Every day, your cat goes to the litter box, walks around inside it, and even covers the litter back up before she leaves. Then she may go straight to jumping on your nice kitchen counters, into your lap, or onto your dining room table. Is this sanitary? Have you ever wondered just how dirty your cat’s paws are?
Cats are notorious for bathing themselves and staying clean. Of course, it’s still a fact that they walk in their litter box and they walk on a dirty floor. Once they clean their paws after they’ve used the litter, you don’t have to worry as much about fecal matter being stuck under kitty’s toe. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for certain that your cat cleaned her paws before jumping on your counters. However, you can rest easy knowing that cats, on average, clean themselves and other household cats during half of their waking hours, sometimes even more.
Despite how often your cat cleans herself, you probably don’t want to rely solely on your cat’s cleanliness to make sure the spaces where you eat and prepare food are clean. It’s good practice when you own a cat to always clean your kitchen counters before preparing food, just in case. (And most of us are probably already doing that anyway, pet or no pet!)
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by bacteria found in cat feces (and also found in certain meats, unpasteurized milk, and unwashed fruits and vegetables.) The disease can cause flu-like symptoms in some people and birth defects if a woman’s infected for the first time while pregnant. If the kitchen counters, knives or cutting boards come in contact with something that has the bacteria on it, you might get infected. Because this could come from a cat jumping on your counter with contaminated paws or even an unwashed contaminated fruit touching your counter, you should wash your counters, utensils, and cutting boards frequently. Pregnant women should also wash their hands before they eat. (But let’s be honest, this is a good practice for everyone, whether or not you own a cat!)
There may be times when your cat accidentally gets a bit of litter or poop stuck on his paw. Sure, he’ll eventually clean his paw and everything will be OK – but do you want to wait that long? All you need to clean your cat’s paw is either a damp washcloth, a Q-tip, or a special cat bathing wipe that you can buy at a pet store. Try not to make a spectacle out of the event. If your cat’s used to being handled, just gently grab her paw and do a quick clean. If she’s really squeamish, you might have to wrap her in a towel with the offending paw left sticking out, and then clean the paw.
To help ease the problems of dirty cat paws, you can also buy special litter mats that diminish the issue. Look for litter mats with angled ridges that are designed to help pull litter that might be lodged in your cat’s paws. Put the mat outside the litter box so your kitty has to walk across it when she leaves.
In general, cat’s paws are really quite clean. Cats spend a lot of time grooming and bathing themselves, as cleanliness is a top priority. But this doesn’t mean you should rely on that cleanliness when it comes to your kitchen counters and eating areas. Practice good hygiene by cleaning the counters regularly and washing your hands before you eat or cook, so you and your kitty can stay healthier and happier.