Disinfection is the removal of pathogens from the environment such as floors, walls, bedding, toys, and litter trays. For pet households, I always recommend regularly disinfecting litter trays (when you empty them), once a week, and in the event of a disease outbreak.
Cats have a different metabolism to people and other animals because they lack the necessary liver enzyme necessary to break down many compounds, as well as that, their fastidious grooming habits mean that any substance which comes into contact with the fur can be ingested when the cat grooms. Therefore households and veterinary practices must take care when disinfecting areas cats are housed.
This article looks at some of the more popular disinfectants which can be used around cats and what pathogens (disease-causing organisms) they kill. I have not detailed dilution rates, as they vary from product to product.
For most households, bleach is a cheap and effective option, however, it is easy to make mistakes which will result in ineffective disinfection. Therefore, I have listed instructions below for the use of household bleach. For all other products, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Common disinfectants and their brand names
This list includes the active ingredient as well as common brand names.
- Potassium peroxymonosulfate – Trifectant, Virkon
- Accelerated hydrogen peroxide – Virox, Accel
- Benzalkonium chloride and polyhexanide – F10
- Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride, Benzalkonium chloride, Polyhexanide (biguanide) – TriGene
- Bleach – There are three types of bleach, sodium hypochlorite is the most common, made by many brands. Calcium hypochlorite or sodium dichloroisocyanurate are also effective bleach products.
Survival time in the environment
|Escherichia coli||28 days|
|Feline herpes virus||24 hours|
|Feline immunodeficiency virus||Not long|
|Feline leukemia virus||Not long|
|Feline infectious peritonitis|
|Up to 7 weeks|
|Up to 7 weeks|
|Not long on surfaces, up to six months in water|
|Months to years|
(Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes)
|Up to 18 months|
|1-4 hours on hard surfaces, over 12 months in the soil|
| Toxoplasmosis |
- Always follow the recommended dilution on the instructions. The dilution rate for bleach is 1 part bleach to 32 parts water for most pathogens and 1 part bleach to 10 parts water for ringworm.
- Organic material such as feces and dirt inactivates bleach, as does using it in stronger concentrations. Clean the area with a suitable detergent prior to applying bleach. Rinse all residue prior to applying bleach.
- The common dilution for bleach is 1:32 for most pathogens or 1:10 for ringworm and leptospirosis.
- Mix in lukewarm water and apply to the surfaces (or objects) and leave for ten minutes. Rinse and thoroughly dry surfaces to remove bleach residue.
- Store out of sunlight.
- Bleach is not effective on porous surfaces.
- Follow the correct contact time and where indicated, rinse afterwards.
- Many disinfectants are deactivated in the presence of organic material such as dirt and feces, therefore it will be necessary to scrub the area with soapy water prior to applying the disinfectant.
- Clean the area before applying disinfectants, many of which will be deactivated in the presence of dirt.
- Wear rubber gloves.
- Don’t mix disinfectants unless instructed to do so.
1. Government of Canada. Retrieved 18 August 2018.