Cleaning and Sanitizing

Cleaning & Sanitizing

The most common disease organisms seen in foster animals are viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. It is very important to repeatedly and thoroughly clean and disinfect any areas of your home where your foster pets are—and any objects foster pets contact.

Daily and weekly cleanings will help keep your foster kittens and any other animals happy and healthy. A more thorough sanitation will be needed between each new foster pet that comes to your home.

Routine practices to control disease transmission include:

  • Setting up an isolation area for foster animals
  • Practicing good hand hygiene before and after handing animals or objects in the isolation area
  • Cleaning and disinfecting items in the isolation area using the appropriate products

The Quarantine/Isolation Area

Your area should include the following components:

  • Isolation from other pets in home
  • Pet-proof
  • Surfaces that are easy to clean and disinfect (vinyl or tile floor, not carpet)
  • Stocked with supplies that are dedicated to the area and easy to sanitize
  • A good, ideally separate, source of ventilation
  • Low human traffic

Some foster parents will also prefer to wear a smock or other protective wear to avoid direct contact with their clothing that comes in contact with other animals.

Hand Hygiene

Hand washing is critical—it is the most important way of reducing transmission of disease between animals. Clean hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling animals or items in the animals’ environment.

Thorough hand washing procedure:

  • Wet hands with warm (not hot) water
  • Apply liquid or foam soap (1-2 pumps)
  • Vigorously lather for a minimum of 15 seconds
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Pat hands dry


Cleaning and Disinfecting Products

Soaps and detergents are not the same as disinfectants. It’s important to understand how these two groups of products work and to use them appropriately.

  • Soaps and detergents are cleaning agents that work by suspending dirt and grease and breaking up organic matter. Soaps do not necessarily kill germs. Dish and laundry soaps are common examples of detergents.
  • Disinfectants are chemical solutions that kill germs. The particular germs killed depend on the ingredients in the disinfectant. While some disinfectants serve a dual purpose and have some cleansing properties, many disinfectants do not effectively remove dirt and grease. In general,

disinfectants must be applied to already cleaned surfaces and allowed to remain in contact with the surface for a minimum period of time in order to be effective.

Choosing Detergents and Disinfectants for the Home

When making the choice of a particular product for your foster home, it is necessary to understand the active ingredients, strength, required contact time, effect against typical shelter diseases and any potential side effects.

You also will want to check on the product’s availability, since there are many products but (with the exception of standard household bleach) very few can be bought at the grocery store, are safe for felines and effective against common diseases.

For this reason, we recommend using a basic dish soap and water wash followed by thorough rinsing and then disinfecting with diluted bleach.

Using Bleach as a Disinfectant

The recommended dilution of standard non-color safe 5.25% household bleach for most agents of disease is 1 part bleach to 32 parts water (1/2 cup bleach to 1 gallon water). Bleach needs to be mixed fresh daily. The recommended contact time is 10 minutes. Bleach is then rinsed off and the surface allowed to dry.

Do Not Use

Phenol-based products are known to be toxic to cats and should not be used. If unsure about a product, a good rule of thumb is to avoid if the name contains “sol”.

Typical Sanitation Procedure for the Home

All surfaces may not be easily cleaned and disinfected in the typical foster environment, but thorough and repeated washing and vacuuming helps in decreasing the number of germs in the environment.

Surface/Object Suggested Procedure Special Step
All surfaces and objects Thorough cleaning and disinfection between each animal’s stay in your home Thoroughly clean surfaces with a soap or detergent, and then apply bleach (for any

surfaces that can be bleached). Bleach mixture should be ½ cup bleach per gallon of warm water. This can be added to a spray bottle but it needs to be made fresh each day. Let sit 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and dry. If using bleach, be sure to let the item or area air out thoroughly before placing animals into the area again.

High contact surfaces (counters, light switches and floors) Daily cleaning with a detergent and weekly disinfection with a product like bleach solution Vacuum all rugs and furniture vigorously and frequently!
Visibly soiled objects/ surfaces Cleaning with a detergent and disinfection with a product like bleach solution.
Litter boxes and food bowls Daily cleaning and weekly disinfection with a product like bleach solution. Sanitize food bowls separately from litter boxes
All regular surfaces (any surface your foster animal comes in contact with like walls, blinds, etc.) Weekly cleaning and disinfection with product like bleach solution Increase frequency to daily or more when infection is present
Laundry (bedding, blankets and some toys) Remove organic material before laundering

Use detergent and bleach

Thoroughly machine dry on high heat.

Take caution in moving soiled items to washing machine

to prevent environmental contamination

Throw away heavily soiled items

Feline Foster Care Content:

Overview: Is Fostering Right for You?   

Preparing Your Home and Family                     

Getting Acquainted

Kitten Growth Milestones

Daily Care for Moms with Kittens

Daily Care for Orphaned Kittens

Grooming, Bathing, Socializing

Cleaning & Sanitizing

Medical Information & Concerns

Print & Post Resources for Caregivers

More Foster Resources on ASPCApro


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