woman napping with cat
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Cleaning Up After Kitty

Your fabulous 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 kitty goes outside, place a washable cushion where they go in and out to catch muddy paws.

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cat cleaning paws
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Keeping Your Cat Clean

Cats do a good job of cleaning themselves, but yours may need a bath if they get really dirty -- or if someone in your house has allergies. Start by trimming your cat’s nails to prevent scratches. You can do it yourself with cat nail clippers -- ask your vet to show you how. Brush your cat to remove loose hair or mats. Use only shampoo for cats or kittens and keep water out of their face and ears. Dry them with a towel or blow dryer on cool. Give them a treat at the end, so they’ll start to associate a bath with something pleasant.

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cat scratching ear
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No More Fleas and Ticks

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

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vacuuming cat hair off of carpet
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Get Fleas out of the House

If your cat brings in fleas, it’s time for serious cleaning. Vacuum every day, including upholstered furniture, cracks in the floors, and along baseboards. Then replace the vacuum bag or wash the canister in warm, soapy water. Wash or replace any bedding where they sleep (including yours), and consider steam cleaning your carpets. Use a flea comb on your cat, and then treat them with flea meds. Flea sprays are better than flea "bombs" to treat your home. Always check to make sure any home treatments for fleas you use are safe for cats. And be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

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close up of cat litter
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Loving the Litter Box

Cats are creatures of habit, even when it comes to their litter. Some 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 2 to 3 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.

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cat in litterbox
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Litter Box: Location, Location, Location

Like people, cats want 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 level of your home. Keep them away from hot or loud appliances and noisy kids. Cats have sensitive noses, so keep smelly litter far from their food.

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man carrying cat
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When Accidents Happen

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

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snarling house cat
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Why Do Cats Spray?

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

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hand holding cat food
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Keep Food Safe

Both people and animals can get food poisoning from spoiled 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 you feed your cat. Keep their food and dishes away from areas where you prepare and serve your meals.

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kids and cat hanging out on couch
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When You're Allergic to Your Cat

As long as your allergy’s not serious, you don’t need to give up your kitty. Keep them out of your bedroom, and buy bedding made 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 talk to a doctor -- preferably a cat lover -- about medicine that will help.

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close up of cat paw with claws
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Should You Declaw?

Declawing is much more serious than 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 them. There are easier options. Cats need to scratch, so give yours scratching posts and toys. Teach them what’s off limits by using a squirt gun or noisemaker, not by yelling or swatting. Discuss declawing with your vet. They can give you all the cons as well as a complete list of alternatives.

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cat on dining room table
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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 bite, or if a scratch gets infected (red or swollen). Always wash your hands with soap after you clean litter boxes. If you’re using litter that can’t be flushed, throw away scoopings in sealed plastic bags.

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cats on floor with baby
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Cats and Babies

Give your cat time to get ready for a new baby. Let them explore the nursery and get used to new smells like baby lotion. If you have to move their litter box, do it gradually. Let them get comfortable, but don’t let them 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 your baby’s asleep to keep kitty out.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 07/19/2021 Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 19, 2021


1)    Dornveek Markkstyrn/Flickr
2)    Gitpix/Flickr Open
3)    Stephan Ohlsen/Flickr
4)    Vstock LLC
5)    Damien Moore/Dorling Kindersley
6)    Vstock LLC
7)    Steffen Egly/Flickr Open
8)    Benjamin Torode
9)    Diana Lee Angstadt
10)    Cheyenne Glasgow/Flickr Open
11)    Ingram Publishing/the Agency Collection
12)    Fotosearch
13)    Stephanie Deissner/F1online


ASPCA: "Are You Allergic to Your Pet?" "Bathing Your Cat," "Cats and Babies," "Grooming FAQ: Do I Need to Bathe My Cat?"
CATalyst Council: "CATegorical Care: An Owner’s Guide to America’s #1 Companion."
CDC: "Cat Scratch Disease," "Diseases from Cats," "Pet Food and Treats --Tips for Keeping People and Pets Healthy and Safe from Salmonella."
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP, The Cat Doctor, Inc., Atlanta, GA.
Environmental Protection Agency: "EPA Evaluation of Pet Spot-On Products: Analysis and Mitigation Plan," "Taking Care of Fleas and Ticks on Your Pet."
Gill Chilton, consumer expert and author, Cleaning & Stain Removal for Dummies.
The Humane Society of the United States: "Allergies to Pets," "Cat Care Essentials," "Declawing Cats: Far Worse than a Manicure," "Marking Territory," "Preventing Litter Box Problems."

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 19, 2021

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE VETERINARY ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your pet’s health. Never ignore professional veterinary advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think your pet may have a veterinary emergency, immediately call your veterinarian.