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Are second-hand or used pet supplies safe for cats?

grey cat sitting on beige cat tree © New Africa - Shutterstock

Getting a second-hand cat tree can be very tempting. After all, it’s an easy and less expensive choice! But is it safe for your pet? Let’s find out!

By Justine Seraphin

Updated on the

Owning a cat is expensive. Between vet bills, insurance, food, and the overall rise of cost of living in the UK, there’s lots to pay for already. So if you’re able to make some savings by purchasing a second-hand cat tree, for example, that’s great…right?

While buying or receiving second-hand items can be cheaper and also more environmentally friendly than purchasing new items for your cat, there’s a lot to consider before you take that step. Here’s everything you need to know about purchasing a used cat tree. 

Can you reuse a cat tree?

In one word, yes. But if you don’t wish to take any health risks for your cat (which we’re sure you don’t), it’s more complicated than that. 

The best thing to do would be to get your second-hand cat tree from a trusted source, for example a friend or family member of yours. In this way, you’ll be able to check the condition of the cat tree yourself before taking it home with you. Plus, you’ll know which cats have used the tree before yours, which is very important to ensure no nasty bacteria will have been transferred to the tree. Here are a few things to check before you take a used cat tree home with you:

Sturdiness

With time, used cat trees can become a bit wobbly or damaged. If this is the case, the tree could collapse when your cat uses it! This could cause terrible injuries and trauma for your pet. It’s better to be safe than sorry. When you check a used cat tree, make sure you test the solidity of it before you bring it home, particularly if it’s a tall, complex tree, or if you have many cats at home (the more weight on the tree, the more likely it is to break). 

Odours

Many animal odours are imperceptible to the human nose, but they won’t be to your cat! You can only assume that a second-hand cat tree has been used by other cats and is therefore covered with the smell of them. And seeing as cats are territorial animals, yours may want to “mark” items that smell like other cats (yes, that means to pee on them, unfortunately). To avoid this happening, you’ll have to deep clean and disinfect the cat tree before you place it in your pet’s environment. Otherwise, not only do you take the risk of your cat soiling this new item, but you also take the risk of making them feel extremely uncomfortable or even anxious.

Viruses, fleas, and bacteria

The viruses that cause respiratory tract infections can stay within the carpet of a cat tree for up to 30 days. Fleas can live there for up to 3 months. And the fungal spores of ringworm infections can live there for up to 20 months! So if the previous cats had any of these health conditions, a used cat tree can be a vessel for transmitting them to your cat. That’s why it’s so important to know the health conditions of the cats who have used the cat tree before yours, but also to deep-clean and disinfect the tree, just to be safe.

How to disinfect a used cat tree

Even if you know the previous users of this cat tree were healthy, it’s a good idea to deep-clean the tree before you place it in your home. This will not only eliminate any risk, but it will also help to remove odours which could be displeasing to your cat. Here’s a step by step of what you should do to clean your used cat tree:

1. Remove cat hair

Cat hair will carry lots of scent and potentially also fleas. Use a deshedding tool to brush every carpeted surface of the tree and dispose of the hair you collect. Then go in with a vacuum to remove any extra stray hairs.

2. Disinfect

You’ll want to use a pet-safe and non-toxic disinfectant for your cat tree. If you want a homemade solution, pour a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and water into a spray bottle. Spray the solution all over the cat tree and let it rest for about 10 minutes. 

If you prefer to use a stronger product, you can find pet-safe carpet cleaner sprays or pet stain and odour remover sprays (also known as enzyme cleaners) in pet stores or online. You can also purchase soluble potassium peroxymonosulfate tablets, which will really help to rid the cat tree of any deeply embedded bacteria. If you’re worried about fleas, you can also purchase flea-spray made specifically for carpets, and spray some onto the tree.

You can place the cat tree outside to dry after spraying it with the disinfectant of your choosing. Direct sunlight can reduce the levels of some pathogens. 

3. Clean

Once you have disinfected your cat tree, you can clean it using a carpet steam cleaner. This will use hot water and a sucking system to remove dirt and/or debris that sunk deep into the cat tree. 

How do you get a cat to use a used cat tree?

If you have properly disinfected and deep-cleaned the used cat tree, there is no reason why your cat should have an aversion to it. However, as with anything new in their environment, they might be a little scared of it initially. It’s your job to help them want to use it!

Plug-in a pheromone diffuser for maximum relaxation. Place a couple of treats, some of your cat’s favourite toys, and maybe even some catnip onto the cat tree. This will attract your cat and encourage them to hop on. Don’t force them to do anything they’re not comfortable with. Let them explore the tree on their own terms. If this takes several days, or even weeks, no matter! If you don’t let them take it at their own pace, they may never feel confident enough to use it. 

So, what do you think? Is getting a used cat tree worth the hassle?

Frequently asked questions

Will a cat use another cat's scratching post?

Will a cat play on a used cat tree?

Do cats not like used cat trees?

Have you ever gotten second-hand items for your pets?
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