Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: November 1, 2022 by Crystal Uys


I keep my house clean, but I’m by no means a germophobe or a neat freak. I vacuum twice a week, and do a more thorough cleaning once a week that includes bathrooms, dusting and washing hard floors. I’m also pretty tolerant of other peoples’ habits. But when it comes to wearing street shoes inside my house, there is no grey zone for me: I don’t allow it. And the main reason for this is that I don’t want to expose Allegra and Ruby to all the bacteria and toxins that live on the bottom of the average shoe.

Study reveal high bacteria levels on footwear

Think about what you step in when you walk outside. Regardless of whether you live in a city, the suburbs, or a rural area, you’re going to step into at least some residue of one or more of the following (and please, put down any food you may be eating while you’re reading this, because trust me, you’re going to be a little grossed out:) animal feces, peoples’ spit, gasoline, oil, pesticides, fertilizer, and countless biological substances that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your cats.

A 2008 study at the University of Arizona found that the average pair of shoes hosts up to 421,000 bacteria from nine different strains. 96% of shoe soles contain fecal bacteria, including E-coli. Once those bacteria  make their way inside our homes, they can live for days.

Lawn chemicals are highly toxic to cats, even indoor cats

An even bigger concern for me are lawn chemicals. When I go for my daily walks in my suburban neighborhood, especially in the spring and fall, not a day goes by that someone hasn’t just fertilized their lawn. I can see the granules on the sidewalk, and sometimes, I can even smell the chemicals. I am strongly opposed to the use of chemical fertilizers, and I don’t understand the obsession with flawless green lawns. But mostly, I worry about the effect lawn chemicals have on the cats (and other animals) who come in contact with them – and that can happen even if your cats never leave the house, because you’ll drag residual chemicals in on your shoes.

How does the stuff on your shoes affect your cats?

While cats may not lick your floors, their little paws will come in contact with anything you drag in on your shoes. And then they’ll lick their paws as part of their regular grooming routine, and they’ll end up ingesting whatever wound up on their paws. Exposure to bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Exposure to toxins can cause any or all of the following:

• Excessive salivation
• Tearing of the eyes
• Excessive urination
• Muscle twitching
• Weakness
• Difficult breathing
• Collapse
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Abdominal pain
• Weakness
• Dizziness
• Unsteady gait

Take off your shoes when you get home

And it’s so easy to prevent any possible issues: simply take off your shoes as soon as you get inside your house! I usually enter my house through the garage and the adjacent laundry room. The girls don’t have access to either, so my street shoes stay in the laundry room.

Do you wear street shoes inside the house or do you take them off?

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24 Comments on Why You Shouldn’t Wear Shoes Inside the House

  1. Ingrid,
    Thank you for this article. Although I am guilty of wearing my shoes from the front door to the bedroom and vice versa I generally don’t wear shoes indoors and never have. I like to go barefoot or socks in the winter. So much so that I remember my mother commenting when I was in high school, “Well, I know Trish is home.” My shoes came off right inside the door and at that time (hey I was a teenager) they would pretty much stay where I walked out of them. Now they don’t come off at the door but after reading this, I think it will start!

    Thanks so much! Anything to keep my Kitty Committee healthy!

  2. I have indoor and outdoor footwear, for my personal convenience, but good point about why that helps my cats. When I leash walk one of my cats, it is mostly in my unfenced yard, where I do not use any chemicals on my grass. When I take him out on the sidewalk, I do not let him onto the lawns beside the sidewalk because I do not know what my neighbours are using for lawn care.

  3. i dont wear my shoes in my house. when i would go to dog shows with my breeder, we had to spray our shoes and the dogs feet with cleaner and antiseptic spray before we could enter the area around our rv. when i go places i try to remember to wipe my shoes and the dogs feet b4 we go back in our house.

  4. Yes, we have been taking our shoes off before coming in the house for over 20 years. We have all visitors do the same. We learned this tip from our Veterinarian at the time. He warned us how bad it was for our cat for so many reasons. Keeps our floors so much cleaner too. It is a very good habit to get into. We do have shoes we only wear indoors. Our son has continued this habit in his own home with his own family.

  5. I have a housemate, the owner of the house, and there is no way he’ll take off his boots because it takes time to do that.
    I have one of those brush scrapers that I keep outside the door to at least brush off the shoes which does some good.

    • Silvia,
      Wow-someone in my exact situation! That scraper sounds like it could work for me, thanks for the post & idea!

  6. Hmmh! I have always been in favor of not wearing outside shoes inside our (or anyone else’s) house, for a variety of reasons unrelated to our cats.

    The problems: (1) Once we have put on our shoes (and because of my bad back, my husband has to help me put on most of my shoes), we usually think of something we have forgotten. Then we walk back into the house to get it, wearing our outside shoes. (2) The entrance area of our house, where we keep our outside shoes, is not closed off (and cannot be closed off) from the rest of our house. It is frequented by our cats, several of which see us off when we leave the house and welcome us when we come back home.

    I wouldn’t know how to eliminate these problems. Any suggestions?

    • I hear you on the forgetting something and having to go back in the house issue, Lilo! While your “entrance system” may not be perfect with regards to this issue, I think that even when you can’t be 100% perfect, and even though your cats come and greet you in an area where you still wear your outside shoes, this still has to be better overall than wearing outside shoes in the house all the time.

  7. I usually walk through the house to the bathroom where I keep my slippers or “indoor only” slip-ons. Now after reading this I will keep those indoor shoes right by my entry to the house from the garage where I also always enter. Thank you for this great post!!!

  8. My post might have come off as harsh, as I live in Sweden and I understand (most) of you don’t, so I am used to not wearing my outdoor-shoes inside a house unless the owner actually tells me I “need to keep my shoes on” for some reason.
    I have for the last 10 or so years, offered my visitors a variety of light slippers/houseshoes – some think it’s a blessing and others decline – the weather in Sweden makes us wear socks at least nine out of twelve months. Birkenstock or its varietes are a good choice, they add stability and they have rubber soles, and wearing a size smaller or larger than you normally would, doesn’t really matter.

  9. This is one reason I have cats rather than dogs. It is just so dirty outside and one can’t bath a dog every time it’s taken outside so I worry about how healthy “outside” is for dogs (I live in co-op building so don’t have a yard which I could monitor). Anyway, I agree with taking outdoor shoes off before entering home and take my indoor shoes along when visiting no-indoor-shoe homes. BTW off point but I also believe in feeding our companion animals real food. They are more susceptible than we are to poor food and toxins! Great article Ingrid.

  10. Thank you, thank you for confirming shoes carry germs in the house. Before I enter my home the shoes stay in the foyer. I’ve done this for years and friends and family said, ‘I’m not coming to your house,’ or ‘you must be nuts.’ Thank you, I’m nuts. My cats don’t need those extra germs.

  11. Wearing shoes inside is something that has bothered me for years. I try and try to get my husband to take his off, but he is hard headed. I am going to read this article to him and maybe he can realize what I have been trying to tell him all along.

    • have the same problem! and also the foot problem – have to wear orthotics and cant go barefoot (tho I love it). so same problem…need to find a good support indoor shoe..any suggestions? my indoor cats have a lot of those symptoms and have for years….wonder……??? thanks for the info, quite enlightening….

      • I’m a fan of Giesswein’s boiled wool and cork shoes for the house. I never wear them outdoors. I’ve had the same pair since spring 2017 and wear them year-round. Not really fussed with them in the summer at all. I even put a pair of my old running orthotics (made by Sole) in them and they are perfect. I have high arches and love to barefoot too, but my hips and lower back complain when I do.

  12. Depending on the time of year/ location there may be all the ice melting chemicals. Calcium, Potassium, & Sodium Chlorides – who knows what else is in the mix.

    I have in-house sandals/ flip-flops that I have to wear for bone spurs – they don’t go outside (much).

  13. I try too remember to take my shoes off before coming into my house or anyone house who has pets. Sometimes i forget.

  14. Also, we’ve been wearing shoes indoors for decades. The “take your shoes off inside” is especially dangerous for Seniors, who may slip and fall in only their sox.

  15. I need to wear shoes, Lois, so I have shoes which I wear only indoors — ones like Birkenstocks which provide the support I need. I grew up in a no-outdoor-shoes-indoors home, so it seemed perfectly natural to continue in my own home. My Dad was Japanese American — no street shoes indoors. My Mom was from Nebraska farmers — no outdoor shoes indoors. If you know you’re going to visit people (like your son and daughter-in-law) who do not wear outdoor shoes inside, you can take along shoes you only wear indoors. No one needs to be embarrassed by foot problems. We all have some sort of problems / issues by the time we’re adults, if not before.

    • I also need to wear shoes indoors for support, am from the Midwest, and have taken my shoes off when entering the house all my life! I have since moved to the East Coast and people remark that when they visit the homes of transplanted Midwesterners that they have to take off their shoes. I told them I am no different.

  16. I read this with a little smirk on my face – in Sweden this is just about a non-issue – I would say 95% of Swedish people automatically take off their shoes when entering the house, and if you are going to visit someone and not sure if you should walk in with shoes or not, how hard is it to bring a pair of house-shoes/slippers? When I lived in the US, I was appalled at first that I was supposed to walk right into the living room with wall-to-wall-carpet… just seing the neighbors walk the dog outside made me sick. Shoes you weat outside the house should stay in lobby/hallway.

  17. My son & daughter-in-law have this policy and I hate it. I was the only one wearing shoes which I do for health reasons and I was embarrassed! You fail to take into account people who need to wear shoes & are embarrassed by foot issues.

    • You’re right, Lois, I did not take that into account, and I apologize. But perhaps a solution like the one recommended by Cheri would work?

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