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4 Tips for Sharing Your Home With Cats

You don't have to surrender your living space to your cats. Here's how to coexist peacefully.

 |  Jan 7th 2013  |   10 Contributions


We often hear people say, “I love my cats, but I don’t want to look like I live with cats.” They don’t mean they want to hide their cats in the closet when guests come over. They mean they don't want a beige-carpeted cat condo, a scratched-up couch, cat hair and toys everywhere, and a stinky litterbox in the living room. 

It’s time to take the stigma away from living with cats and change people’s ideas of what “looking like living with cats” looks like! It doesn’t have to mean existing in a stinky, chaotic living space filled with ugly carpet. However, it does mean realizing that you do share your space with the fuzzy creatures you love, who have some basic needs. 

Mikel and her kitty.

Let's review the basic household accommodations for your kitty and how to make them more pleasant for humans, while still keeping your cat happy.

1. The litter box

This one is non-negotiable, folks! If you have cats who spend ANY time indoors, you should have at least one litter box. Would you want to live somewhere where there wasn’t an indoor bathroom (or even a bathroom on every floor)? Your cat doesn’t want to, either.

In an attempt to make litter boxes more acceptable to humans, companies have created fancy cabinets and plant holders, which somewhere deep inside have a place for your cat to eliminate. Our advice: Save your money.

With litter boxes, the simpler, the better. Photo by Sarah Donner.

The problem with enclosed cabinets is that they are very cramped for the cat (especially considering how much space these contraptions take up), trap odors (making it easier for you to forget to scoop), and can make a cat feel trapped -- an important consideration for multicat households.

A large, basic, uncovered litterbox is best. Put it somewhere accessible and quiet -- bathroom, office, kitchen, or living room. Shoji or other tri-fold screens can provide a visual barrier if the box is placed in a common area.

I hear the complaints welling up: “But it will smell!” Not if you keep it clean! The box should be emptied and scrubbed regularly, and you should scoop litter at least once daily. There are litter "genies" that make cleaning easier and allow you to scoop right after an “incident” if the need arises. Placing a litter box inside a large, open storage container with an entryway cut in it can help with tracked litter. 

2. Cat furniture

It may seem pricey, but a cat tree you and your cat love is a long-term investment. Cat furniture has so many benefits: It much more vertical territory without taking up much square footage, especially important for active cats and multi-cat households. It gives your cat an appropriate place to scratch –- preventing that shredded couch! -- and a place to play. Cats love to be up high, and cat trees can prevent behavior problems such as countersurfing.

Many clients protest that their cats love to hang out on the couch with them, which is no doubt true -- but the cat may see it more as sharing her couch with you. Cat furniture gives them a space they don’t have to share with anybody.

Pete Plumley designs spectacularly fun cat trees.

A concern we hear from clients is that cat trees are ugly. They don’t have to be. Many companies now make beautiful, modular cat structures incorporating natural wood. There are many DIY guides online that allow you to choose the style and color.

Pick something tall, sturdy, and with at least one or two posts that have a three-foot-high scratching option (preferably sisal). The tree should have three or more perches at different levels. Fleece and velour are good alternatives to carpet to provide cozy spaces to hang out. 

Your cat wants to spend time where you spend time, so don’t hide your cat tree in the back office or basement where no one else hangs out. Placing a cat tree in a sunny window in the main living area is a perfect way to guarantee feline happiness.

Many attractive cat shelves and hammocks are also available. You can also take advantage of existing spaces in your home to create more “cat space.” Try clearing off the top of a dresser and placing a fleece pad there. 

3. Cat toys

Perhaps your living room has so many fuzzy mice toys on the floor it looks like pepperoni scattered on a pizza.

To keep your cat happy, you don’t have to have toys everywhere. While toys are great, you’ll actually find solo play toys more effective if you rotate them, taking a few out at a time and putting the rest away. One week, you can have a few mice out; the next week, put the mice away and bring out one or two ping-pong balls, and so on. Catnip toys lose their efficacy if left out all the time, so it’s best to store them in a jar of loose catnip and only bring them out occasionally. 

Playing with the cat on your couch -- or playing with the human on the cat's couch? Feather toy on couch with Shutterstock

Interactive toys such as feather wands should be used daily with your cat, but they should always be put away after. Food puzzles can also be a regular source of entertainment.

4. Cat hair

We admit this is a tough one. Regular grooming (try the FURminator brush!) helps, and be sure to have lots of those anti-lint rollers around. You can “direct” where some of that hair goes by having washable cat beds, fleece pads, or blankets on your furniture. A heated cat pad is guaranteed to attract most cats and keep them hanging out in specific areas. Unfortunately, you are going to have to sweep or vacuum regularly, but by encouraging your cat to spend more time in certain areas, you can reduce the damage.

We hope these tips help you keep your home looking sharp. Perhaps one day, saying “you look like you live with cats” will be a compliment!

Mikel Maria Delgado is a certified cat behavior consultant and worked as a full-time cat behavior specialist at the San Francisco SPCA for several years before co-founding Feline Minds

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