House cleaning tips for a new pet-owner
December 10, 2023 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm the new owner of a long-haired cat, and I am seeking advice on how to keep my home clean. I've only had her for a month or so. I clean assiduously, but my apartment feels so. much. dirtier. Pet-owners, please share with me your tips.

I mean things like:
- enzymatic cleaners that actually work. I've tried Nature's Miracle and Simple Solution on my cat's barf, but I can't for the life of me get the barf stains out of the carpet - and my cat barfs a lot. Less since she's been put on a different food by the vet, but she still does it a few times a week. The stains are really noticeable. Should I invest in a spot cleaning machine for carpets?
- tips for keeping on top of the hair. She is a fluffy white cat. There is white fur EVERYWHERE in my flat. I feel like I am vacuuming constantly. I groom my cat as much as she'll let me (she doesn't like being groomed). Puffs of hair seem to float off her and embed themselves into the carpet, onto the sofa, inside the cupboard (where she doesn't even go).
- There's other... like... random debris? There's always bits of litter and morsels of dry food (??) just randomly lying around.
- keeping on top of the smell. I feel anxious about living in a smelly home and going nose-blind to it. I'm very good about cleaning the litter, so I don't know what else I can do. Ever since the cat got switched to vet-prescribed food for sensitive tummies, her poop is just a lot stinkier. I used to love lighting scented candles but I've stopped doing that since getting the cat. I also think I read somewhere that cats hate scented room sprays.
- I pay for a regular cleaner, but even she has commented that the place gets much dirtier between cleaning sessions.

Living in a place that feels dirty doesn't feel great to me. I don't regret having my cat. Temperamentally she is such a great fit for me and my life feels so much better for having her. But she does generate a TON of dirtiness. I'm not GREAT at keeping my place clean but I've got better with time, I do a lot of random 5 minute cleaning bursts over the day, which made a big different prior to getting a cat but now I'll spend all that time labouring fruitlessly over one barf-stain, or vacuuming the place only for it to get covered with fur again overnight.

I'm sure there are tips and tricks that seasoned pet-owners know that won't have occurred to a noob like me. Please share your secrets.
posted by unicorn chaser to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
We have a german shedder (shepherd) and the thing that has saved my sanity is a roomba. Got it on a holiday sale so it was only around $300 I think and while it's not perfect it does really cut down on how much I need to vacuum.

We also have a hepa air purifier. Doesn't totally cut down on odor but previously the area where the dogs are crated at night always smelled like dog and now it only sometimes smells like dog.
posted by MadMadam at 8:15 AM on December 10, 2023 [7 favorites]

Ditto on the air purifier, or if on a budget, a box fan with a big filter taped on. They do help with pulling some of the fur out of the air!

And ditto on the robot vacuum! One you can program to run daily can really help with the floors.

Stinky poos are tough to deal with, and honestly the only real fix is higher-quality food. In your place, I would switch to a wet food to stop the barfing (I'd smoosh it on plate to avoid kitty eating too fast) and would pick one that's no carb & gets about half the calories from protein. Carbs = stinky poos and very high fat = stinky poos. HOWEVER I am not a vet. I do not know why vets persist with selling certain foods that seem less than ideal but I did not go to vet school!

Scented candles are fine, used in moderation. Wax is hard to get out of cat fur (yes I know from one horrible experience) so you want to make sure it's not in a place kitty will go zoomies across. Essential oils are the real big danger for cats. Cats hate citrus btw. I'd just avoid candles around kitty's particular areas, like litterbox, food & water, and favorite spots.
posted by Baethan at 8:21 AM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

(1) I use a top-entry litter box (example) to help clean my cat's paws as he exits the box. It has an exit with a grated area, the idea is their paw pads will spread over the grate and some litter bits will fall out. Also having a vertical opening prevents them from kicking litter out when they're burying their business or exiting the box.

(1.5) I also use a specialized mat underneath the litterbox to help catch stray litter (example). My cat is very boisterous and litter still gets out, but I think the combo of top-entry box + mat reduces the problem at least.

(2) I solve the barf issue (and make the hair a bit easier to clean) by living in an apartment with hard floors. So no advice there, other than to choose somewhere without any carpet if you do ever move. It's so much easier to clean up hair, random bits of detritus, and barf when you have hard floors.

(3) I use World's Best Cat Litter, Multiple Cats even though I only have one cat. I think this helps with the smell. I also just scoop immediately -- I find I don't get a smell if I stay on top of scooping, and then if there is a smell after scooping it means the "clean" litter that's left has finally absorbed the pee and poo smells and it's time to dump the entire litterbox and start fresh. For this reason, choosing how much litter to put in there is a balance. Too much litter and more gets stinky before it can be fully used. Too little and the cat can't bury their waste. An additional option are litter smell-absorbers that you can sit nearby the box (like a jar candle but without a flame). There are also rechargeable electric deodorizers and wall plug-ins for the same purpose. I haven't tried any of these, but sounds like they'd be worth a shot for you given your floof is having stinky poo issues! Personally, I would never use any of the smell absorbers you add directly to the litter. Those seem super sketchy to me for the cat health-wise, although you can definitely ask your vet what they think if the other types aren't working for you.

Probably also worth asking the vet about the stinky poos if you haven't already. My cat can't eat kibble for a variety of unique medical reasons, and he had really stinky poos until I switched him to a fancy raw food -- but I don't know your cat's specific health issues!

Also, FWIW, I do light candles just to enjoy the gentle scent (not to mask litter smell -- I fix that by scooping and/or changing out all the litter as discussed above). The candle scents have never has bothered my cat. He will still follow me of his own volition into a room with a scented candle burning and curl up near me with no sign of discomfort.

(4) I use a silicone mat with raised edges under my floofy boi's food bowl because he likes to drag his raw meat food out of the bowl and eat it on the floor. The food mat has solved this particular gross issue! Would also be good for catching water drips and kibble bits.

(5) I haven't found a great solution to the "everything I own is coated in hair" problem. Here's what I do:
- I have a specialized reusable hair-removal lint roller that works way better than the sticky ones on stuff like furniture, especially when there's a heavy coating of hair. Bonus is it is indefinitely reusable and doesn't produce trash! Caveat is it doesn't work nearly as well as the sticky ones on floppier items like clothing, so I also have an army of strategically located disposable sticky lint rollers for my clothes.
- I find that my clothes come out of the washing machine with hair on them, so now I do my best to buy clothes, bags, etc that don't attract cat hair, or at least camouflage cat hair (this will vary with the color of your cat, but maybe a heathered gray will help hide white hairs? My cat is brown/orange/black/light brown, and so I cannot wear solid black or dark navy blue unless it's very cat hair-repellent or I lint roll for a solid eternity -- but grays are fine, as are greens, and many other colors.) With some fabrics (ex. black velvet) I know it will be a cat hair magnet. With others it's hard to tell ahead of time but also if I'm shopping in person, sometimes the salesperson will also have a cat and will own the particular garment themselves and can give me honest feedback on whether it's a massive hair-attracter or not. This is how I ended up with some awesome insulated black leggings I use for winter bike commuting that don't catch hair (and that keep my legs pretty dry in the rain!).
- I also keep a lint-roller in the truck and my bicycle pannier, and lint-roll myself after I leave the apartment so more hair can't get on me.

I too vacuum regularly and have a cleaning service once a month, and still feel like my apartment gets grimy a lot faster than I'd like. My cleaners told that it's just a fact of life and all their pet owners' places just get dirtier way faster. :-/ I recognize this may sound demoralizing! Like sometimes I find a cat hair in my salad because it floated down from the aether and landed there D-: So if anyone else has any magical tips for eliminating the constantly replenished coating of hair everywhere I'd love to hear them! (Tips that aren't "get a Roomba", because I'm not sure a Roomba would be effective in my space. Although, OP, although maybe a Roomba would work great for you!).
posted by cnidaria at 8:56 AM on December 10, 2023 [4 favorites]

Oh, and it might be worth checking if there are any cat-specific groomers in your area! Mobile cat groomers are the best option if you can find a good one who's taking clients. I get my cat's butt and groin area shaved every three months for sanitary reasons ("sanitary trim") and it has made both of us *much happier*. A groomer should also be able to do a big brush-out, especially for shedding season. And good cat groomers use you as part of the grooming team to help calm the cat and make grooming more effective if you've got a squirmy kitty who is not having it.
posted by cnidaria at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

Oh hi. We've had four cats for years and have learned how to deal with it, but slowly the composition changed and now three out of four cats are long-haired...and it's basically a cat hair disaster here all the time. Some recommendations:

For your rugs: yes, use the enzymatic cleaner to start with the enzymes. Then use Folex to actually deal with the stain.

For the hair: we are new converts to this, which is amazing. You can also definitely have a bunch of the regular pet hair roller things like this.

Also for hair + random debris: a swiffer or something like it, used frequently.

The smell: well, the key is to keep the litter boxes clean, all the time. Every time there's a poop, get it out of there ASAP. We use pine litter, and guests have repeatedly said "This doesn't smell like a house with four cats." Depending on where you live, you may be able to purchase horse bedding at a feed store that is made out of the same pine nuggets and is much cheaper.

Also try accustoming your cat to being brushed. If you get her to enjoy it lightly at first, you can then slowly graduate to deeper brushing with a high-quality brush which is gonna pick up a lot of her hair.

Good luck!
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:00 AM on December 10, 2023 [4 favorites]

Is cat actually barfing, or are they hairballs? Or maybe it was both, and that's why it's only partially solved?

Hairballs are a different thing that isn't going to be changed by the food. Reallly regular brushing and hairball stuff might get you some more improvement.

Also, those - I don't know what they're called - brush-like things that attach on corners that cats can rub themselves on. If they're ones fur will stick to, that's exactly what you're looking for.

Also, those fur removers that look like paint rollers with a skinny roll - those work well for.
posted by stormyteal at 9:49 AM on December 10, 2023

All the above are great suggestions. I would add that regarding the candles, you don't want fire danger, so having a place where you can have safety with an open fire is critical. I don't burn many candles because I'm too lazy to light them, but when I do, I've given up on trying to put them high enough to be in a safe place. Instead of caging the cats, I cage the candle. I have a small, think bathroom size, perforated metal wastebasket that's heavy enough that the cat can't knock it over, and deep enough that the candle can't scorch the top. Something like this or this. Weird, but seems to work.

Seconding having the cat groomed professionally several times a year. Because your cat isn't fond of grooming, a through grooming can be done by someone the cat doesn't have to live with, while you get to be the kind and loving cat servant. Plus, you don't have a major mess in your house every time. You might try different grooming tools for keeping the hair down to a reasonable level between groomings. It may not be something that does a thorough job, but anything is better than nothing. Ours hate brushes but don't mind being petted with a grooming glove. I can gently pet the floofs on the back and hold their tail loosely as they walk away. That part is a game. NOT the tummy! You must respect the tummy and leave it alone. Legs are also out. I've never had much luck with metal combs and brushes, and rubber brushes with tines pull too much. My cactus cloth horse grooming glove doesn't do a whole lot, but they like it, and it was a start to the rubber glove.
I have a face/body scratcher that mine use, which gets dirty, and I need to scrub occasionally. Keeps the wall edges from getting dirty with oils from rubbing. There's this interesting self-groomer--as well as others, if you google.
Cover seating areas where the cat sleeps with a comfy, fuzzy, hair attracting blanket, and remove it when you sit on the couch, etc. Just don't forget to replace. You can wash fairly frequently after brushing it first. My cat beds are made of cardboard boxes that I put fuzzy blanket pieces in that are changed frequently and can be washed also. I kept aluminum foil on the table and counters to discourage them from getting on them, and apparently it worked well enough that they're trained to stay off.
Changing work clothes and putting them away as soon as you get home helps.
You do get used to it, somewhat.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:00 AM on December 10, 2023 [3 favorites]

(1) Enzymatics -- they work, but they're mostly intended for pee and you need to use a lot. Like, for dog pee anyway, you should expect to use at least as much enzymatic as the amount of offending piss. Probably more than once.

(2) Spot cleaner -- won't hurt but if you have carpets you might as well check prices between those and a Bissell Big Green. Personally, I wouldn't bother with a smaller/lesser shampooer. The Big Green will pull the most amazing filth from your carpets.

(3) Vacuuming -- get a roomba or a couple of roombim if you have parts of your dough-micycle blocked off. Get ones that self-empty. Doesn't help with the upper level of floofs.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:12 AM on December 10, 2023

For the barfing - is there hair in barfs, even if there is also food in them? If so, get Cat Lax. It helps any swallowed hair break down. If that's causing some of the barfing, it will make a big difference.
posted by coffeecat at 10:17 AM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Try brushing your cat when she is already snuggling with you or sitting on your lap. Cats groom one another as a social bonding behavior, that they primarily do when one of the has already started bathing and another decides to help, or when they are already choosing to spend time physically close together, like for example when they have decided to curl up together to get ready for a nap. It's weird for one cat to come up to another cat and just start grooming out of context. And therefore it's also weird from her perspective for you to come up and just start brushing your cat while she's minding her own business not actually trying to have a bath or a nap. Also, you'll probably need to try like 5 or 6 different brushes and combs and gloves such before you find one that your cat actually likes. Some cats just love being brushed and don't care if you're doing it at an odd time or doing it with a tool that isn't their favorite, but that's not the norm. Cats who seem like they don't like being brushed usually actually specifically don't like how or when you are doing it.

If you have wall to wall carpet, I'd skip the spot cleaner and go straight to an upright steam cleaner. You'll be amazed at how much dirt a steam cleaner will get out of your carpet (and some of it will have been there before the cat, honestly). If you only have area rugs then a spot cleaner will definitely make your life easier, but it's also usually possible to get stains out with a regular spray carpet cleaner like Resolve or something. The enzyme cleaners are great at removing odors but not as good at removing stains.

Make sure you are washing things like throw blankets and throw pillows and comforters and sheets and such really often; those fabric surfaces can collect cat hair and then redistribute it to the floor, your clothes, etc. if you're not cleaning them a lot. This is something you can turn to your advantage though. I actually encourage my cat to sit on throw blankets on the furniture because it's easier to wash a throw blanket than to lint roll an entire couch.
posted by BlueJae at 10:45 AM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Pet enzyme cleaners are for urine odor. Removing a stain is a different issue, and barf is a different issue.

Yes you should get a carpet spot cleaner. It's a pain to store, and I recommend habitually storing it on some kind of tray in case it leaks in 12 years, but it is worth it. However, you should check with your friends to see if anyone has one they can loan you.

Cutting her fur, especially around her rear, will probably help a lot. Long-haired domestic cats aren't built to be fine without some kind of human intervention, I think.

If you're lucky, you might be able to train yourself and her to make grooming more enjoyable. Get good at reading her feelings (if you aren't already - but it takes a little focused effort). Then start slowly teaching her that grooming is awesome: brush/groom her just a tiny bit, then give her treats and extravagant praise. Then brush/groom her a tiny bit more, treat.

If you do get her hair cut, you can use the grow-out time to do this grooming retraining more easily. You can just groom her for very very short times at first, so that association with the treat becomes stronger -- AND she might actually enjoy a short one-or-two-stroke brushing, espcially if there aren't any tangles. Once she's into it, you might be able to slowly increase grooming time until she's loving it.

However - if her fur has a lot of tangles, it might hurt if you're trying to comb them out depending on the method. I'd try to research how to best groom long-haired cats: look for videos, maybe books, maybe ask your vet. Maybe there's some kind of detangler you can use.

Oh: if you haven't tried a grooming glove previously, I highly recommend them. Grooming my foster cat becomes like an extended petting session, and he is CONSTANTLY asking me for this.
posted by amtho at 11:06 AM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

My cousin solved the smell issue with an automatic self-cleaning litter box.

She also has a large deodorizing HEPA air purifier for hair and smell. Amazon has many air purifiers on sale right now - just make sure the one you get uses a filter that also deodorizes.

She told me her cat hasn't coughed up a hairballs since she started giving her cat Churu cat treats. She gives her cat one tube of Churu hairball control per day. Her cat loves it.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 11:40 AM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Here are some things I do:

- I bought a bunch of extra sheets. I use them to cover the couch and the bed during the day. This way the cat hair goes on the sheets, not the furniture. They are easier to wash and switch out. You can find them at cheap prices at thrift stores, and I think you can find buy them individually so you can just get top sheets.

- I've been using this litter for about 20 years, even though I only have one cat: Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat. People have commented that they can't smell anything, even though I have a small apartment and the litter box is in the kitchen.

- I raised my cat's dish a few inches off the floor. I think I read somewhere that this helps keep them from barfing up their food.
posted by I_carried_a_watermelon at 12:04 PM on December 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

Also, I got a litter box with high sides. That has seemed to help with the litter spread immensly.
posted by I_carried_a_watermelon at 12:05 PM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm worried that if I keep recommending this product on AskMe people will think I'm a shill, but the embarrassingly named My Pet Peed was a miracle for the set-in urine stains left after many many rounds of enzymatics and carpet shampoo, and is supposed to work on any organic stain (though I have not tested this myself). We also use a Neater Feeder to avoid the flung-around kibble and water situation, though our dog has gotten some table manners as she's aged—here's one for cats.
posted by babelfish at 1:49 PM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

We have two cats and a dog and it's unbelievably dirtier than it was with just two humans. This is what we do when we are doing our best, it's not always possible to do all of this stuff.

We vacuum the kitchen and bedroom (where the cats mostly hang out) every day with a Dyson and other rooms every few days. For smells, we take the cat poop out every morning (on the dog's first walk), use crystal litter, and change the entire box out every week. We do a lot of laundry, especially of pet blankets and towels and often use enzymatic detergent, and also launder the curtains regularly. We have a carpet cleaner wetvac that gets used every month or two on one area rug or another that has gotten mucked up more than one too many times.
posted by twelve cent archie at 2:13 PM on December 10, 2023

If you don’t already use dryer sheets in your laundry, they will help repel cat hair. I always thought they were stinky and useless, but using half an unscented sheet per load does make a difference. You can supposedly just rub them on your clothes while you are wearing them to repel static and fur but I haven’t found this to work too well
posted by genmonster at 3:11 PM on December 10, 2023

The enzymatic cleaners are not stain removers, unfortunately. For stains, you need Folex. I never found the spot cleaners that effective and ended up getting rid of mine, I found Folex enough. Of course, YMMV. If she's got a sensitive tum, is Churu okay? I found it helped my psychotic cat let me clip his claws a lot when I taunted him with it if he would let me just do one more claw, then Churu.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:54 PM on December 10, 2023

Roomba for cat hair floofs plus hardwood floors. We’ve also trained her (mostly) to sit on a fluffy couch throw if she’s on the couch, which is easy to wash. She likes the texture and will sometimes “groom” the blanket. We also have the pet hair Dyson and a washing machine with an allergy mode setting.

Really the roomba is the main thing, with a daily or weekday setting. Note that you will have to keep on top of vacuuming corners it can’t reach as pet hair also makes a lovely meal for moths.
posted by ec2y at 8:01 PM on December 10, 2023

I keep a dustbuster in the bathroom to vacuum up kicked litter. We use a furminator brush on our cats to deal with the shedding. They seem to like it so it's not a tussle. Keeping litter boxes clean helps.
posted by leslies at 8:17 PM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Nobody seems to have mentioned the Gonzo Pet Hair Lifter Sponge. Really great for the bed - it ends up rolling up the attached cat hair into an easily trashable wad.

Also, you aren't using a Furminator to brush your cat are you? Those pull and appear to really hurt - my cats hate them. They love a slicker brush though.
posted by bluesky78987 at 6:04 AM on December 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

Don't know about Simple Solution, but Nature's Miracle is riding on its former credibility after changing the formula. It sucks now! There's a brand called Anti-Icky Poo and also a few others that are closer to the original Nature's Miracle formula, and don't just use fragrance to try to mask the issue.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:06 AM on December 11, 2023 [2 favorites]

I struggled with grooming my long-haired cat until I switched to one of these deshedding type brushes. (That's not the one I have but it's like that.) The Furminator, combs and others were hated. He tolerates it for about 5 minutes -- rather than 5 seconds for the others -- and it really reduces the fur he leaves lying around.

We have a small carpet cleaner for treating spots which helps too.

For fur on furniture, I've tried the sponge, scraper thing and others -- which all work reasonably well. But my favorite is a roller, like this. It's super quick and you don't have to empty it each time.

Re. barfing, it's gonna happen... but I found that my cat would chew up and swallow hair ties. (And indeed plastic occasionally.) Making sure there's nothing around he can chew and swallow reduced barf incidences.
posted by NailsTheCat at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2023 [3 favorites]

Re: barf/hairball stains, I put down small area rugs (like bath rug size) in the zones where the cats are most likely to yak up things. It's way easier to throw a towel-size object in the washer with some generic oxyclean than labor fruitlessly at getting the stain fully out. There's a stain that I really hate and I just covered it up with an area rug for peace of mind. There are also larger washable area rugs if that fits with your set up better (the 4 ft by 6 ft I use under the dining table).

I use an old school analog carpet sweeper on the area rug I've placed by the litter boxes as a litter trapper. I don't have a dustbuster and my partner is sensitive to noise, so having a non-electric carpet sweeper is great and and it picks up the litter pieces very well.

This pumice-stone like object called Fur-Zoff is amazing at lifting fur off of carpets (MeFi recommended).

Nth-ing the suggestion to get a HEPA air filter. I usually leave it on at the lowest level but after one of the cats lays a stinker, will turn it up to the middle setting.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:05 PM on December 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

Folex is the best spot cleaner you will find. Cheap at the hardware store. My mother's cat puked regularly and there were never stains.
posted by Enid Lareg at 3:33 PM on December 11, 2023

People routinely tell me that you'd never know cats lived in my apartment (except from their many toys, cat cactuses, and cat trees). I do a number of things that have been mentioned above: air purifiers, blankets or sheets on couches, top-entry litter boxes, litter mats, and silicone mats under food. I also have one not-so-secret weapon I haven't seen mentioned: Pretty Litter. If you want, you can use my referral link to get a free bag. I can say this litter is well worth the price, because each bag lasts a month or more, it completely reduces any scents, and it also gives you some indication (with a color-change feature) if your kitty is ill. Otherwise, my trick for various kitty-emitted goo on carpet is to scrub with Seventh Generation multi-surface wipes. It disinfects the spot and usually takes care of most of the staining.
posted by limeonaire at 8:44 PM on December 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, I'm an adherent of Ruggable rugs. I don't wash them as often as I ought to—I have a few soiled ones bagged up that I need to take to the laundromat—but being able to wash them sure beats having to buy new rugs when kitties do stuff like scoot across them or vomit on them. They're not always perfect; I had to get rid of a round one whose rubber base started to shed a lot of rubber bits at one point, and that one was a pain to align again when I put the fabric top back on. But the 2.5- by 7-foot runners have held up well and have been good for my hallways.
posted by limeonaire at 8:52 PM on December 11, 2023

Rugs and fluffy cats don't go well together. I got rid of all of mine.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:07 AM on December 12, 2023

Zorbx spray is an unscented odor remover that we find works very well, instantly, for stinky cat poop. Our ruggable rug hardly ever goes in the washer since it’s under heavy furniture, but cat barf and hairballs haven’t stained it even though all we do is rub spots with soap and water. It’s like cleaning sort of fuzzy plastic.
posted by daisyace at 5:17 AM on January 3

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