If you share your life with multiple cats, you know that keeping your home sparkling clean and odor-free is vital for both you and your cats to be truly happy and thrive. Challenging the myth that multi-cat homes are dirty, smelly places with poop and fur everywhere, most multi-cat households are overseen by pet parents who bring their A-game to the task, work twice as hard as non-cat owners to keep their homes immaculate, and who consider the extra housekeeping chores more than worth it to have the charming companionship of multiple cats.
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By regularly and consistently following some simple cleaning guidelines and applying more than a little elbow grease, you can keep your multiple-cats home spotless, and virtually odorless, too.
Essential tools for cleanliness
Homes so clean you could eat off the floor are few and far between. And when you factor in multiple pets, it's not realistic to try to attain that ideal. But you can, indeed, have a clean home when you have multiple cats. That is, as long as you have the tools for the job, and are willing and able to do considerable housework. In a nutshell, here are the basic tools you need:
- Washing machine and dryer
- HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner
- Broom and dust pan
- Enzymatic cleansers
- Enzymatic laundry detergent
- Enzymatic urine odor-removal sprays
- Cat grooming tools such as combs, brushes, and slickers
Basic rules for a clean, odor-free home
The old Benjamin Franklin axiom, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." rings true for keeping a multi-cat house clean and fresh-smelling. Of course, "cure" is tantamount to "work."
- Preventing messes and offensive odors begins with spaying and neutering all your cats so they don't spray urine (male and female intact cats both spray), get into territorial fights, or produce more fur-babies, all of which can potentially create chaos, unsanitary conditions, and the incomparable stench of "cat-box aroma."
- Provide one litter box for each cat, plus one extra.
- Sprinkle baking soda into the bottom of each litter box, cover with fresh clumping litter, and scoop at least once per day. Empty and thoroughly scrub clean the litter box and refill with fresh litter at least once per month, and replace the entire litter box at least once a year since scratches in the plastic bottom trap odor-causing bacteria.
- Comb and brush your cats often. Even if recommendations for short-haired cats is once a week, multiply that by how many cats you have and a more frequent brushing schedule makes sense. The more stray hair you can remove by grooming, the less to go around your home.
- Provide enough washable pet beds/blankets for each cat and wash them at least once weekly.
- Avoid broadloom carpeting and rugs that will stain and absorb odors.
- Avoid fabric drapery/blinds which absorb odor, not to mention get ripped up by climbers.
- Clean up any accidents or messes immediately, particularly on soft furnishings like your sofa.
- Dust and vacuum as often as possible, even daily, to stay on top of cat hair and dander that accumulates on soft furnishings, tables, and floors.
- Wash floors in all the areas your cats frequent as often as possible. A quick mop-up on a daily basis is a good routine to fit into your day and removes odor-causing wet food debris and urine/feces odors tracked in by furry little paws.
- Launder bedding often if your cats relax and/or nap on your beds.
- Be acutely aware that you, too, can be nose blind and learn what to do about it.
Alternatives to rugs in multi-cat households
Eschewing carpeting and rugs and opting for laminate, porcelain, ceramic, slate, or any non-porous flooring is a no-brainer when you have multiple cats. But what if you're a diehard fan of rugs and a rug-bare home is not your style? The perfect option is washable area rugs such as Ruggables, a two-part rug system, that includes a top rug layer that can be tossed into the washing machine at least once a week to stay clean and fresh. Many indoor/outdoor rugs can also be washed outside with a solution of enzymatic cleanser-infused soapy water, then hosed down, and dried in the sun; it's best to avoid rugs with latex or rubber backing that can soak up odors.
Nose blind? How enzyme cleaners destroy cat odor
Nose blindness or sensory adaptation is a real thing, and something that pet parents of multiple cats often discover they have quite unexpectedly. It's embarrassing to be told that your house "smells like cats" by a family member or friend who visits, or even a stranger who has come to fix the plumbing when you didn't realize it yourself. Usually, the whistle-blowers don't have cats of their own, but no matter how you learn you are nose blind, you need to find a solution.
When you have multiple cats, the best way to prevent your home from smelling like a giant litter box that you may become nos eblind to is to use enzyme cleaners. Cat urine contains uric acid, which has a potent, offensive odor that settles into carpets, fabrics, wood, and other porous surfaces and can stink for years! Baking soda, vinegar, soap, and hydrogen peroxide may neutralize the odors temporarily, but the uric acid recrystallizes in humid conditions, thus the pungent odor returns with a vengeance on a hot summer day, for example; just when you least expect it.
If any of your cats have eliminated outside the litter box, soaking the affected areas with an enzyme cleaner and air-drying it completely allows the enzymes to break the uric acid into gases, which will dissipate and evaporate through the natural drying process.
Keeping a multi-cat household clean does take extra housework, there's no denying it, but keeping on top of your chores is essential for a comfortable home for you and your cats, and your visitors. And keep in mind, enzyme cleaners are your best friend when you have multiple cats.
Your cats should all be spayed and neutered to prevent urine spraying. Also, provide one litter box for each of your cats plus one extra, scoop daily, and replace litter boxes annually. Your housekeeping routine should include regular use of enzymatic cleansers/laundry detergents. You should wash pet beds and your own bedding at least weekly, dust, and vacuum often with a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner, and brush your cats often to remove loose cat hair. Avoiding carpeting, rugs, and fabric blinds/drapery and porous flooring such as hardwood as they readily absorb odors that can last for years.
Be aware that you can become desensitized, and adapt to cat-box odor, and to guard against nose blindness, clean up any accidents immediately with enzyme cleaner and air-dry the affected areas.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Preventive Vet: 7 Ways to Reduce Litter Box Smell and Messes
- Mythical Maids: How to Keep a Cat-Friendly Home Clean
- Sew Guide: Remove Urine Smell and Stain From Clothes
- Apartment Therapy: Just How Smelly Is Your Home. How Our Brains Ignore Everyday Smells.
- The Cut: Why Can't You Smell Your Own Home?
- Hills Pet: Getting Rid of Cat Odors for Good