One of the biggest struggles pet parents tend to face, especially when living in a small space or city apartment, is keeping their place looking and smelling clean. Unfortunately, living with your beloved feline can invite unwanted odors and unsightly proof that you’re a pet parent, which is not always well-received by those stopping by to visit.
I take great pride when someone enters my apartment and doesn’t realize I have a cat until he, Manny, presents himself to my visitor. As much as I love my furry feline, it’s comforting to know that I can enjoy his company along with others without feeling self-conscious about the odors, fur and stains that can come with indoor pets.
Here are six secrets to keeping your house—big or small—clean that I can no longer keep to myself. If you follow my lead, you can keep your place looking spotless and feeling fresh at all hours of the day, too.
1. Stop Litter in Its Tracks, Literally!
No matter what type of litter box your cat has, the tracking of cat litter itself always will be something you must keep on top of for a clean home. But there are ways to help hide the amount of litter that leaves the box.
Did you know there was such a thing as a cat litter mat? Well, people, they exist, and let me tell you—they get the job done. I use the All-Absorb cat litter mat. It’s the same shade of gray as Manny’s litter, which is great for discreetly trapping his litter if I don’t get a chance to vacuum the area before expecting company.
2. Mask Smells with Odor Eliminating Products
The trick to masking odors is to hit them hard right from the start, the moment you notice it yourself. And the only way to get rid of the smell is to pinpoint where the smell is coming from.
I’ve caught Manny venturing over to the living room carpet, following his trip to the litter box, and tracking some of his business in with him. Despite getting the stain out, there’s a fear of that lingering odor that you can’t see, but you can definitely smell. My secret weapon for situations like those is the Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh carpet odor eliminator powder. I simply sprinkle the scene of the crime, wait about 15 minutes or so, and vacuum away. It’s basically a miracle product in my household.
If I’m expecting guests, I’ll also light a Pet Odor Exterminator candle for a serene aroma that fills my small space quickly. An added bonus is that it helps my guests forget that I share my bathroom with my cat altogether! If you have a large space, consider lighting up several candles in different areas of your home to cover the entire area. (Just be sure to supervise your cat to make sure he doesn’t go near the candle or place the candle in a spot he can’t access.)
3. Disguise the Litter Box
A litter box can make a space appear unhygienic if it’s exposed. I personally don’t want to have to see where my cat does his business, and I have a feeling my visitors would appreciate not knowing as well.
One of the best ways to hide an unsightly cat litter box is to disguise it within a piece of existing furniture. There are tons of tutorials available online that show the step-by-step process of turning an everyday end table into a litter box hideaway.
If you don’t have the time, or the inclination, to take on a project (I feel you!), then you can purchase a litter box cover designed to look like a piece of ordinary furniture. I’m a huge fan of Manny’s cabinet-style litter box cover from Merry Products because it fits perfectly in my bathroom and doubles as a small accent table.
The Booda Scoop’n Hide litter scoop I have matches the litter pan cover almost perfectly, disguising itself in a way that makes displaying it an OK thing to do.
4. Bring the Bag to the Litter, Not the Box to the Trash
One of my most trusted secrets to disposing litter quickly without creating a mess is scooping the cat litter into a plastic shopping bag that I collect from my weekly grocery store trips. There are two reasons why I opt to scoop the litter into these bags, instead of depositing it right from the litter box into my trash can.
First, these plastic bags act as a barrier for both the litter smell and leakage. When you scoop litter directly into the trash (without a bag) it can start to smell very foul, very quick. Depending how often you take the trash out, you’d benefit from buffering the smell with a plastic bag. From experience, I’ve learned that “wet” litter can seep through those trash bags pretty quickly as well. By placing litter into the plastic bag first and then depositing into the trash, I avoid the chances of it smelling and leaking substantially.
Second, plastic bags are great for small, last minute “kitty visits.” Whenever I’m expecting company and finally feel like I have a clean house, Manny decides to visit the litter box right before they arrive. It’s like he’s doing it on purpose to drive me crazy! Luckily, I can scoop his small, last-minute litter deposit into a plastic bag and throw it in the trash without skipping a beat.
5. Reduce Pet Hair Tumbleweeds with Regular Grooming Sessions
One of the best ways to limit cat hair on your furniture is to groom your feline often, especially if you have a long-hair cat like I do.
At least once a week, I use the Hartz Groomer’s Best combo brush on Manny to help remove any loose hair and to tidy up his undercarriage, which can get a little matted without proper attention. I appreciate that this double-sided brush has two bristle types. One side looks like an ordinary hairbrush that you’d use yourself and is great for getting knots out gently. The other side looks more like a soft horse brush, and I use it to smooth out Manny’s fur once the tangles are out.
Manny also gets a bath and professional grooming twice a year when I notice his hair needs some extra attention that I’m not capable of handling myself.
Regularly grooming your cat won’t eliminate all evidence of cat hair on your furniture or in your home, so I use the FURemover pet hair removal lint brush.
It works wonders for those moments of uncontrolled shedding.
6. Store Food, Cleaners and Toys Out of Sight
Keeping clutter concealed goes a long way toward creating a clean and tidy space. Designate a spare cabinet where you can hide all the items your cat needs, from cat food and brushes to cleaners and litter. Plus, having everything in one location makes it easy to access what you need, when you need it.
For toys, I want Manny to be able to reach for them if I’m not around to inspire playtime, so I found a small chicken wire storage bin that matches my apartment interior to store and organize his cat toys. It’s placed on the lower shelf of my media stand and is open for him to reach in and grab a toy of his liking as he pleases.
If guests pop-in, the bin is nice enough for me to leave out. However, if I wanted to hide Manny’s toy bin, it’s compact enough to easily be placed in a storage closet.
By finding the perfect spot for your cat’s belongings, it makes cleaning up after your cat easy and quick because every item has a special place in your home.
Now that you’ve learned all of my tried-and-true ways to keep a clean house while cohabiting with your feline friend, I hope you receive compliments left and right, like I do, from all future visitors about your fresh and spotless home.
Tilden Brighton is the founder and influencer behind life and style blog, To Be Bright. She lives in New York City with her 9.5 year old cat, Manny, who’s been her roommate since 2009 when she rescued him at 7 weeks old during her Freshman year of college. Follow her on Instagram at @tobebright.