Pets, like humans, naturally carry bacteria and other germs
It’s important to know that pets can sometimes carry germs, even if they look clean and healthy. Pets, like humans, naturally carry bacteria and other microorganisms in their guts or in other parts of the body. Most bacteria do not cause disease, and some are actually beneficial. But some bacteria can be harmful to pets or humans.
Pet food and treats can sometimes become contaminated with germs, too. These germs can easily spread to your pet’s items, such as dishes, toys, or boxes, making your pets or family sick.
The difference between cleaning and disinfecting
cleaning Physically removes dirt and germs from surfaces using soap or detergents, while disinfection Kills germs on surfaces using chemicals.
Cleaning is usually good enough for most pets, while disinfecting is an additional step you can take some situations.
Clean and disinfect pet items as often as your own items
One easy way to remember how often to clean and sanitize your pets is to do it as often as your items. For items that can’t be cleaned, like non-refillable catnip toys, get rid of them when they look dirty.
Example of a cleaning schedule:
- pet bowls: Clean after each use of wet food and every day for dry food and water.
- Pet Beds, Blankets, and Habitats: Clean every week.
- pet toys: Clean every month.
When to sterilize:
- Pet objects that touch poop or urine (such as your cat’s litter box)Disinfect as much as your toilet or bathroom.
- If your pet or anyone in your home is more susceptible to germs (such as people or pets with compromised immune systems; children under five and small pets; pets 65 or older; pregnant women and pregnant pets): Clean and disinfect pet items often.
- If your pet is sick: Disinfect when cleaning their items. It’s also a good idea to clean and sanitize their belongings often while they are sick.
- if you own pet rodents or reptiles or amphibians pets (These pets are more likely than other pets to transmit germs that can make people sick): Sanitize items every month, or more often if they look dirty.
How to clean and sterilize pets
Items with cleaning instructions
Most pet items have cleaning instructions on the packaging or labels. Follow the cleaning instructions.
Items without cleaning instructions
For pet items without cleaning instructions, you can use the following methods:
- difficult itemssuch as boxes, bowls, rubber toys and plastic toys:
- soft itemssuch as blankets, beds, clothes, plush toys and rope toys:
Use soap and water
- Wash things with soap or detergent and warm water.
- Scrub with a sponge or brush.
- Rinse with water to remove any dirt and soapy water.
- Air dry or wipe with a clean towel.
using the dishwasher
- Put the dishwasher safe items in the dishwasher. It’s okay to put pet items in the dishwasher with your dishes.
- Add dishwasher detergent.
- Use any setting for washing. For disinfection, use a high temperature or sterilization setting.
- Dry using any dry or air dry setting. To disinfect, use the heat drying setting.
using the washing machine
- Put things in the washing machine. It’s OK to put pet items in the washer with your clothes.
- Add laundry detergent. Detergents that are free of dyes and fragrances may be a better option if your pet has sensitive skin.
- Use the appropriate cycle and water temperature based on the type of fabric.
- Air dry or use a dryer. To sterilize, use a dryer on the highest setting for 30 minutes.
using a bleaching solution
- Clean and scrub with soapy water first to remove dirt.
- why? Cleaning with soap and water actually removes most germs and dirt from surfaces, so the disinfectant can reach and kill remaining germs on surfaces.
- Rinse with water to remove any dirt and soapy water.
- Prepare a diluted household bleach solution by mixing 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of bleach and 1 gallon of water.
- Disinfect the item by soaking it in the bleach solution for at least 10 minutes. If the piece is too large to soak, wipe it with the bleach solution and let the solution sit for at least 10 minutes.
- why? This gives the bleach solution enough time to kill the germs on the item.
- Rinse with water to remove any remaining bleach solution.
- why? If you don’t, your pet may lick the bleach solution on the item, or the bleach solution may come in contact with their skin. This can cause irritation and harm to your pet.
- Allow the item to dry completely (air dry or dry with a clean towel) before allowing your pet to use it.
Use disinfectant wipes or sprays
- Use EPA-registered disinfectant wipes or sprays.
- Follow the instructions exactly as written on the label.
- Make sure to leave the sanitizer on for the time indicated on the label.
- why? This gives the sanitizer enough time to kill the germs on the item.
- Allow the disinfectant to dry completely before allowing your pets to use it.
- why? Most sanitizers are toxic when wet but safe when dry.
- To be safer, you can dry with a clean towel or wash the sanitizer with water before letting your pet use it.
Always read and follow the directions on the sanitizer label
Following the instructions exactly will ensure that germs are killed and that you stay safe around sanitizers.
- kill germs: Follow the instructions for use. Some disinfectants, such as bleach, require a pre-cleaning step to remove dirt with soap and water. This will allow the sanitizer to reach and kill the germs on the surface of the item. Some disinfectant sprays only require an initial cleaning step if they have dirt on them.
- Stay safe around sanitizers: Follow the safe handling instructions on the label. Do not mix bleach with other cleaners such as ammonia; This can produce dangerous and toxic gases.
Keep your pets safe around disinfectants
- Keep pets away from the area where you are cleaning and disinfecting. Do not allow them to lick, touch, or approach the disinfectant.
- If you have pet birds, disinfect them outdoors or in a separate room. Pet birds have a very sensitive respiratory system, and disinfectant fumes can harm them.
- Use sanitizer exactly as written on the label. Many sanitizers are toxic when wet but are safe once dry. These sanitizers may have labels such as “Keep pets and children away from area until dry.”
- Keep disinfectants out of the reach of pets.
- If you have a cat, don’t use disinfectants that contain “phenol” in the ingredients list (the word “phenol” may be part of a longer word, such as “2-phenyl”).phenol“). Phenols are highly toxic to cats.
Find a suitable place to manually clean and sterilize pets
For dog and cat bowls and toys that you wash by hand, you can wash them in the kitchen sink.
For all other pet items:
- Use a wash basin and a sponge or scrubber that is only used for your pet.
- You can also use a wash basin or bathtub, but be sure to remove people’s items from the sink and tub before cleaning pets’ items. Then thoroughly clean and sanitize the sink or tub immediately afterward.
- Using the kitchen sink can spread germs to your food. If the kitchen sink is the only place you can clean pets’ items, clean and disinfect the sink and the area around the sink immediately afterward.
Take extra care when touching cat litter boxes
Cat poop can sometimes contain a parasite (a type of germ) called Toxoplasma, which can cause a disease called toxoplasmosis. The parasite can enter your body when you swallow it. This can happen when you touch your mouth with unwashed hands after handling cat poop or objects contaminated with cat feces.
For most people and cats, the parasite does not cause disease. However, it can cause severe illness in people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women infected with the parasite can pass the infection on to their unborn child, which can lead to birth defects.
If you have a weakened immune system, or if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant:
- It’s best to let someone else in the family change the cat litter or clean the litter box.
- If no one else can do it,
- Flush your cat’s poop daily (the parasite can’t spread to you until 1-5 days after your cat is out).
- Wear disposable gloves when touching the cat litter box and dispose of the gloves before washing your hands.
- Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you touch cat litter.
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