Best ways to clean up after cats

From smelly litter trays to cat sick on the sofa, our feline friends can make just as much mess as a dog, given the chance. Here are the very best ways to clean up after cats so that your furry friend stays that way

Space Leggings by StarSeedTribe
(Image credit: PetFusion)

Looking for clever cleaning hacks for tidying up after your cat? Reputation-wise, cats do way better at keeping tidy then dogs do, but even the most fastidious of felines will leave messy footprints on the floors, the sofa and, of course, your bed. We'd hazard a guess that they're doing the same round various neighbours' homes that they've also ear-marked as their own... but luckily that's not your problem.

The best ways to keep your home clean if you're a cat owner is prevention as well as cleaning clever hacks – you don't have to try them all, but most will cut the time you spend cleaning, time that you can then devote to curling up on the sofa with the cat and a good boxset.

Here, we tackle prevention, cat sick, poo and wee (sorry), cat hair and muddy paw prints on carpets. Find more unmissable cleaning tips, hacks and advice on our dedicated hub page.

12 ways to prevent your cat making a mess

If you can prevent the mess the cat makes in the first place, you won't have nearly so much to clean up. 

1. Don't put the litter tray in the kitchen

We don't need to explain why, right? You obviously don't want it in the living room or bedroom, the hallway's not perfect and the bathroom's a no, which might make cat care a challenge if you live in a flat and your cat is regularly house-bound. But if you can get yours off a carpet, on to an easily washable floor type and near a back door or window, all the better.

2. Keep the litter tray clean

A litter tray needs the cat wee and poo removing as soon as you see it; the litter itself will need changing every couple of days. Never empty your cat litter tray into your kitchen bin – it needs to go straight outside. 

3. Get a cat food mat

Rubber backed mats will stay in one place, which means the food bowls should, too. Keep it as clean as you would your cat's bowls.

4. Find cat toy storage to keep the floor clear

A basket or bin is a handy place to keep your cat's toys and grooming kit.

5. Find a washable cat bed

That way, you can put it on a hot wash once a week. If your cat insists on sleeping on your bed, on the back of a particular chair or a particularly sunny piece of carpet, putting a washable throw or small rug in the right spots will preserve the furniture/flooring and allow you to keep them clean easily.

Space Leggings by StarSeedTribe

(Image credit: Etsy)

6. Keep the cat off your kitchen surfaces

Cats can be trained just like a dog, so show your disapproval when they jump up on to surfaces you'd rather they didn't and they'll soon learn.

7. Keep the cat's dinner out of the kitchen

Same problem as with the litter tray? We feel for you, but if you can get their food out of the kitchen and by a back door, into a utility room or somewhere else out of the way, they're less likely to venture into the kitchen in the first place.

(Image credit: Bruce Hemming)

8. Don't let the cat on the furniture or your bed

Cats, like dogs, suffer from fleas, plus most felines we know have brought all sorts of unmentionable half-dead animals into their homes – not something you want to come across when you get into bed or sink on to the sofa. What's more, if they are very young or very old, you might find faeces, urine and vomit there too... (sorry, people). Encouraging them into their own basket is way better but, we know, they'll almost certainly be where they shouldn't when you get home – unless of course you shut the doors to certain rooms.

9. Have a (not very expensive) sofa with washable covers

The cat doesn't care what you feel about your new velvet sofa. To them, it's a rather lovely new bed. So, if you are a cat owner, you might like to choose a sofa with washable covers. And don't spend too much on it if they like to use the furniture to sharpen their claws. 

A scratching post should help divert them, but it's not 100 per cent guaranteed. The Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge by PetFusion (top) is made from corrugated cardboard, which cats love to scratch, and is attractive enough (for both cats and owners) wave-like shape for even the most stylishly designed living rooms, we reckon.

10. Get serious about cat hair

Having a cat, especially if you have a carpet, isn't always practical, especially if you have enough friends with allergies. 

Why are so many people allergic to cats? They love to clean themselves, but when they lick themselves, their saliva forms dry flakes that are so light they become airborne. These flakes contain a protein that causes allergic reactions in some of us. 

Whether you have carpets or not, you'll want to invest in a vacuum designed especially to pick up pet hair (we've reviewed the best ones) or a cat that doesn't shed. 

Our fave vacuum for pet hair is the Dyson Light Ball Animal Upright Vacuum Cleaner. It's flexible, lightweight, powerful, and comes with attachments to make your job easier. If you're after a cordless model, the incredibly powerful Vax Blade 2 Max is your best option. More on cleaning up hair below.

11. Wipe cats' dishes with a thin film of vegetable oil

Doing so can reduce your cat's dry-skin dander and will make their food dishes easier to clean. 

12. Immunise and flea-check on a regular basis

And get your cat a flea collar, too. 

How to get cat vomit or faeces off a carpet, sofa or bed

We really, really hope you never have to do this, but... cat vomit and poo, just like that of people, does make the occasional appearance indoors when you're kitty is not well, and needs cleaning up fast if it's not to leave stains.

First pick it up (using our guide on cleaning up vomit without actually touching it will make that easier), pour soda water over the stain being careful not to soak the area. Now blot with kitchen roll; then repeat until the stain is no longer visible. 

If you don't have soda water, you could spray the stain with white vinegar diluted with an equal part of water; allow it to soak in for 15 minutes, after which blot with kitchen roll until it's touch-dry. Repeat until the stain has disappeared. 

Another good method is to mix a tablespoon of washing up liquid with an equal measure of white vinegar and two cups of warm water. Sponge it on to the stain, then blot thoroughly.

With the stain removed, put anything machine washable on a hot cycle (check the care label). If the stain is still visible, don't use hot water on it or it will set. Instead, repeat your chosen cleaning method again.

How to get cat urine out of a carpet, sofa or mattress

Cat urine causes a surprisingly strong odour, and the complex salt crystals in the uric acid are insoluble in bleach and disinfectant, which is why these two cleaning solutions won't remove the smell. 

Before you begin working on the stain, check your upholstery's care labels. If you are unsure, and particularly for velvet, silk or antique upholstery, it will be best to call in a cleaning professional.

Begin by soaking up as much of the urine as possible with kitchen roll (press down on a carpet with an old shoe; with rubber gloves on a sofa or mattress). 

With an equal mix of water and white vinegar, wet the carpet/sofa/mattress and work it into the stain with a soft brush. Blot with kitchen roll until touch dry. 

Next, cover the stain with a paste made with cold water and a gentle enzyme-digester laundry product (care label allowing). Leave for half an hour or until dry, then vacuum up. Dab at the stain with cold water until all of the laundry product has been removed. Once you are happy that you have removed it, blot and allow to dry. Use our guide to cleaning up urine for more tips.

How to clean up cat hair

If your cat loves the sofa/bed/your home office chair/your favourite jumper, you'll need some quick and easy cat hair removal ploys. Here are our favourites:

Have a roll of masking tape or tumble dryer sheets to hand

If your cat's hair is all over the house, having either of these handy is useful for de-hairing quickly. 

Try a squeegee (yes, really) to pick up ground-in hair on the carpet

You've probably got one of these in the bathroom, right? Run it across a hairy carpet in at least three directions, and see even stubborn hair lift.

Dampen the carpet before vacuuming

If you spray the carpet a little with water before you start vacuuming, you'll get more hair up with less effort. If you're refreshing your carpet anyway, once it's dried out and you've vacuumed, sprinkle over baking powder, leave for 30 minutes, then vacuum up. Find more carpet cleaning tips in our guide.

Pick up cat hair fast from hard floors using a damp mop

No time to vacuum or just need a very quick fix? Try it and see.

Grab cat hair from furniture with rubber gloves 

The cat hair clings to them as you stroke your hands across the furniture with the gloves; if the gloves are a little wet this trick will work even better.

Find more tips for cleaning up pet hair in our dedicated guide.

How to get muddy paw prints off a carpet, sofa or duvet

Cats are much less likely to do this than dogs, but if yours has left paw prints, here's what to do.

Let the mud dry (you can blot with kitchen roll to help this along). Then, vacuum uo any remaining mud. Next, blot the carpet with warm soapy water on a white cloth; if the cloth starts to look dirty, swap to a clean cloth. Continue until the stain has disappeared, then blot dry with kitchen roll. 


More cleaning tips:

Lucy Searle

Lucy is Global Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens having worked on numerous interiors and property titles. She was founding Editor of Channel 4’s 4Homes magazine, was Associate Editor at Ideal Home, before becoming Editor-in-Chief of in 2018 then moving to Homes & Gardens in 2021. She has also written for Huffington Post, AOL, UKTV, MSN, House Beautiful, Good Homes, and many women’s titles. Find her writing about everything from buying and selling property, self build, DIY, design and consumer issues to gardening.