In the home, regular disinfection is vital for cat health and hygiene as it prevents a build-up of harmful germs in your cat’s environment, helping to protect its health.
Elsewhere, disinfection is important in locations such as veterinary surgeries where sick or injured cats are being brought, as well as in catteries, which provide temporary homes for cats from different backgrounds. After an outbreak of illness, disinfection will eliminate germs which may survive and could represent a hazard to other cats.
- An effective way to keep your cat’s litter tray clean — and to prevent you from having to disinfect it every day —is to line the tray with a bin liner or plastic sheeting. Simply throw this away after use.
- Don’t encourage your cat to form bad habits by placing her food bowls on high surfaces, for example near areas where you prepare your food.
The way in which a disinfectant is used will greatly affect its ability to kill germs effectively. Not all disinfectants are the same, and so the instructions for their usage need to be checked and followed closely. In the first place, clean the area to be disinfected as thoroughly as possible. Most disinfectants do not work well in dirty surroundings, because organic matter such as grease protects the germs from contact with the disinfectant. So, for example, wash a food bowl with a detergent and then rinse it off before placing it in disinfectant. This will ensure food particles and some microbes are removed before disinfection.
Mixing disinfectant thoroughly with hot rather than cold water improves its efficiency. The disinfectant should also be given time to act. Do not wash off the solution immediately, but leave the bowl immersed in the solution for at least 10 minutes. Disinfectants are especially important as the main line of defence against the spread of feline viruses, as there is no effective protection against these microbes in some cases. Bleach — also known as sodium hypochlorite —is a very useful disinfecting agent which kills all the viruses likely to affect cats, including the feline infectious enteritis (FIE) virus. The strength of the solution required depends not just on the brand of bleach, but also on how old it is. The disinfecting power of bleach falls by about a half within a year of manufacture.
In spite of their germ-killing properties, disinfectants should not be used on the skin. Only antiseptics are safe for such use.
Disinfectants do not kill fleas or their eggs around the home. You need an insecticide to treat these parasites.
Before using a disinfectant on carpets or upholstery, check that it will not affect the colour.
Does the choice of disinfectant matter?
Yes. Disinfectants of the phenol group are not recommended for use with cats because of their toxic side effects. And not all disinfectants are in liquid form. For example, formaldehyde is a gas, which is used when a whole building needs disinfecting, but it can be dangerous to use.
What precautions should I take when using disinfectants? Always wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Take care not to splash your eyes, and never leave disinfectant near a cat or a child. Rinse thoroughly afterwards. More specific instructions will be given on the container.
How do I know which disinfectant to use?
Ask your vet for advice, or read the information on the label.