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
• Difficult breathing
• Abdominal pain
• 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?
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.