Winning the Battle Over Dirty Litter Boxes and Endless Cat Hair

Managing Cat Clutter

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  • Cats are absolutely wonderful furry companions, but as any feline fan can tell you, despite their personal cleanliness, indoor kitties can create a bit of a mess around the house. There’s the feeding area, the dreaded litter box, and of course the endless deposits of cat hair all over your home.
  • Here we offer five tips for staying on top of kitty clutter, starting with the all-important placement of the litter box, and why we recommend a good-size litter mat.
  • Other recommendations include giving your cat her own blanket or quilt, which also functions as a cover to cut down on fur-lined bedding and furniture. Daily grooming can go a long way toward reducing the amount of hair your cat sheds, and quick pickups are best done with a handheld vacuum. (But they’re no substitute for weekly dusting and vacuuming chores.)

By Dr. Becker

Any cat lover can tell you that while kitties make wonderful companions, they often create quite a mess in the household. Between the litter box, the feeding area, and all that shedding, it can quickly start to feel like you’re living in your cat’s house instead of the other way around.

If it seems as if you’re spending all your free time cleaning up after Tiger, don’t despair. Here are a few tips and tricks for keeping up with cat clutter than can make the chore much easier and less time-consuming.

1. Find a Good Litter Box Location

For most people, the litter box is hands-down the least pleasant aspect of being owned by a cat. And if kitty is an accomplished litter kicker, you can wind up with more mess outside the box than in it.

Place the litter box on hard flooring instead of carpet. Linoleum, tile, and wood floors are all much easier to clean, and you’ll also avoid grinding litter into your carpet. Cleanup on bare floors is easy – just sweep up the escaped litter and sanitize the floor as often as necessary.

Some cat owners put the litter box in the tub in a spare bathroom that is infrequently used. If your cat is able to jump in and out of the tub comfortably, this could potentially solve a lot of litter mess cleanup. Most of the litter will be contained in the tub, which you can easily rinse out and scrub as needed.

Whether your litter box is on a bare floor or in the tub, it’s a good idea to invest in a litter mat big enough to be secured under the litter box, with at least 6 inches exposed in front of the box. This will be the first surface your cat touches coming out of her box, and it will catch some or most of the excess litter clinging to her paws and between her toes. Each time you scoop the litter box (which should be done at least once a day, with a full cleaning and litter replacement once a week), carefully pick up the litter mat and shake the excess back into the box.

Litter mats come in a wide variety of sizes, materials, and textures, so find one that will be easy for you to clean as needed.

2. Give Your Cat His Own Blanket(s)

Designate one or a few blankets or quilts as “for the cat only” and cover the areas where kitty likes to snooze – your couch, the bed, or even a favorite spot on the floor. This will cut way down on the cat hair that collects on your furniture and bedding, and you can clean Fluffy’s blankets with a lint roller or hand-held vacuum (or a regular vacuum with the right attachment). You can also throw it in the washing machine and dryer as needed. Try to select blankets or quilts in easy-to-clean, natural fabrics that haven’t been treated with flame retardants.

Another trick you can try is to throw your cat’s blanket (or any fabric that collects cat fur) in the dryer on low or no heat for 10 minutes. This can loosen up the hair, making it easier to remove either in the washing machine or by some other method.

3. Set Aside a Few Minutes Every Day to Brush or Comb Kitty

If your cat will allow it – and many kitties really enjoy it – spend 5 or 10 minutes brushing her coat each day. Not only is it a good opportunity to interact with your cat, it can do wonders in cutting down on the amount of fur she deposits around the house. You’ll also be improving the condition of her coat with your daily brushing sessions, and as an added bonus, you may find that little hairball issue also disappears.

4. Invest in a Handheld Vacuum

Instead of having to drag your upright or canister vacuum out of the closet every day (or more often), imagine just grabbing your little lightweight handheld vac for quick pickups of litter, cat hair, or bits of food on the floor. You probably wouldn’t think twice about it, right?

To make this an ideal solution for quick cleanups, consider buying the best-quality, most powerful handheld you can afford.

To remove cat hair from upholstered furniture, you can try using your handheld vacuum, or a lint roller. Or try this trick: pull on a pair of rubber gloves, dampen them slightly, and wipe your hands across the furniture to lift up the cat hair. Rinse the gloves as often as necessary and keep at it until your furniture is no longer fur-lined. (Then go get your designated cat blanket we discussed earlier and drape the furniture before kitty has a chance to settle back in.)

5. Dust and Vacuum Often

It’s a fact of life that dusting and vacuuming chores must be done frequently when you share living quarters with pets. In order to keep your home clean, it needs regular attention. Cat hair and stray litter can quickly take over your living space, and it’s so much easier to stay on top of it than to let things slide. Developing a weekly dusting and vacuuming habit will make your house a more welcoming place for all members of the family and guests. And when those inevitable situations arise where you’re pressed for time and kitty leaves a mess, a quick spot-cleaning will take care of it.

By the way, most furniture polishes contain petroleum products that are toxic, and furniture polish sprays pollute the environment in your home. As a safe alternative, I recommend a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Use two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice. Apply it to your furniture with a soft cloth, and then follow up with a clean dry cloth. This will leave a clean, fresh scent in your home.

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