The Home, Family & Pets

How to Make Your House Cat-Friendly and Still Design-Forward

We have five cats. I know. Where do I even begin with this conversation? Usually, people say “Oh I’m not a cat person, but your cats are awesome!”. And they are. I can’t even argue.

Over the course of the past ten years we have acquired our herd of cats (let’s just call it what it is). Two we adopted from a cat rescue down the street from our first apartment. The next two we adopted for my parents a few years later, but they ended up bonding with our cats so that brought us to four…and then last year we were at Costco and found a two-week-old kitten in the parking lot which tops us out at five.

So yes. You could say, I know cats. Part of my life’s mission is to get more people to like cats and adopt animals in general. Cats seem to be misunderstood and labeled as cold and unfriendly.

But they aren’t. All of my cats have ever been… dog-like? They come and greet you. They play fetch. They love to visit with people. When the Costco kitten was ultra little she did the DC hotel, bar and restaurant scene on a leash.

Now that I’ve made it completely obvious I’m a cat lady, I want to assure you however deep you get into the world of pets it doesn’t have to look like you have a zoo in your house. We are design minimalists. We like space. We like structure. So except for the fact the five cats are right by our sides at all times, you probably can’t tell we have cats in the house.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Focus on using functional, aesthetically pleasing items that aren’t specifically pet-marketed.

You are not required to buy everything from a pet store. We use neutral, natural materials that are often multi-purpose. For cat beds, we have a small sheep rug we bought in Denmark and a basket. It’s actually the same style basket we have throughout the house for blankets or other little groupings of items.

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And the cats LOVE IT. For water dishes, we use elevated matte black dishes that match our matte black hardware. You could also just use beautiful ceramic bowls. You don’t have to buy a cat-shaped plastic dish.

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2. Implement a cleaning routine.

People always comment on how odd it is to see all five cats together on the couch on Instagram withe everything looking so tidy around. It’s actually not that hard. While part of this is because of the decisions we’ve made for storing items, we have a cleaning routine that takes less about 10 minutes.

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For litter boxes, we have top entry boxes that don’t look like litter boxes at all. I clean them twice a day, change their water, wipe down all surfaces and then vacuum. Never underestimate the power of a vacuum. That includes vacuuming the couch.

3. Make smart material choices.

We have hardwood floors instead of carpet which can trap dirt, fur, and dander. We have blankets in their basket that are easy to throw in the laundry. And again, we vacuum all the time. We also don’t have wood caning on furniture or sisal carpets because it’s too similar to the texture of a scratching post. Part of making good choices is about acknowledging what could be confusing for cat behavior (so why set yourself up to get mad?).

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4. Buy a tall scratching post.

If you don’t have a tall scratching post you need to buy one immediately. Our cats only scratch their post, never furniture. Cats have a need to stretch their long muscles, so don’t opt for a two-foot post and don’t get mad if they’re ruining your couch if you haven’t provided appropriate places for them to scratch. Place the post in an area you spend a lot of time (ours is near where I sit in the living room). Cats also use scratching as a marking tool, so they’ll want to mark near where their ‘person’ is.

Part two is trimming their nails. I’m not saying start this on your five-year-old cat, but when you have a new kitten, start this process. We have ‘pedicure day’ every two weeks with tiny cat nail clippers and it makes us all a lot happier.

5. Store cat items in a single location.

Store nail trimmers, brushes, catnip spray, food, medication, etc in a box or bin in the closet or cabinet. Having a landing spot for everything makes it easy to know where out of place items live.

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6. Practice acceptance.

Stop trying to make things work in your home that your pets keep messing up. Pets are kind of like roommates and there are things you have to accept going into that living situation relationship. For example, if you have a black cat it’s time to accept the fact that your white couch will always be covered in noticeable fur.

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So you can make it part of your routine to vacuum or lint roll (we seriously buy lint rollers in bulk) or buy a slipcover. If your cat loves to sit on a specific spot on the coffee table, stop putting stuff there and getting mad if they knock it over.

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One cat habit that was driving us crazy was the 4 AM wake up. The cats aren’t doing that because they’re jerks. It’s because cats fall into a category of animals that exhibit crepuscular behavior (active during dawn and dusk hours). It’s totally natural and I can’t be mad at nature. To solve the issue, we bought an automatic cat food dispenser timed for the 4 AM wake up. It makes them happy, we get to sleep in (and honestly often times the cats come back to bed after a snack).

7. Play with them!

Don’t ignore your cat. Cats need stimulation whether it’s a bird feeder at the window, or tie with a ball or laser pointer. If your cat is acting out, it’s because their needs haven’t been met. Take this time to teach them fun tricks (ours come when called and one of them can play fetch). The more you bond with them and exercise them, the happier they will be and the less they’ll conspire to murder your plants for attention.

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Cats are fantastic companions! Hopefully, a few of these ideas will bring you both a happier home.

Looking for some other ways to keep your home clean with pets?

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