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Cat toys help keep your cat's mind stimulated by creating an environment that delivers challenges and opportunities they would encounter in an outdoor setting. Introducing cat toys and finding a favorite type is one of the best ways to keep your cat engaged at a moment's notice, simulating the thrill of the hunt or playtime.
Part of this play involves cats picking up their toys in their mouth to carry them from one location to another, chewing on them, and even sucking on a toy. That means cat toys can get gross and stinky from bacteria and can even become a home for parasites.
As a cat owner, you want your cat to have the best life possible, but the fact their toys get stinky or infested means tossing or cleaning the toy. Replacing a favorite toy can be difficult, especially if it's been discontinued, and cats don't always connect with a different version. The bacteria that cause smells can also make your cat sick, and aggravate both cat and human allergies. They can also become a home for fleas and other parasites that cause your cat to scratch themselves relentlessly. Cleaning your cat's toys on a regular basis can help mitigate these issues and preserve the toy for future use.
Cleaning cat toys is a simple task, and it's easy to integrate into your regular routines. Many cat toys can be cleaned with water, non-toxic soap, wiped down with an anti-bacterial product, or even vinegar. The fact that cat toys are small means the cleaning job is quick and so is their dry time. You can quickly return your cat's favorite toy to them so they can get back to attacking their imaginary foes. Read on to learn more about how to clean cat toys and keep them fresh.
- Why You Should Clean Your Cat’s Toys
- How Often Should You Wash Cat Toys?
- How to Clean Catnip Toys
- How Do You Sterilize Cat Toys?
- Final Notes
Why You Should Clean Your Cat’s Toys
Cat toys tend to harbor bacteria as a result of being carried around in your cat's mouth and kicked around on the floor. They can also become home to pests such as fleas and mites. This can result in your cat contracting a bacterial infection or becoming a host for fleas. And if your cat has fleas, you may discover the hard way that your cat has a flea allergy.
Humans may not necessarily get sick from a dirty cat toy, but the smell can be unpleasant and no one wants to deal with fleas or other insects that are likely to take up residence. Additionally, cleaning cat toys extends their lifespan and reduces landfill waste. Eventually, all cat toys have to be discarded, but the longer they can be kept usable, the better it is for cats and humans alike.
How Often Should You Wash Cat Toys?
A good interval is every two weeks, but it's up to you as to how frequently you want to wash the toys. Every cat is different in how they interact with their toys, which means you may find yourself cleaning some toys more frequently than others. Alternatively, you may wish to get the job done and clean all the toys at the same time, regardless of how frequently they're played with.
Toys should be cleaned more frequently in the event your cat has been exposed to an infection, you suspect parasites have gotten into the house, or if your cat is having an allergic reaction. This serves to reduce the risk of re-infection, keeps an allergen from being continually aggravating, and kills parasites.
How to Clean Fabric Cat Toys
The approach you take to cleaning fabric cat toys depends on the material they're made from, and how they're constructed. Fabric cat toys can be safely cleaned with a mild detergent or rinsed with vinegar. If you're concerned about the soap leaving behind a taste or strong scent, use a gentle, non-scented soap.
Make sure to use a small amount of soap as you wash the toys. The goal is to get them clean, but you don't want soap residue left behind. Less is better, as cat toys tend to be small.
Cleaning cat toys in the sink:
- 1. Fill the sink with hot water.
- 2. Put toys into the sink and allow them to soak through.
- 3. Drain the water if it becomes dirty after the toys have soaked.
- 4. Refill the sink and add a small dollop of soap.
- 5. Gently agitate the toys in the water to make sure the soap has gotten through the fabric.
- 6. Drain water and rinse.
- 7. Squeeze the water out of the toys.
- 8. Hang to dry.
Here's how to clean toys in the washing machine:
- 1. Put toys into a mesh bag for washing delicates.
- 2. Select a hot water cycle and set the agitation for delicate fabrics.
- 3. Place the bag into the machine.
- 4. Use a small dollop of detergent.
- 5. Start the cycle.
- 6. Hang the bag to dry after the cycle has been completed.
Don't use fabric softener as it can leave behind chemicals that you don't want your cat ingesting.
How to Clean Rubber, Nylon & Plastic Toys
Cleaning rubber, nylon and plastic toys requires different approaches due to their materials and sensitivity to heat. Some materials can be cleaned in the dishwasher, while others require hand-washing because they can't tolerate heat. Check the care instructions for the toy if they're available. If there are no care instructions, and the toy is made from plastic, keep them out of the dishwasher and hand-wash only. Here are tips for hand and machine washing:
How to handwash rubber, nylon and plastic toys:
- 1. Fill the sink with lukewarm water.
- 2. Pour a pet-safe soap into the water and agitate.
- 3. Place toys in the water and let them soak for a few minutes.
- 4. Use your fingers or a brush to loosen caked-on grime.
- 5. Take toys out of the sink and air dry.
Using the dishwasher for nylon and rubber toys:
- 1. Place toys where the spray can easily reach them.
- 2. Use a small amount of detergent.
- 3. Set the machine on a gentle cycle with cool water.
- 4. Let the toys dry in the dishwasher.
Another cleaning option for rubber, nylon and plastic is to soak them in a bowl of vinegar and water. Use two parts water to one part vinegar, place the toys into the solution, and let them soak for around 15 minutes. Rinse the toys thoroughly to remove the dirt and vinegar, then let them dry.
How to Clean Catnip Toys
Cleaning catnip toys is a little more involved because they're usually made using fabric to contain the catnip and make it into an enticing toy. Catnip itself is made from dried pieces of the plant, and is unlikely to go bad. It does lose its potency over time, which means you want to take extra care when cleaning to preserve its cat-pleasing properties for as long as possible.
Don't use detergent or apple cider vinegar to clean catnip toys as this can leave an unpleasant taste behind. Instead, do the following for a thorough clean:
- 1. Fill the sink with hot water.
- 2. Put the toy into the water and let it soak through.
- 3. Swish the toy around to loosen and remove contaminants and pests.
- 4. Wring the toy dry.
- 5. Hang to dry.
You can also use the washing machine method outlined above for washing catnip toys, but leave out the step with the soap. Catnip doesn't take kindly to soap and it can ruin the toy.
How Do You Sterilize Cat Toys?
There are a few ways you can sterilize cat toys without going through the full cleaning process. You can use a pet-friendly disinfectant spray or wipe, place it in the microwave, or put it through a hot water cycle in the washing machine sans detergent.
For toys that can be put into a microwave without risk of damage, wipe it down with a damp cloth, put it into the microwave, and turn it on for a minute. Pet-friendly disinfectant sprays and wipes are a great choice for toys that can't be cleaned with hot water or put into a microwave. The hot water cycle in a washing machine is best suited for toys that can handle a thorough soaking and water agitation.
How Often Should You Replace Cat Toys?
The frequency with which you replace cat toys depends on a few different factors. As a general rule, you should replace a toy when your cat has turned it into something that's unrecognizable. However, it's not always obvious that a toy should be discarded and replaced. Some of the signs that a toy has expired include:
- Sharp edges that you can feel with your fingers
- Hard plastic that's flaking or cracking
- Torn seams
- Choking hazards such as a detail that's come loose
- Losing its fur or shedding fibers
- Stuffing or catnip is leaking out
These are signs that a toy is beyond repair and needs to be thrown out. It's best to throw out a contaminated toy and give your cat a fresh replacement.
Cleaning your cat's toys helps extend their longevity, keeps them from becoming a source of odor, and kills off any parasites that have infested the toy. Make sure to exercise caution in your choice of detergent, clean the toys gently but thoroughly, and let them dry completely before returning them to your cat. Last, but not least, be prepared to throw the toy away if it doesn't respond well to cleaning or is falling apart.
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