Nuala McHugh

Written by Nuala M

Updated: May 15, 2024

How to clean your cat’s bowl

Updated: May 15, 2024

If you haven’t noticed already, your cat is pretty particular about what they eat from, and rightly so. Believe it or not, the state of your cat’s feeding dish plays a crucial role in their overall health. 

Think about it — how would you feel if your dinner plate went unwashed for days? It would become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, potentially making you ill. The same principle applies to your feline friend.

In this article, you will discover the reasons why you should clean your pet’s bowl regularly along with essential tips on effective maintenance.

Why is cleaning your cat’s bowl important?

The National Sanitation Foundation conducted a study that found that pet bowls were one of the top five dirtiest places in the home.

Bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli are commonly found in cat bowls. Plus, their watering bowls can accrue algae and mold if pet parents don’t take the time to clean them routinely.

Dirty bowls can also attract unwanted pests like ants and flies. These pests can contaminate your pet’s food and water, making them unsafe to consume.

Additionally, your cat’s oral hygiene might suffer as a result of drinking or eating from a dirty bowl, and it can even affect the skin around their mouth.

If these weren’t enough reasons to clean your cat’s bowl, then may we add that a filthy bowl can actually spread bacteria such as MRSA, salmonella, and E. coli to the people who handle the food and water bowls too.

What bowl is best for my cat?

Plastic bowls

Cats take their eating very seriously and will turn their noses up at particular dishes.

Plastic bowls are usually not recommended for cats as overtime, they take on the smell from foods. As a natural born hunter, cats are sensitive to odors and smells, therefore, using a plastic bowl long-term can affect the cat’s desire to eat or drink from it.

They are also prone to small nicks and scratches, in which bacteria can build up. If you do opt for a plastic bowl, clean them frequently and change them every few months.

Stainless steel bowls

Stainless steel bowls, renowned for their durability, also offer superior hygiene. Their smooth surface is easy to sanitize, making them a more hygienic choice when compared to plastic.

Ceramic bowls

Ceramic pet bowls, on the other hand, provide an excellent alternative. Their substantial weight prevents your cat from nudging them around, and they keep your cat’s food and water cool on hot days. The protective glaze not only keeps them clean but also makes them dishwasher-safe, ensuring a consistently hygienic dining experience.

To avoid the daily chore of frequent cleaning, it’s a practical idea to have multiple bowls that you can rotate. It’s also important that the bowl is shallow and wide enough not to touch their whiskers (cats are precious, we know). 

How do I clean my cat’s bowl?

How to handwash your cat’s bowl

As mentioned, cats are incredibly sensitive to odors and tastes, therefore it’s essential to wash and thoroughly dry their bowl every day. 

You might rinse your pet’s bowl every now and again under warm water or wipe it with a damp cloth, but unfortunately, that’s just not enough.

If there are any residual cleaning products or if your cat gets a sniff of old food in an unwashed bowl, it is often enough to dissuade a cat from eating or drinking.

Fortunately, this isn’t the most difficult chore of being a pet parent (picking up litter or cleaning up accidents are surely worse).

To effectively hand wash your cat’s bowl, this should be done every day after their main meal (water bowls daily too) using your regular dish soap. Simply soak the bowl in warm, soapy water before using a sponge or brush to break any particles away.

You can then wipe the bowl with a clean, dry cloth and leave it to air dry for the remainder.

Disinfecting your cat’s bowl

Just because your cat’s bowl looks clean, doesn’t mean that it is germ-free. Washing your cat’s dishes daily might not be enough to keep harmful bacteria away.

It is a good idea to completely disinfect both food and water bowls on a weekly basis. You can do so by using ½ cup of regular bleach with around a gallon of water, then steep the bowls for ten minutes before thoroughly rinsing with fresh water and drying.

Cleaning your cat’s bowl in the dishwasher

If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher, this can be an easy and effective way to kill the bacteria in your cat’s bowl.

Of course, using a dishwasher-safe bowl is a must, and if you wash your cat’s bowl regularly, it is safe to wash them in the same load as your other dishes without concern of cross-contamination. However, washing your pet’s bowl among your dinner dishes may not sit right with you, and in this case, just run them through by themselves.

Make sure you use the highest heat setting, as some types of salmonella can withstand warm or tepid temperatures. For a double dose of disinfecting power, you can soak the dishes in a bleach and water solution for about ten minutes, then run them through the dishwasher on high heat.

Does the type of food affect how I clean my cat’s bowl?

Most cat foods will require the same level of cleaning; however, a raw diet will require a deeper clean after each use. Raw foods pose more of a risk for bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, so these pet food dishes must be properly disinfected after every usage.

Additional hygiene tips

By now, you should have a good idea of why and how you should wash your cat’s bowl, so here are some additional hygiene tips to keep in mind when feeding your pet.

A clean bowl won’t keep harmful bacteria away if the way you store your cat’s food is unhygienic. Ensure you store their food in a safe, dry place, and if you use storage containers, they will need to be cleaned regularly too.

It’s also important to change your cat’s water at least once a day.

You might want to invest in placemats if your cat is a messy eater. Placemats are great for keeping your pet’s bowls in place and maintaining their eating area, although they can also be a magnet for germs. Opt for a placemat that can be easily cleaned and ensure it is included in the regular cleaning regime.

FDA guidelines

Cleaning your pet’s bowl is deemed extremely important, and the FDA does have guidelines on the subject. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Wash pet food bowls and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use.
  • Do not use your pet’s food bowl as a scooping utensil. Use a clean scoop, spoon, or cup instead. Use the scooping utensil only for scooping pet food.
  • Throw out old or spoiled pet food in a safe way, for example, by placing it in a securely tied plastic bag in a covered trash can.

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