Cleaning Chemicals and Cats – What Do You Use or Not Use and Why?

You have a house. You have a cat. No doubt this means you have dirt, grime, and all kinds of pungent smells needing cleaning regularly. But how do you keep cleaning chemicals and cats in the same place safely?

Whether scrubbing stains and odors from our carpet or wiping off cat tracks on the counter, we want to rest assured our home is clean. Homes need to get regularly disinfected to keep our pets and families safe.

However, that task may be more challenging than you think.

Cat cuddled up in yellow blanket. Cleaning chemicals and cats don't mix.

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Chemicals in Cleaning Supplies

Reader question:
A reader wrote me the other day asking, “As far as cleaning, I’m wondering, do you worry about using spray chemicals to clean with? I’m worried if my kitten will lick the floor or something and get sick. Or is that not a concern I should worry about?
Do cats get allergies? Should I worry about dusting more often than normal or something? Am I over-thinking this?”

I thought this would be a good chance to dig deeper into what we are using to clean our homes and see just how safe our current cleaning products and their ingredients are for our pets. Let’s look at cleaning chemicals and cats.

Cleaning chemicals and cats

Our kitties diligently clean themselves constantly. Keeping this in mind, I try to be aware of the products I use and product ingredients. I have no doubt my cat’s fur will pick up the chemical residues while the kitty is walking from one room to another. When my cats bathe themselves, they are potentially licking off and ingesting these harmful toxins.

How do we pet owners ensure we are doing our best to keep our house clean and our pets safe?

Do not fear, friends. There are an array of pet-friendly cleaning products and safer solutions to this problem.

Pet-safe cleaning tips

No matter which products you choose to clean your home with, there are a few basic rules all pet owners should keep in mind before scrubbing down the house with floor cleaners and stain remover.

Keep these few ideas in mind as you continue to learn about cleaning chemicals and cats.

Keep areas well-ventilated

If you have an indoor-outdoor cat, now would be the perfect time to shoosh them out the door for some patio sunbathing while you clean. You will save yourself from having to follow right behind your cat with a sponge after she walks her paws across your clean counter.

Doing this removes your cat from the problem area entirely and the possibility of being exposed to your cleaning products.

Both cleaning chemicals and cats like fresh air.

If you have a fully indoor kitty, select one room to be their sanctuary for the afternoon and shut the door. Open as many windows and doors as possible, and turn off your heater or air conditioner while you do your cleaning. Turning off your heater will prevent the spread of smells and chemicals throughout the house.

If you’re using a:

  • Carpet cleaner
  • Powders, or
  • Upholstery cleaners.

Give these items extra time to air out when you are finished.

Modify your cleaning routine

Cats are curious. Mischief follows them everywhere, and getting into your cleaning products is no exception. Chlorine and bleach are attractive smells to cats.

Knowing this may mean you have to relocate your cleaning products into a kitty-proof cabinet.

Depending upon your cat, you may also have to modify your frequency of cleaning.

Instead of mopping your floors nightly, you may consider only once to twice a week to keep the cleaning chemicals and cats away from one another.

A simple bit of good observation of how your cat reacts to your cleaning routine will tell you a lot. So, keep an eye on them and be open to switching things up, if needed. You don’t want cleaning chemicals and cats intermingling.

Wait until solutions completely dry

Many pet owners get finished wiping up or mopping and head straight over to let the cat back in.

Paws (haha, pun intended) for a minute and think.

Would you let your toddler play on a wet kitchen floor? Would you let them eat off a plate wiped in chemicals?

No, of course not!

To keep the cleaning chemicals and cats safely separated, don’t let your pets into the area you just cleaned right away, wait 10-15 minutes, giving the cleaning products adequate time to dry properly.

Drying prevents your kitty from:

  • Rubbing up against wet upholstery,
  • Soaking up floor cleaner with their paws, or
  • Potentially licking anything you used to wipe down your counters.

Toss unused products

I’m guilty! I have purchased a cleaner and then decided that after using it once I did not like it. So, like most of us, I tossed it under the sink and forget about it.

Cleaning products and cats should never be in the same place. Many pet owners keep their cleaning chemicals and cats’ food in the pantry.

Useless cleaners accumulating around can create an opportunity for your cat to get into trouble. Dispose of them properly, so your cat doesn’t accidentally get into them.

Which cleaning chemicals and cats are a bad combo?

No one wants to accidentally poison their cat. We want to make sure our cats have the best pet life possible.

There are many plants, foods, and chemicals which can poison cats.

This list of the most common unsafe chemicals toxic to cats, found in most household cleaners, can have detrimental side effects on our pets.

It is always a safe bet to read ingredient lists on all products that may come in contact with your cats, and especially kittens, as they can have worsened reactions.

But I know, we can all forget to check the list. It happens, in our crazy daily life. That’s why it’s good to think every now and then if you’ve bought something and haven’t checked the labels.

Ingredient lists that pet owners often forget to check are:

  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Laundry detergents
  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Even “safe cleaners.”

Don’t let these potentially harmful contents slip by you.

  • Ammonia – Can lead to pulmonary dysfunction.
  • Bleach – All varieties are extremely toxic.
  • Chlorine – Burning in their mouth and throat, pain and swelling in their throat, vomiting, and wrenching, stomach pains.
  • Formaldehyde – Severe eye irritant, skin irritation, respiratory tract inflammation.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Necroulcerative gastritis.
  • Isopropyl alcohol – Vomiting, lethargy, ataxia, hypothermia.
  • Phenols – Thyroid diseases.
  • Phthalates – Kidney, liver, and reproductive systems damage or failure.

Researchers have suggested that several of these compounds are safe for cats when heavily diluted with water, such as Hydrogen peroxide and Isopropyl alcohol. Not everyone agrees about this, though.

Research has also shown these toxins could still drastically harm cats, either with acute or long-term effects.

Others attest that cleaning chemicals and cats together are perfectly fine.

It’s best to go with your gut intuition. If you don’t feel safe about specific cleaning products and cats in your home, just avoid using them. Double-check with your veterinarian if necessary.

This ASPCA article on Ingredients and toxicities to pets is a great resource to learn more about household cleaners and your cat.

Non-toxic cleaning products options

Luckily, there are several different options to choose from when it comes to pet-safe cleaners. The most notable of which are pet-safe products and homemade cleaners.

Dirty Secrets: WHAT’S HIDING IN YOUR CLEANING PRODUCTS? helps you find a household cleaner that is safe for you AND your pets.

Pet safe cleaning recipes

Pet-safe cleaning products are solutions that are generally absent of the chemical compounds listed above. They tend to be:

  • Milder in smell
  • Biodegradable
  • Made with more natural-plant-based materials.

Even when the solution states it is pet-friendly or pet-safe on the bottle, I always read the ingredients label anyways.

Cats are as diverse as humans; not all cats enjoy mint, rosemary, or lavender, which tend to be the most popular scents for cleaners like these.

Have you noticed your cat avoiding regularly frequented places, excessive sneezing, or having any abnormal reactions to specific smells and products around your house? Make sure those elements are not in the cleaning product you chose.

Useful tip:

Snap a picture, front, and back, of any new products. The ingredients list is readily available on your phone should your vet need the information.

DIY pet-safe cleaning products

Many pet owners chose to cut out the middle man altogether and have gone the route of making their cleaners at home.

DIY cleaners are an attractive option because they have no harmful chemicals and are inexpensive.

The supplies you’ll need are likely in your kitchen or pantry already, saving you a trip to the store. Another plus is you can make as little, or as much, as you need at a time. Which in specific cases can be very helpful.

Cleaning supplies to have on hand:

  • Spray Bottle
  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemons or lemon juice
  • Paper Towels
  • Borax

DIY pet-friendly cleaner recipes to make at home

If you really want to use only pet safe cleaning recipes to clean your house, you always need to do this with caution.

Choosing the right ingredients for your DIY cleaner and combining them right are the most important steps, when it comes to preparing your own cat-safe cleaning solution.

When to Get Help?

Cat’s are hard to monitor all the time. Much similar to sneaky toddlers, cats get into trouble when owners are not looking.

Cleaning chemicals and cats together could be deadly. Keep your eyes open and be mindful of your cat’s demeanor when you are or have been, using any type of cleaner in your home.

If, at any time, you notice your cat acting differently or “off” get then checked out. Call your vet IMMEDIATELY if you notice any of the following symptoms.

These conditions can be life-threatening for your cat.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Bloody stool
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bruising
  • Nosebleeds
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Inability to urinate

It is always best to ask your vet before the use of any new product if you have questions about cleaning chemicals and cats.

Add this number for the Pet Poison Control Hotline 855-213-6680 to your contacts list.  

You can reach the ASPCA Poison Control online here. 

You know your cat best and if you ever suspect they may have ingested or been exposed to any dangerous household cleaner, DO NOT hesitate to reach out for help. Your kitten’s life may depend on it.

Moving forward with your cleaning chemicals and cats

Cleaning chemicals and cats should be monitored.

What cleaning products do you have under your sink or in your cupboard right now? You may want to go check them out.

We all want to have happy, vibrant, and healthy cats in our homes. Ensuring your home is safe from harmful cleaning chemicals for them is an important, yet often overlooked detail.

Finding a safe alternative to products you may have been using for years to clean your home can be challenging at first, but I assure you, your cats will thank you in the long run.

Will you be changing up what you use to clean your home? Are there any adjustments you may need to make around the house to ensure your cleaning chemicals and cats stay separated?

Do you already have a favorite pet-safe alternative you love in your home?

If you found this post about cleaning chemicals and cats helpful, be sure to check out our other helpful posts.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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7 Comments

  1. Hi Jenny!
    I’m the one who wrote to you with the question 🙂 Thank you so much for your help and for posting it, I enjoyed reviewing everyone’s helpful tips! After lots of research, I decided to buy a steam cleaner for the home. I got a good deal and it cleans just about everything with steam. They say it’s what hospitals use to sanitize because chemicals can be problematic for patients. It kills 99.9% of germs, bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, fungus, etc! And all with the power of water – amazing 🙂 I was stuck on vinegar and baking soda but never knew if it was killing everything so I used some heavy duty cleaner every once in awhile too. I just feel scared to use those around a little bitty kitty so I think the steam cleaner will ease my worries about sanitization without chemicals. Thought I’d share in case it gave anyone else out there an idea!

  2. I use a few things that are not readily available in the grocery store. One multipurpose cleaner I use is made in Italy. It’s a very watery/milky cleaner that doesn’t make much suds, but is a powerhouse of a degreaser and cleaner. It cleans everything from floors to stoves and it works better than anything that I’ve ever used. It’s very safe and you use just a splash in a pail of water or a spritz on a cloth. You can buy it on Amazon, but I get it locally (NYC). It’s called Sgrassatore. The company also makes a very effective but gentle wood floor cleaner. I also use a few products made by Stanley/Fuller, for the bathroom and kitchen. As a mom, I’ve always used products that are safe and effective. I am a huge fan of Clorox bleach used sparingly, as it works and is a great disinfectant.

  3. I use Clorox Hard Surface cleaner since it says it’s safe for children and pets. I also use Arm & Hammer Essentials plant based cleaners. They discontinued this line a few years ago but I have been lucky enough to still get the refills off of Amazon.com. Sadly, I am no longer able to get the multi-purpose cleaner. I’m hoping to be able to find another “green” plant based cleaner to use.

  4. Yes, very worthy post on the importance of avoiding toxic cleansers! I use mostly vinegar and water solutions, but I do use a bleach spray for the kitchen sink and toilets. I just don’t feel that the vinegar does a thorough job there. I try to keep the cats away from the area when I do these chores, but one of my kitties LOVES the smell of bleach. The vet said not to worry as long as I rinse thoroughly after usage. I’d prefer to use something else but have not found natural substitutes to be as effective. Also, I understand that essential oils are highly toxic to cats as well, and they are high on the ingredients list in many green cleaners. Please suggest bleach alternatives if you have any.

  5. Patricia McDermott says:

    i always look to see the non toxic labels. there is stuff in places that have an organic section where you can get cleaners that are very non toxic to people or animals. and i was told that you can use bleach to clean as long as you rinse. the vinegar and baking soda is great too, i love using vinegar on my windows and baking soda has an abrasive quality and it’s a stain fighter. another thing i do when i’m cleaning is make sure my cats are somewhere else so that whatever i’m cleaning can get good and dry. for some reason, i have no idea why.. if i get the mop out, one of my cats wants to be in on the action and walk on the wet floor.

  6. Patti Johnson says:

    What a great post, Jenny! I am very interested to read what others post about, too!

    Me? I just never clean…. lol (just kidding) 🙂

    I use non-toxic types of cleansers (baking soda, water and/or vinegar, as needed) to scrub my bare floors (a chore I hate to do!) and sinks and counter tops. We are very fortunate that Miss Pink Sugarbelle doesn’t get on my kitchen countertops. There’s really just no room for her there and she’s not much of a jumper in the kitchen (don’t really know why as she loves to hang out there when I’m cooking and fiddling around with schtuff). 🙂

    However, she lurves to get onto the bathroom counter top and into the bathroom sink a lot. So far, no problems with what I use to clean with….

    We keep the toilet lid down so there’s no chance of her getting into THAT! I scrub the outside of the toilet with my baking soda, water & vinegar. However, the inside of the toilet is cleansed with chemicals using our Clorox Toilet Wand. I’m always very careful to make sure any spills or splashes are wiped up and cleaned off so she’s not exposed to anything toxic.

    So far so good. 🙂

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Pink Sugar 🙂

  7. Teresa Reid says:

    Yes, it is a big concern to me as well. I use a steam mop on the hardwoods(sealed) and kitchen (ceramic) floors. Use a microfiber cloth for dusting that does great. Used to use chemicals 20 years ago, but worried that they were toxic as all my 10 cats succumbed to either kidney disease or cancer except for two (Bobbie my manx had a heart attack and Tony, my sweet orange and white rescue had a renal embolus). With my new girls, have been overly careful to provide them with the safest environment I know how and appreciate any new information about new products that are safe for cats. Know that Lysol is extremely toxic and even fatal to cats, so never used that here.

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