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Trying to keep your home as nice as it looked before you got a cat? Or trying to minimize the effects your cat has on your decor? There are four main areas where you want to focus your attention: paws, claws, hair, and teeth.

Cats are notorious for knocking small objects from shelves or table tops. Like toddlers and young children, they just cannot resist pretty things, especially ones that are light enough for them to push around with their paws. Cats can knock over just about anything they really set their minds to, including lamps and vases that you would think are much too heavy. There are two basic tactics here:

1. Remove what you can. Put smaller items in curio cabinets, or away altogether. Open shelves may be tempting, but remember cats can and do jump, and love to wedge themselves into small spaces, including free space on shelves.

2. Fasten it down. You can purchase a putty-like substance that will not mar wood or other surfaces, and you can use this to effectively "glue" your lamps, vases, figurines, what have you, to your furniture. Be sure to use enough to discourage a determined cat. Usually if a swipe of the paw doesn't do anything, the cat will give up quickly.

The other damage that paws can do is digging up your houseplants. Use Spanish moss to cover the soil in your plant pots, and they may be enough to discourage your cat's curiousity. Some cats will not dig in gravel, and so nicely colored stones may also be an option, but be aware that some cats aren't bothered by rocks at all. Wood chips or moss seem to be most effective in discouraging digging.

Cats' claws should be trimmed regularly to minimize damage. Declawing is inhumane and unnecessary if claws are trimmed frequently. The best way to prevent scratches and claw-mark damage to your possession is to give your cat something she can claw at whenever she wants. This means getting scratching posts and keeping them in several places around the house. If you have a piece of upholstered furniture that your cat likes to claw, get a scratching post and place it directly in front of the favorite scratching place, and put your cat's claws on the post so she gets the idea.

You may end up with scratching posts at every corner of your sofas and chairs, but that's better than having them shredded. You can easily put them away when company is expected.

Cats shed varying amounts depending on the breed and the season, and this can really be a problem for upholstered furniture and clothing. To remove fur from clothing, one of the tacky roller-handled hair removers is really your best bet; cat fur is very fine and silky, and clings like mad.

If you're buying new furniture, consider leather. Cat hair does not cling to smooth leather surfaces, and on distressed leather, it clings much less than to the typical upholstery fabric.

If you're not in the market for new furniture, a cosy throw-blanket can be just the invitation your cat needs to curl up. In my experience, if there is a blanket on any piece of furniture, the cat will sleep on the blanket rather than on the cushion. Have several blankets so you can rotate them frequently; make sure they're washable so you can just launder them when you need to. Company coming? Just throw on a new blanket and throw the old one in a hamper; the majority of any shed fur will go with the old blanket.

Cats like to chew on cables, particularly cable television and computer cables. The best thing to do to protect the cables, and your cat, is to purchase some clear, flexible tubing to cover the cables with. You can find this in the plumbing department of your home improvement warehouse store, it is very inexpensive, and being clear, won't clash with your decor. The 5/8th inch size works well. With a sharp knife, slit the flexible tubing down its length, then open it up and slide the cable in. Even if the cat chews on the tubing, his teeth won't reach the actual cable inside.

With a little imagination and investments in a few inexpensive products, you can make your home cat-proof without having to completely redecorate.