How to sell a house when you have cats

Your cats are like members of your family. You can overlook the fur balls, scratch marks, and various small objects inevitably strewn about your house. I understand. I have a cat too.

When we sold our last house, we had two cats. We kept the litter boxes clean and even had them in our basement. But when our real estate agent walked downstairs (before we listed our house), he could smell the cats before he even knew we had them.

Cats can make it hard to keep the house clean and fresh (hello litter box). And really, it’s not a big deal unless you’re trying to sell your house.

Buyers need to picture themselves living in your home, which means having a fresh, clean, fur-free house is a top priority. You might not mind Tabby’s fur, and you probably don’t smell her, but you can bet potential buyers do. And, if they have pet allergies, fur and odors could be enough to make them turn around and walk out the door.

How to sell a house when you have cats

Prepare your house

Ask a neutral 3rd party to walk through your home before listing it. Have them make suggestions for what you can do to eliminate signs of your cat(s). They will notice the scratch marks, fur, and odors you missed (because you’re used to it). Your real estate agent can help you with this.

Clean, clean, clean! Deep clean every single room, including the hidden areas you don’t clean regularly. Pay particular attention to carpet and rugs and the areas where the litter box is located.

The following areas are cat hair magnets that probably need de-furred:

  • Furniture (on, behind and beneath)
  • Baseboards
  • Air supply registers
  • Ceiling fans
  • Closets
  • Electronic devices and appliances
    • Refrigerator
    • Dryer
    • Television
    • Computers
    • Furnace

Neutralize all odors. Even if you don’t smell your cat(s), others can. Don’t just cover odors, neutralize them. There are several odor neutralizers available for this task. If weather permits, open the windows and air out the house frequently.

Cat urine can pose a particularly stubborn problem. If your beloved cat has urinated on the carpet, you need to take care of the odor. If it’s a relatively small area, you might be able to spot clean and treat it effectively. Some people report having luck with vinegar, but most recommend an enzyme-based cleaner.

If your cat has an ongoing issue with urinating outside the litter box, you will probably have to replace the carpet to get rid of the odor completely. Some things you need to do to de-catify your home will cost money (like replacing carpet). But it will save time and money in the long run.

Repair damage. Cats with claws love to sharpen them in the most inconvenient, obvious places (mine has an affinity for the post of my bed). Repair and repaint any scratched doors, trim, or walls.

Find a hiding place for your cat’s items. Even if potential buyers are cat lovers, I can almost guarantee they don’t want to see Tiger’s personal items, particularly the litter box. Find a place to stow litter boxes, beds, toys, water and food bowls during showings. Also, remove any cat furniture or structures, such as cat trees or catios, from your home.

Prepare for showings

Make a plan for showings. Most real estate agents agree it’s best to find an alternate, safe and comfortable place for your cat during showings. If you can’t take your cat out, see if you can find a neighbor or relative to help with this.

Fluffy could also go on “vacation” to visit friends or family while your house is for sale. Our solution was to send the cats to live with grandma and grandpa for a few weeks, which eased the stress for everyone. Alternatively, some families can move out of their home before selling to make showings easier.

If you can’t remove your cat from the house during showings, discuss a plan with your real estate agent. You could keep him in a crate (inside or outside) or confined to one room during showings.

Remove the litter box. Moving it outdoors for showings is best, but a garage or basement could be acceptable alternatives. As a very last resort, use a mudroom or laundry room or stash it in a cabinet (but not in the kitchen or bathroom!). If you still have a litter box in your home during showings, make sure it is CLEAN and deodorized regularly, particularly right before showings. Sweep up any litter that escapes the boxes. Litter boxes with covers are best.

Clean daily. Keep on top of the fur and litter, and neutralize odors daily. Vacuum your house and wipe down countertops each day while you’re still showing your home.

Have a game plan. If your cat is still living in your home while it’s for sale, have a solid strategy in place, particularly for those last minute showings. Make a written plan to keep things moving along when you’re in a hurry and feeling stressed.

Keep your cat (and yourself) calm

Selling a home can feel overwhelming. And you want to keep your cat from feeling the effects of stress. By planning and doing a little prep work, your cat (and your family) will get through the process relaxed and unscratched (pun intended).

If you’re in the Des Moines area and are thinking about selling your home, let us help. Selling a home can feel intimidating and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to. At Coluzzi Real Estate, we answer all your questions and simplify the process every step of the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time!


image credit: Pixabay


About the Author:

Amanda has lived in the Des Moines area since 1999, where she and her husband have bought and sold a handful of homes over the years, including a recent flip. Amanda enjoys writing, obsesses about personal finance and is fond of looking at houses. She loves sharing useful tips and info to make life easier for anyone wanting to buy or sell a home. In her spare time, Amanda cherishes time with her family, volunteers with IHYC, gardens, hikes, and practices TaeKwonDo. You can read more of her writing at whywemoney.com