Sanitation in shelters: why there should be no animal around while cleaning & disinfecting

It’s been a while since I last wrote on our shelter blog, but we’ve been really busy lately, lecturing all across the country! Since the beginning of the year, we indeed presented 10 times our lecture on “Sanitation in shelters”. Always a good way to explain to shelter staff/volunteers the importance of some “basic” hygiene measures and to make them understand how critical these are in a shelter setting.  

During this talk we always spend some time explaining the difference between cleaning and disinfecting (a key concept in terms of sanitation; more info on one of our previous post here). But after discussing with several shelter staff, I thought it was important to clarify something: during the procedure, animals should not be around in order to make it effective. This might sound like a trivial detail. However, its importance is huge!

 

  • Disinfection cannot be achieved in the presence of organic matter

Another key concept here: many disinfectants ( like bleach for instance ) are inactivated by organic matter. And by organic matter we usually mean stools, urine, hairs,…, in fact anything organic coming out/falling of the animals. The goal of cleaning is usually to get rid of this organic matter so that the disinfecting procedure that follows will be more efficient. However, pets are organic matter too… Shelters environment can sometimes be challenging - and I totally get it - but I think it is important to keep this in mind: if you cannot remove the animals from the place you’re trying to clean and disinfect, the procedure you’re undertaking will therefore never be fully efficient…

  • Disinfectants need to sit for a minimum period of time to be fully effective

Moreover, the animals should not be present during the required sitting time of the product. Take a look at our table below: most of them require a 10 minutes before being rinsed. If animals are reintroduced too early in the cage/room/facility or if they are present while you try to disinfect, the success of the procedure will definitely be compromised.

 

  • The only exception: spot cleaning

 Spot cleaning is a procedure that is often used in shelters’ catteries. Its principle: you don’t perform a deep cleaning/disinfecting, you just focus on the dirty spots in the cat’s cage while avoiding manipulating the animal too much. The goal here: reduce the stress, since this one is often a serious risk factor favoring diseases development in shelters environments. From what I hear in the field, spot cleaning is a great technique in single-housed cats. However, in a room where several cats are housed, deep cleaning/disinfecting will always be required. And again, that will not be achievable in the presence of all the cats…

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