After feeding an orange cat — who my roommates and I named Whiskey — for a few weeks during my senior year of college, I decided to do right by the kitty and formally adopt him. But after following the sweet cat "home" to an abandoned shed on my neighbor's property, I learned some new information: not only was Whiskey indeed a she, but she was a new mom who was trying — and failing — to take care of the few kittens she had left.
Fast forward four years, and I'm living in an 800-square-foot apartment with Whiskey, whose name I immediately changed to Big Momma, and two of her children: Mr. Jingles and Baby Girl. Add my fiancé's 100-pound black lab Yogi to the mix, and boy oh boy, do we have a party. And while I'd do literally anything for my adorable little
freeloaders babies, the fact of the matter is they make a big f*cking mess.
Having four pets in any size space is a heck of a commitment in terms of cleaning, and getting rid of their hair is extremely tricky based on the surface it's on (and not to mention, I have animals with various colors of fur, making things even more fun).
Here's what I'm working with:
Although I'm definitely not a clean freak by any stretch of the imagination, I still have some go-to products and tips that make living with family pets in a tight space totally bearable. Here's what to keep in mind if you're living with a lot of pets and a LOT of hair:
1. Give your pets a separate space, if possible.
It doesn't have to be an entire room, but keeping your pets' food, water, and litter box confined to one area will seriously reduce the messes they make. As any cat owner knows, wet food can be particularly hard to get off the floor if it dries. Mix that with litter and you might be in for a whole lot of scrubbing. At my house, my dog, who's a far less messy eater, has his food bowl in the kitchen, while my cats have completely taken over our second bathroom. (And yes, I rented this apartment specifically so I could keep all my cats' sh*t in there.)
Although everyone might not have the luxury of a spare bathroom, designating a corner of your living room for all their supplies will help keep the mess — not to mention the smell — as contained as possible. And if you're in the market for a litter box that doesn't scream, "This is where my cats relieve themselves," there are plenty of inconspicuous options, including this one that looks just like a planter.
2. Never underestimate the power of a cheap dust buster.
A few years ago, I picked up a cheap Black and Decker Dust Buster ($16) on a whim at Walmart. I thought it would surely come in handy when it came time to clean out my car and figured it would probably crap out after a year or so. I was totally wrong. Little did I know, this purchase would forever change my life. As you can imagine, an oversize black lab sheds a lot — like, epic-level shedding.
So having a tiny, portable vacuum I can use to suck up the hair that's gathered in the corners of my kitchen, hidden depths of my closet, or even on the window sill totally changes the game. It's a hell of a lot easier than pulling out my large, heavy vacuum. And hey, it's a lifesaver when you have little kids trailing crumbs all over the house in addition to the pet mess!
3. Find a brand of disinfectant spray or wipe you love.
I'm always on the lookout for the best cleaning products, and recently came across Brandless's line of sprays and wipes. I totally fell in love. I now swear by their Tub and Tile Cleaner ($3), as well as their Surface Cleaning Wipes ($3). Plus, (#notanad) because every stinkin' thing on its site will only run you three bucks and is delivered straight to your house, its products are one less thing you have to worry about getting at the grocery store. Their products are also non-toxic and safe for pets and kids, which means my days of trying to scrub windowless bathroom with headache-inducing chemicals are over.
4. Do not, under any circumstances, purchase white sheets.
We all know that photos of perfectly-made beds with bright white sheets look great on Instagram, but it goes without saying that your most prized pets will utterly destroy those sheets, whether you let them sleep with you or not. Your best option? Spring for a darker set that will do a better job of hiding the hair. Bonus tip: spend as little as you can on said sheets so it won't crush your soul when it's time to throw them away, destroyed, in a year or two.
5. Just buy the damn carpet cleaner.
When I first moved out I was hemming and hawing about having to shell out some cash for one of those bulky carpet cleaners. But I use my Bissell Spot Cleaner ($100) way more than I'm proud to admit. When you have four pets who value food more than anything else in life milling around, there unfortunately will be a lot of puke involved. I get woken up at least once a week to one of my pets dry-heaving, and if it wasn't for my rug cleaner, all of my area rugs would have been in the dumpster ages ago. And FYI: it's also great on upholstery, so you don't have to sweat it too much when your kids spill juice all over the couch.
6. Clean up after your pets for 10 minutes each day.
We get it, the last thing you want to do when you get home from work is tidy up your house. But doing a little bit each day goes a long way. Throw on some music and do the litter box, vacuum the couch quickly, or throw their beds in the wash to avoid feeling overwhelmed with doing all of the housework once the weekend comes around. Added bonus: if you keep up this daily routine, your place will likely be clean enough already that you won't have to launch into a full-on panic when company randomly drops in to say hi.