually nothing from Craigslist and only needed a couple of dollars worth of replacement parts!

Tools: For Hardwood Floors or Tile Sweeping, Microfiber Mops Are the Best Value

My closet used to be a graveyard of past purchases of those frequently advertised sweepers that require you to order extra disposable pads or special cleaner. As someone who is now kicking myself over a ton of money wasted, I would encourage you to just not bother.

Instead, get yourself a decent-sized microfiber mop like this one, with a machine washable head.

I like the O-Cedar brand linked above because the head is wide enough to run over a large span of floor in no time. The microfiber heads (the fluffy side) pick up the very fine cat hair that tends to float as tumbleweeds across your floors.

Since we have five cats, we do have to run this sweeper over our high traffic areas every other day or third day, but it saves us from having a pile of vacuuming to do later.

I’ll note here that some probably own hardwood floor vacuums. Since I don’t own one, I can’t speak with any expertise, but the point is to use what works best for you and use it on a regular basis.

Area 1: Living Area Couch and Chairs

Though some cats like to sleep in their own personal cat beds, ours love to be wherever we are at all times. If you want to protect your couch, you could buy something like this couch protector, or if you have some plush microfiber blankets, which I swear are a total cat magnet, you can put those down.

But that’s not a 100% solution for fur on the couch. Cats are kind of crafty, and they always figure out whatever system you have in place and how they can break it!

So, you’ve tried “protecting” the couch, yet fur still ends up on the couch. Now what?

Believe me when say that I think I’ve tried every special fur/lint roller and tool, whatever the latest Amazon or Buzzfeed-hyped item was, and I’ve pretty much been dissatisfied with them all. Sticky rollers are fine, but many brands aren’t sticky enough and I can use up half the roll on a single couch.

Just get these Evercare brand super sticky rollers instead. The end.

The rollers used to be available at Target, but stocking was inconsistent, so I now order them in large quantities from Amazon. These rollers use nearly half the sheets of other brands, so they are well worth the money. If they stop making these, I’m not sure what I’ll do!

With a few swipes of this roller, we can usually clear a lot of fur off the couch.

Area 2: Litter Box and Litter

Although litter can probably be found sporadically throughout our place, I’m pretty impressed that it isn’t actually everywhere underfoot.

First off, I hope everyone reading scoops the litter box often. No one likes a dirty toilet! If you’re reading this post, you probably are, and you’re likely more worried about the big stuff, such as litter tracking, dust, and odor.

Litter Choice is Important

Investing in the right litter and litter box has helped us save tremendous amounts of time.

This is the part where I get very “old school,” but hear me out. Wait for the bold font!

Your litter must clump quickly so as not to spread and crumble throughout the litter box and move around more odor, and it must be as low-dust as possible.

Every cat is different, but our cats do not like scented litters at all. The pine pellet litters broke down and created specks of sawdust everywhere. Everywhere. My cats sank down in the wheat litters and would sneeze constantly.

I also tried an automatic litter box that first came on the market years ago which made a sound that literally woke the dead, and don’t let me go into the details about what happened when that automatic machine scooped an episode of diarrhea through its comb-like scoop. Yuck.

All that is to explain that while there are all kinds of arguments for different types of litter, unscented clumping clay works hands-down the best for us. Dr. Elsey’s is our favorite and it’s pretty affordable for a 40-pound bag—a little more than $20 a bag at big pet supply chains. The granules are a bit bigger, so that might explain the lower dust, and I think our cats like the way it feels on their feet versus the other types on the market.

Photo of litter scooper in litter box with clay litter inside. Clumping clay unscented litter is the best litter to use to keep your house clean when you have cats.
This is the type of clumping clay litter that we use. No scents, no colors.

Litter Box Choice is Equally Important

On to the The Box.

The litter box setup is pretty important also, because after all, your cat should want to actually use the box.

Get the biggest litter box you can find with the tallest sides, with no “hoods” or tops. We use something similar to this one. A box this size allows you to put a healthy amount of litter inside the box, which I’ll explain in the next section. For Elevator-Butt-Pee-ers and Litter Kickers, some cat owners even use large storage boxes with a door entrance cut out, but be careful to choose one that has smooth edges and bottoms versus grooves. Dr. Lisa Pierson talks about a litter box setup here using large plastic storage boxes, with some very detailed instructions. I encourage you to check it out; it’s a good read.

How to Maintain Litter and Clean Daily

Keep your very large litter box with about 4-5 inches of litter inside topped off at all times. That’s a lot of litter initially, yes. But what you’re trying to go for here is litter that is deep enough so that damp, soiled litter does not touch the bottom of the box, because the plastic will absorb any odor eventually. This is also going to reduce the number of times you have to swap out all the litter and to scrub the entire litter box, which I was doing very very often before I tried this method.

Note – If you’re still unsure how much litter to add, for reference, my 11-pound healthy cat pees about a pickle-ball-sized amount; so if a pickle-ball can touch the bottom of your litter box, you should add more litter. I only chose pickle-ball because that’s something around 1.5 golf balls. I don’t know anything about pickle ball. 🙂

Make sure your litter box is on an easy-to-clean surface like tile, wood, or linoleum in case there is an accident. To protect our floors even further, we bought a big square of linoleum from Lowe’s that we cut down with sharp lawn shears to about 4 feet by 4 feet and just rolled it out on top of our floor. You can sweep or wipe this down just like your regular flooring, or take it outside and spray it down if needed. You could probably get a little creative with linoleum colors to match your décor if you wanted! However, a low gloss, slightly rougher linoleum material works best, as it has more surface grip for both your cat’s feet and stray litter.

After each box scooping, use disinfecting wipes or a diluted bleach solution with paper towels to wipe around the sides of the box and to clean off the scoop. Doing this daily will prevent odor buildup.

We don’t use litter mats at the moment, because I haven’t found one that doesn’t suck! Fortunately, with Miss X-treme Litter Kicker, the linoleum catches most of the stray litter, and I usually come behind her later with my battery powered vac (linked above and below). I’ve heard of old rugs working pretty well; you just need to have the discipline to shake them out or vacuum them.

For Ease of Cleaning, Keep Your Tools Nearby

I usually keep my cleaning supplies close by the litter box: dust pan, a broom, pre-moistened disinfecting wipes or a diluted bleach solution, paper towels, and urine odor destroyer. This also ensures that you aren’t searching around for cleaning supplies if a small accident does occur. You can see the picture of my lineup below:

Photo of cleaning supplies that are kept by the litter box area. Supplies are a handheld vacuum cleaner, bleach water solution, towels, urine odor destroyer, carpet cleaner, disinfecting wipes, paper towels, a broom, a dustpan, and rags.

Discard Old Litter and Sanitize Regularly

Since you hopefully have considered a big litter box with deep litter by now, there is a point where you’ll need to dump the old litter and do a thorough cleaning. The timing on this is really going to depend, but if you put your nose over the box and the smell isn’t neutral, well, it’s probably time to dump the box, disinfect, and replace with new litter.

Area 3: Beds

Some of our cats really like to sleep on our beds, and they will have it no other way, going so far as opening the doors with their paws to get in the room. For a long time there, I was changing out our duvet cover like a some kind of madwoman.

Then (lightbulb!) I put down the same type of plush microfiber blankets that I used on the couch on top of our duvet, and the cats gravitated toward that to sleep on instead.

Hey, it’s all about compromise! I drop these in the washer weekly and it saved our duvet.

I understand there are some health arguments for not allowing cats (or dogs) into bedrooms at all. I’m not here to debate this one way or another. This choice is largely going to depend on whether it disturbs your sleep, if you have pet allergies, or in the case of indoor-outdoor cats, if there is risk of your cat bringing in parasites.

Other Stuff: Accidents, Hairballs, etc.

Hairballs are a fact of cat life, and our long-haired cat still vomits often in spite of his hairball diet and regular brushings. Woolite with Oxy pet stain remover seems to work the best for us, plus, it’s available just about anywhere. Although urine accidents are extremely rare for us, I’d suggest you have a urine odor destroyer available as well so that your cat does not try to come back to urinate on the same spot.

We keep a bottle of stain remover upstairs and downstairs, along with some throwaway cleaning rags, because I don’t want to have to wander all through the house searching for cleaner when there’s a hairball moment, which is always, like, right as we’re ready to turn into bed at 11 pm…

How to Clean a House with Cats – the Deep Cleaning Tasks

Generally speaking, we can only realistically get to the major chores on the weekends, and sometimes we just have to do a quick scan to see what needs cleaning. Here are some general things to look for to clean, especially when you have cats. The point is that you do this to the degree that it doesn’t become overwhelming, and this will all vary according to each person.

  • If you have fabric drapes, they should be pulled down about once every month to two months and washed.
  • While you are dusting, either weekly or every two weeks, inspect your blinds, ceiling fans, upper molding, door frames and baseboards. These dusting tasks can be time consuming, so I usually break them up.
  • Every few months or so, if you use portable fans, take a look at the blades and remove them for cleaning, so that you aren’t blowing around hair and dust back into your home. For tower fans with hidden blades, I used compressed air.
  • Check out any air vents, especially air intake vents for signs of dust and fur buildup. Use a wand or crevice vacuum attachment for these areas.
  • Use compressed air to blow out dust and fur inside nooks and crannies of electronics. This will also extend the life of your devices!
  • Don’t forget to look up! Light fixtures and bulbs will collect dust and “floating” cat hair.
  • Inspect underneath appliances like washers and dryers, behind the refrigerator, and under couches and beds, and use a wand or brush vacuum attachment to clean out excess fur. This can be strenuous and could involve moving heavy stuff, so ask for help with this!!
  • Tops of kitchen cabinets or tall furniture, such as an armoire or china cabinets, will trap all kinds of hidden things.
  • Use sticky rollers to remove fur from lamp shades.
  • Don’t forget how much fur can end up trapped in your car upholstery, only to end right back into your house! If you’ve recently taken kitty to the vet and you notice fur fuzz, vacuum the inside and wipe down surfaces with a moist microfiber cloth to avoid further tracking.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me! I know that was a ton of detail!

As to the products I have linked in the post, though there may be better alternatives to these products that I have yet to discover, these are the basic items that have been most useful to me through many years of cat ownership.

All that fur, all that litter, it is still all so very worth it.

Photo of two black and white cats relaxing on the couch. Even though the couch may have some fur on it, the extra daily cleaning needed is well worth the joy of having cats.
RIP Matilda (left) and Mr. Ultimate Carpet Shredder relaxing on the couch. Yep, there’s fur on there. And it’s totally worth it.

Tell me! What methods do you use to keep your home clean with cats (or dogs)? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!

Thoughts of endless yard work got you down? You might like this post.

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