How Often Should You Clean Your Cat's Food and Water Bowls?

When was the last time you washed your cat’s food and water bowls?

Cat eating from stainless steel bowls

According to a Petco survey, 20% of pet parents clean their pet bowls once a month. No judgement if that is you. By finding this article, you are interested in learning more, which is great! Cats actually need clean food and water bowls EVERY SINGLE DAY just like us. Here's why: 

Germs Lurk on Dirty Bowls

NSF International, a public health and safety organization, found that pet bowls were the 4th germiest item in the houses they examined. Out of the 30 household items tested, the only items that contained more bacteria, yeast, and mold were kitchen sponges, kitchen sinks, and toothbrush holders.

Would you let your loved ones eat off of your kitchen sponge? No! As cat parents, it is our responsibility to provide clean bowls, so our cats are healthy. 

Where Do These Germs Come From?

Just like human food, if cat food is left out for too long, harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Pasteurella multocida, Corynebacterium, Streptococcus, Enterobacteria, Neisseria, Moraxella, Bacillus and Pseudomonas can grow.

Because cats eat and drink directly from their bowls, microbes that normally live in your cat's mouth can also be transferred to the bowl. Leftover food combined with leftover saliva create an environment for bacteria to flourish.

Cat bowls themselves may also be housing bacteria. Plastic and ceramic cat bowls can develop grooves and scratches where bacteria hide inside. Even scrubbing can’t sanitize in between the tiny crevices. As a result, bacteria in the bowl's cracks may be transferred to your cat’s food and then to your cat during the next meal.

After mealtime, even though your cat's bowl may look empty, that doesn't mean it is clean. Have you ever felt slimy residue around a bowl? That is called biofilm. Biofilm occurs when bacteria from leftover food and saliva bond together. It can make your cat sick, and it also releases an offensive smell. You might not be able to detect it, but your cat’s sense of smell is about twenty times as strong as yours. A bad smell can turn off your cat from eating.

Microorganisms Can Make Your Cat Sick

Ingesting harmful bacteria can make your cat sick, causing diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, and other serious conditions.

Also, feline acne, a condition that occurs around a cat's mouth or chin may result. Cat acne is most frequently caused by bacteria in cat bowls and can result in breakouts, hair loss, redness, or bleeding scabs. If your cat scratches or licks the affected area, a bacterial infection may also develop.

Biofilm, that glue-like substance that remains on dirty bowls, has been linked to periodontal disease in dogs and cats. Periodontal disease is the most common disease in cats under 10 years old. Biofilm clings to cats’ teeth and gum tissue and over time hardens into tartar. Plaque and tartar can be removed through a dental cleaning, but buildup left over time can cause inflammation and lead to oral pain, bad breath, bleeding, swelling, and eventually, tooth loss. Gum disease can also affect cats' kidneys, liver, and heart.

So how do you keep your cat safe? Next, we'll share tips on choosing a bowl that minimizes the risk of bacteria, how often to change or wash bowls, and how to wash bowls.

Choose Stainless Steel Cat Bowls Over Plastic or Ceramic

In an earlier blog "Plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel cat bowls?" we evaluated the pros and cons of each cat bowl material and gave them an overall safety grade. Plastic and ceramic cat bowls are prone to tiny cracks and crevices, sometimes even invisible to your eyes. These cracks and crevices can become breeding grounds for bacteria and are impossible to fully sanitize.

In contrast, stainless steel is non-porous, so bacteria cannot enter stainless steel's hard surface. Stainless steel bowls are also more likely to be dishwasher safe for a deeper clean. 

Stainless steel cat bowls

Choose Cat Bowls that Prevent Whisker Fatigue

Although a bowl may be labeled for cats, it may actually be too deep or steep. If a bowl is too deep, cats' sensitive whiskers rub against the sides of the bowl causing whisker fatigue. (Yes, whisker fatigue is actually a medical condition. Read more here.) Whisker fatigue is uncomfortable and causes cats to stop eating, leaving leftover food behind. This leftover food can then become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Be sure to choose a whisker friendly bowl that is wide and shallow so that it's easier for your cat to reach every morsel. This will help limit bacteria from finding your cat's leftovers.

Americat Company Bowls are Stainless Steel & Whisker Friendly

Americat Company stainless steel bowls are made in the USA from U.S. stainless steel in a facility that also makes human medical and culinary products. This durable stainless steel keeps bacteria from entering the bowl's surface.

Also, the wide and shallow design prevents whisker fatigue. Deep enough to keep food in, yet shallow enough that cats can reach every bite, Americat Company bowls reduce the likelihood of leftover food and bacteria.

How Often Should I Change My Cat's Food and Water Bowls?

Give your cat a clean cat food bowl EVERY SINGLE DAY. If your cat is on a raw food diet, consider washing bowls or giving your cat a clean bowl after each use.

Change your cat's water each day and swap out your cat's water bowl daily or at least every 2 days.

Washing Cat Bowls in the Dishwasher

If possible, toss your cat bowls into your dishwasher on the highest setting. If the hot water rinse reaches at least 150°F (or 65.6°C), it’ll knock out 99.9% of the germs.

Washing Cat Bowls by Hand

If hand washing cat bowls, use hot, soapy water, as hot as you can stand. Avoid using scouring pads or steel wool, which can scratch bowls. Instead, clean your cats’ bowls with a soft sponge or rag used for that purpose only.

Let your cat bowls air dry or dry them with a towel. If using a towel, wash the towel afterwards or dry cat bowls with a separate towel, so you don't cross-contaminate your kitchen towels. Spray disinfectant in the sink and wash your hands afterwards.

I Don't Have Time For All That Washing!

Americat Company stainless steel bowls

We understand that you may not run your dishwasher every day or have time to hand wash your cat food and water bowls every day. We don't! If that's the case for you too, have extra cat bowls on hand. I keep a stack of stainless steel Americat Company bowls next to the cat food, so I can give my cats clean bowls each morning.

Many cat parents have been vulnerable and shared with us that they were not cleaning their cat bowls as often as they should. We understand, which is why we wrote this article. We hope that you have learned more about what can grow on cat bowls, why that's harmful, how to select a more sanitary cat bowl, and how to best clean them.

Giving your cats clean bowls each day to help keep your little babies healthy and happy. 

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