Keep disinfectants away from your cat

Spring cleaning? Keep disinfectants away from your cat

If you share your home with a cat, take care when using cleaning products this spring.

Common household cleaning products can be harmful to pets, so they should be used sensibly and only when necessary, says the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), an emergency service that supports vets in the management of poisoning cases in animals.

Many household disinfectants, such as antibacterial sprays and some patio cleaners, contain benzalkonium chloride, which is a cationic detergent.


Cationic detergents are an irritant and can cause adverse effects in cats that have licked or walked over treated surfaces.

The most common effects of benzalkonium chloride exposure are irritation of the skin or ulceration at the site of contact (most commonly the feet) and oral irritation or ulceration as a result of self-grooming. Chemical burns can also occur if there is contact with concentrated solutions, VPIS warned.

To help your cat avoid contact with cleaning products, VPIS advises:

  • Do not allow cats to walk over a recently treated surface.
  • Prevent access until the product is dry.
  • If used outside, try to restrict access if a recently treated surface becomes wet after rain.
  • Avoid using disinfectants where possible. Safer alternatives are steam cleaning or anionic/non-ionic detergents (such as washing up liquid).

Most animals recover fully from benzalkonium chloride exposure, but it may take several days for the ulcers and inflammation in the mouth to heal fully.

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