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How to Clean a Cat Bowl: 8 Easy Steps

Image Credit: Millward Shoults, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

A cat bowl is easily one of the most important pieces of equipment for a cat owner. Just like humans, cats are affected by food-borne illnesses, most commonly caused by bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. These illnesses can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild digestive upset to severe organ damage and even death. Cats are clean animals and they like their bowls to be clean, too.

In this article, we will provide you with tips on how to properly clean your cat bowl and keep your pet healthy and happy.

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Before You Get Started

The fact that you should wash your cat’s food bowl and food mat every day may surprise you. The fourth most germ-ridden thing in our house is our pet bowl according to NSF International, an organization in the field of public health and safety. So, for the sake of your cat’s health—and your own—be prepared to wash your cat’s food consumption items on a daily basis.

  • Scrub brush or sponge
  • Rubber gloves
  • Detergent
  • Hot water
  • Broom

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The 8 Steps to Clean a Cat Bowl

1. Use Rubber Gloves

Gloves placed on hands
Image Credit: sweetlouise, Pixabay

To clean your cat bowl, put on rubber gloves to avoid coming in contact with the dirty food particles. The cat food and water can contain bacteria that can cause illness if it comes into contact with your skin. Cat bowls can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so it is important to take precautions when cleaning them. The gloves will also protect your hands from the harsh chemicals in the cleanser.

2. Discard Old Food

ants in cat food bowl
Image Credit: Pee Poti, Shutterstock

Reach into the bowl and grab as much of the slop as you can, then dump it into the toilet. Flush the toilet to get rid of the waste. Alternatively, this can be done by dumping it into the trash. Be sure not to dispose of this down the drain, as it can cause clogging. If there is still some slop left in the bowl, use a spoon or your gloved hand to remove it.

3. Deal with Dried-on Leftovers

pink pet food bowl with leftover
Image Credit: M. Zulkarnaen, Shutterstock

Next, remove any dried-on leftovers. You can soak the bowl in hot water and dish soap to help loosen any hardened food particles and make the residue easier to scrub off. The dish soap helps to break down grease and dirt, making it easier to rinse them away. After 5–10 minutes, even the most stubborn caked-on food should disintegrate under a little pressure.

4. Scrub the Bowl

washing pet feeding bowls
Image Credit: LeighT, Shutterstock

The next step in cleaning your cat bowl is to scrub it clean. Apply dish soap to the bowl. Use a brush or sponge to work up some suds and remove any food or hair that may be stuck to the sides of the bowl. Be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies so that it is completely clean.

5. Rinse Away Dish Soap

rinsing orange pet food bowl
Image Credit: MargaPl, Shutterstock

Finally, use a forceful stream of water from the faucet to rinse away the soap and debris. Dish soap is important for hygiene because it helps to remove food residue and bacteria from dishes. If there is any residue left behind, it will only attract more dirt and grime. If dishes are not rinsed off properly with dish soap, the food residue and bacteria can be transferred to other dishes or kitchen surfaces.

6. Clean the Food Mat

two pet food bowls on a mat
Image Credit: Charlene Bayerle, Shutterstock

Now is the time to clean up your cat’s food mat also. If you don’t have a food mat—rush out and buy one! They keep the floor around the food bowl clean by catching all the messes and waste. The best way to begin cleaning your cat’s food mat clean is to sweep it off with a broom. Then, soak it in a tub of soapy water. The food mat should also be cleaned daily to remove any traces of food.

This will minimize the number of bacteria that can grow on the surface of the mat, and also keep your cat’s feeding area clean. If you don’t clean the food mat, it can become a separate breeding ground for bacteria.

7. Allow the Bowl & Mat to Dry

hepper nom nom cat food bowl from above

The next step is to allow the food bowl to air dry. This will help to prevent any nasties from growing in the bowl. Bacteria, fungus, and mold can cause your cat to become sick, so it is important to take these precautions. Be sure to also allow the mat to dry completely before putting it back under the food bowl.

8. Wash Your Hands

woman washing her hands
Image Credit: Martin Slavoljubovski, Pixabay

Even though you’ve been wearing rubber gloves, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly when you complete a task like this. Food-borne illnesses can be serious, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Additionally, unless you regularly launder your rubber gloves, they too can harbor germs.

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What is Lurking in Uncleaned Cat Food Bowls?

Hidden in uncleaned cat food bowls are bacterial colonies that can cause food poisoning in cats and humans. The bacteria can survive for long periods of time on the surface of the bowl and its surroundings, so it is important to clean the bowl and surrounding area regularly. Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can contaminate the food and cause gastrointestinal problems in cats and humans.

There is a risk of parasites, like giardia, plus yeast and mold, if cats’ food bowls are not cleaned properly. This is because the food and water left in the bowl can create a perfect environment for these microorganisms to grow and thrive. In addition to being a health hazard for your pet, these organisms can also be dangerous for humans.

Attracting Pests

Uncleaned cat food bowls can also attract pests, such as ants, rodents, and cockroaches. These pests can contaminate the food in the bowl, as well as spread disease to your cat, and through the rest of your house. It is vitally important to clean the bowl regularly to avoid these problems.

Why is Stainless Steel the Best Material for Cat Food Bowls?

There are a few reasons why stainless steel is often the material of choice for cat food bowls. First, stainless steel is durable and won’t easily chip or break. Second, it’s easy to clean and won’t harbor bacteria. Third, it doesn’t react with acidic foods like cat food, so it will be safe for your kitty to eat from.

Why is Plastic the Worst Material for Cat Food Bowls?

There are a few reasons why plastic is bad for cat food bowls. For one, cats can easily chew through plastic, leading to potential health problems if they eat any of the plastic shards. In addition, the chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastic can leach into the food, contaminating it and potentially making your cat sick. Scratched plastic absorbs bacteria and can be difficult to clean, which can lead to your kitty getting sick. Finally, when a plastic bowl is heated (like when left in the sun), it can release harmful toxins into the surrounding environment and into your cat’s food.

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In conclusion, cleaning a cat bowl is a simple process that only requires a few minutes of your time. By following these simple steps, you can keep your cat’s food clean, fresh, and free of bacteria. Remember to always wash your hands after cleaning the bowl and mat to avoid getting sick. This small daily task will do wonders for your cat’s health and for the hygiene of your whole household. Happy cleaning!

Featured Image Credit: Millward Shoults, Shutterstock

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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