Can You Be Clean AND Frugal in a Multicat Household?


If you admit to others that you have a multi-cat household, you may get a ton of questions about cleanliness or cost. I’ve heard them all. But I can tell you that in our six-cat household (a mixture of Humane Society adoptees and animals abandoned in the countryside), it is possible to have a clean house and not spend a fortune.

My parents are over the top as far as frugality (my father) and cleanliness (my mother). The older I get, it becomes more apparent that I can’t escape genetics. I like to think (or hope) that I combine the best of the qualities of both of my parents without being too eccentric. You be the judge.

Here’s what I do to smoothly run a household with six cats without spending a fortune, as well as try to keep the house as clean as my engrained DNA demands.

1. Have a small living space

We lucked out here in a number of ways. Less square footage means less to clean. If you’re like me, you want everything clean all the time. A big living space would probably drive me crazy because I would feel out of control.

The cats don’t seem to mind — they prefer to be near us instead of spreading out over the entire house. If we’re sitting on the futon, they’re all piled on us. If the woodstove is going (and that’s much of the year in northern Minnesota), they’re cuddled in front of it. You’d be amazed how well six cats can get along in a small space if they have what they need and like.

2. Use a good vacuum with a HEPA filter

Some of you will say this is not frugal, and you might be right — but my Dyson is the best $400 investment I ever made. It really sucks up the cat hair from the carpet.

My husband and I have minor cat allergies, but don’t even need to treat them because of the good job this vacuum and HEPA filters do. Sometimes you need to spend money up front to save money. I’m sure I would have gone through several less effective vacuums in the same time period, and they would have frustrated me because they wouldn’t have done as good a job.

3. Better yet, avoid or get rid of your carpet

Carpet hides a multitude of grossness, even with repeated vacuuming. Additionally, some of the fire-retardant chemicals in carpet or furniture have been linked with hyperthyroidism in cats. When we have the funds, we’ll tear up the carpet that still covers a third of our floors. Hardwood or hard flooring is much easier to keep clean, especially when you’re dealing with cat hair and vomit.

4. Clean often

Stay on top of it! Like keeping your desk clear or keeping the dishes washed, cleaning often will save you time in the long run. It costs nothing and if you’re anything like me, it’s relaxing!

Don’t waste your money or sacrifice your health on commercial cleaning products, which could harm you and your cats. In our house, I use only Free and Clear dish detergent for washing the floor (or cleaning the toilet and bathroom) and a damp rag for dusting. And I do lots of vacuuming. I haven’t used commercial cleaners in years, and I won’t in the future.

5. Clean cat boxes daily

You like a clean toilet, don’t you? So does your cat! Keeping up on on the cat boxes keeps them cleaner in the long run, and it also makes your supply of cat litter last longer. That’s important to me, since I live in a very rural area and getting litter means driving a distance.

6. Use the frugal scooping method

I’ve never used clumping litter, preferring the nonclumping stuff. A frugal veterinarian once showed me a trick that really saves cat litter and mimics what clumping litter does.

Use a small garden trowel. Without shaking up the litter box too much, carefully scrape the litter that’s been urinated upon into one pile, and remove. The trowel is perfect for this — I do it every morning and am able to save a lot of litter that hasn’t been urinated on yet, making it all last longer. (I’d recommend not using the trowel in the garden afterward, especially if you grow vegetables.)

7. Brush your cats often!

Hey, if the brush picks up the hair, then it won’t get on the floor in the first place. If you’re lucky, some of your cats will love to be brushed. My Turkish Van, Kieran, shuts his eyes and wiggles his butt in bliss when we brush him. He comes running when I take out the brush. Plus, it’s good for cats’ health and one more way to bond with them.

8. Practice preventive health care

There are no guarantees when it comes to your cat’s health, unfortunately. But doing the basics like keeping up with annual exams, teeth cleaning, and vaccinations can possibly save you mega dollars.

If you’re like me, go even further and take advantage of some of the excellent foods now available, feeding your cats the best food possible. It’s like making the decision to eat locally grown or organic food. What seems like a lot of money up front may save you health headaches and heartaches later.

I find frugality and cleanliness work together in a household with cats. What about you? Have any cleaning tips, especially ones that mean big savings down the line? Let us know in the comments!

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