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Slideshow: Tips for a Clean Home and Healthy Cat

Cleaning Up After Kitty

Your fabulous furry feline may think cat hair is the ultimate accessory. If you don’t agree, start by getting a good vacuum cleaner. Look for one with strong suction that has a pet hair attachment. Don’t forget to vacuum chairs and curtains. Wear wet rubber gloves and run your hands over your cat’s favorite spots. Brush tape, sticky-side out, over your clothes. Buy pet bedding that’s easy to clean. And if your cat goes outside, place a washable cushion where she goes in and out to catch muddy paws.

Keeping Your Cat Clean

Cats do a good job of cleaning themselves, but yours may need a bath if he gets really dirty -- or if someone in your house has allergies. Start by trimming your cat’s nails to prevent scratches. Use cat nail clippers and ask your vet to show you how if you're nervous. Brush your cat to remove loose hair or mats. Use only cat or kitten shampoo and keep water out of his face and ears. Dry him with a towel or blow dryer on low. Give him a treat at the end, so he’ll start to associate a bath with something pleasant.

No More Fleas and Ticks

No matter what type of flea prevention you use -- spot-on-the-back, flea collar, pills, or shampoo -- follow directions carefully. Don’t use adult products on kittens, and never use dog products on cats. Whether prescription or over-the-counter, don't touch treated areas until they're dry.

Get Fleas Out of the House

If your cat brings in fleas, it’s time for big-time cleaning. Vacuum every day, including upholstered furniture, cracks in the floors, and along baseboards. Wash or replace any pet or family bedding where she sleeps, and consider steam cleaning carpets. Use a flea comb on your cat, and then treat her with flea meds. Flea sprays are better than flea "bombs" to treat your home.

Loving the Litter Box

Cats are creatures of habit, even when it comes to their litter. Some cats like the clumping clay kind without a scent. Try a little baking soda on the bottom to help with odors. Scoop litter at least once a day. Dump it all out and wash the whole box once or twice a week for clay litter or every two to three weeks for clumping. And while you may like liners and covers, your cat may disagree. Liners can interfere with scratching. And, to cats, covered boxes can stink like port-o-potties.

Litter Box: Location, Location, Location

Like people, cats appreciate a little privacy when they’re doing their business. But they also like to keep an eye on their surroundings. Tuck boxes out of sight but make them easy to reach, preferably at least one per floor. Keep them away from hot or loud appliances and noisy kids. Cats have sensitive noses, so keep smelly litter far from their food.

When Accidents Happen

Cats would rather use a litter box, so accidents are a sign something’s wrong. If your cat’s upset about a change in your home, give her a little extra TLC. Don’t yell or punish her, or you’ll make things worse. Accidents also can be a sign of medical problems like diabetes, kidney disease, urinary tract infection, or arthritis. Get her checked quickly before missing the box becomes a habit. Use an enzymatic cleaner to treat spots.

Why Do Cats Spray?

Spraying urine is how both male and female cats mark their territory. The urge is strongest if your cat hasn’t been fixed, so try to neuter or spay cats by age 5 months before spraying starts. Stress can make your cat spray. So can scented cleaners, if your cat wants to cover the strange smell. Feed or play with your cat in areas he’s prone to mark. Keep likely targets -- new things, guests' belongings, and items your cat has already sprayed -- out of reach.

Keep Cat Food Safe

Both people and cats can get food poisoning from pet food, so treat your cat’s food like you do your own. Don’t buy damaged packages. Store food in sealed containers. Refrigerate leftover wet food right away. Replace dry food every day. Wash your hands well after feeding your cat. Keep kitty’s food and dishes away from areas where people food is prepared and served.

When You're Allergic to Your Cat

As long as your allergy’s not serious, you don’t need to give up kitty. Keep her out of your bedroom, and get bedding for people with allergies. Use air cleaners with high-tech filters. Special anti-allergy room sprays can clear the air, too. Avoid dust-catching rugs, curtains, and cloth furniture. Clean your house (and cat) often. Better yet, get someone else to do it. And see a doctor -- preferably a cat lover -- for allergy medicine.

Declawing Your Cat

Declawing is much more serious that just removing a cat's nails. It usually involves taking out the last bone of each toe and can mean a life of problems for your cat. There are easier options. Cats need to scratch, so give your cats scratching posts and toys. Teach them what’s off limits by using a squirt gun or noisemaker, not by yelling or swatting.

Can Cats Make You Sick?

It’s rare for healthy people to get sick from touching cats. Wash scratches and bites right away with water and mild soap. Always see a doctor for any cat bite, or if a scratch gets infected. Always wash your hands with soap after cleaning litter boxes. If you’re using litter that can’t be flushed, throw away scoopings in sealed plastic bags.

Cats and Babies

Give your cat time to get ready for a new baby. Let your cat explore the nursery and get used to new smells like baby lotion. If you have to move the litter box, do it gradually. Let your cat get comfortable, but don’t let him nap on the nursery furniture. Cats cuddling up next to newborns can make it hard for babies to breathe. Close the door or tent the crib when baby’s asleep to keep kitty out.

Cat Lovers Guide to a Healthy Home

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on September 20, 2012

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