When you share your home with a furry friend, the good news is that various studies show that you are most probably going to be happier and healthier, because people who have pets are mentally healthier. However, one of the downsides to having pets is the mess and dirt that ends up in your home, not to mention the potential diseases.
There are certain diseases that are able to pass between pets and people; these are called zoonoses – there are a variety of these diseases that can pass between cats and people. Although the risks of contracting these diseases are low, it’s important to be mindful of them and take precautions to protect yourself, your family and your home.
Fortunately, most of the zoonotic diseases associated with cats are rare, with misinformation being spread regarding risks. However, contracting these diseases are rare. That being said, it’s still important to ensure that you take steps to keep your home and family safe from these diseases and other dirt and mess that cats can create. Practising good hygiene in your home, keeping it clean and germ-free, significantly reduces the risk of transmission of these diseases and of other cat-related bacteria.
The most common conditions linked to cats are fleas, ringworm, toxoplasmosis, intestinal worms, and campylobacter and salmonella. The good news is that keeping your home adequately clean can help to prevent these diseases from occurring, and can reduce the risk of other cat-related hygiene problems.
Dr. Amanda Nicholls, founder of Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic, has said: “A zoonoses is an infection which can be passed from an animal to a human. While cats can pass diseases on to their owners, the risk is minimal and can be reduced by keeping your cat indoors at night to reduce hunting behaviour. The risk is higher for people with a compromised immune system and during pregnancy.”
“The most common zoonoses from cats are ringworm, a fungal skin infection which causes a skin irritation but is rarely serious and easily treated; gastrointestinal infections caused by bacteria e.g. salmonella and campylobacter or parasites e.g. giardia and intestinal worms from hunting or feeding raw meat. These infections rarely cause problems for people with a healthy immune system. Toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite is common but rarely causes problems for cats or owners, pregnant women should avoid contact with litter trays or anything contaminated with cat feaces.”
Bearing that in mind, what can you do to protect yourself, your family and your home from these cat-related diseases and additional hygiene issues? Below are some expert tips from Dr. Amanda Nicholls, who is an expert feline veterinary specialist.
Invest in a quality vacuum cleaner
Pet hair gets everywhere, which is why if you are going to keep your home clean and hygienic (and flea-free), it pays to have a quality vacuum cleaner on hand. When pet hair doesn’t get collected properly by your vacuum cleaner, it builds up around your home, creating the ideal place for fleas to lay their eggs. For controlling fleas, in addition to vacuuming on a daily basis, it’s crucial to treat your pets for fleas and also to treat your home for fleas with specialist flea sprays that kill both the fleas and the eggs.
Going back to vacuum cleaners, the best vacuum cleaners to buy are pet-friendly ones that are designed to cope better with pet hair – these models have stronger suction and are less likely to get clogged up due to all those furballs.
Antibacterial cleaning is crucial
Unless you use antibacterial products to clean the floors, surfaces, and your furniture, then your home won’t be ‘clean’ from dirt and bacteria that your cat carries. For the surfaces and floors, you have a range of cleaning options to choose from. However, it’s important to use ‘cat-safe’ cleaning methods. Antibacterial sprays can make cats seriously ill if they walk over them and get the residue on their paw pads, which is why non-toxic cleaning is so important.
Dr. Nicholls said: “A lot of cleaning products are toxic to cats, cats are particularly susceptible to poisoning because the lick themselves all over so any chemicals that come into contact with the hair will be ingested by the cat while grooming. Steam cleaning is a safe alternative to using chemicals, but if it is not possible to steam clean an area of the home, diluted washing up liquid and properly diluted bleach are safer to use in homes with cats than most other detergents. Always ensure cleaned areas are dry before allowing cats to walk on them and store cleaning products away from areas that inquisitive pets have access to. At Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic we use steam cleaning whenever possible and ensure our deep cleaning using chemical cleaning products is done at the end of the day after the cats have gone home and to allow surfaces to dry overnight.”
Steam cleaning is a method that is highly effective as steam kills 99.9% of bacteria without the use of any chemicals, making it an ideal cleaning method for homes with pets. The great thing about steam cleaning is that steam can not only be used to clean surfaces and floors but also for cleaning materials like curtains and sofas.
Clean your cat’s things
One of the most vital steps that you can take to keep your home clean is to keep your cat’s things clean. If your cat has a cat bed, for instance, it’s vital that you wash this on a regular basis on a hot wash to kill any bacteria. A great hack for this is to use disinfecting laundry detergent, which kills 99.9% of bacteria.
If your cat has cat toys, you can also put the material ones in the washing machine, and you can boil the plastic ones in a pan of water to disinfect them. As for your cat’s bowls and food mat, you can place these in the dishwasher with antibacterial dishwasher liquid and wash them thoughrally – this should be done once a day. By keeping your cat’s things clean, you can limit the risk of salmonella, campylobacter, and toxoplasmosis.
Dr. Nicholls says: “ In the home, it is important to keep any areas pets have access to, clean and free from parasites. Regularly wash pet bedding and clean litter trays daily to reduce risks of infections passing on to humans. It is essential to keep your pets free from parasites by using safe and effective parasite prevention medication available from your vet and preventing cats from hunting and eating rodents. Teach children to wash hands after handling pets to prevent infections.”
Keep litter ‘clean’
Dirty cat litter is the number one cause of toxoplasmosis, which is why keeping it clean is so crucial. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can infect cats and humans alike. It is most worrisome for pregnant women as it can cause damage to a developing baby. Usually, humans contract toxoplasmosis from handling raw meat and not properly cleaning their hands or from the feaces of infected cats.
If a cat develops toxoplasmosis, within the first 24 hours of being infected, they can shed the eggs in their feaces, which is a potential source of infection in humans. Due to this risk, it’s recommended that litter trays are cleaned every 24 hours, it also recommended that pregnant women don’t deal with cleaning litter trays, due to the risk of toxoplasmosis being increased from cat feaces in the litter tray.
Guest post by Beth Mahoney. Beth is a freelance journalist who specialises in health, beauty and wellness, she also runs her own blog beauty, lifestyle and business blog La Blog Beauté.