I'm sorry if this is a dumb question because obviously my cat's toys are always on the ground... but is it an issue if his little stuffed animal toy that he often bites and carries around with him is always on the ground? My apartment is not exceedingly dirty or anything but... it is the floor of an apartment which likely isn't the cleanest surface in the world. Should I be concerned that he might contract some disease or something? Should I be washing his toy? Granted, he has been doing this for 2 years at this point, has all his required vaccinations/shots, gets enough exercise, etc... and has been healthy so far, but is this something I should be concerned about?
Summary: The ground is not less safe or has more germs than any other surface in your home (including the food and water bowls). The cat would come into contact with the same germs if the toy wasn't on the ground.
Our homes are teeming with bacteria on every single surface and in the air. Our own bodies are teeming with bacteria (we couldn't survive without them) and we shed millions of bacteria into the environment each hour. There simply is no "cleanest surface in the world" outside of an extremely strict laboratory (and some food production sites... at least I hope so).
BBC World writes in their article: What really happens to food when you drop it on the floor
At any one time, there are about 9,000 different species of microscopic creatures lurking in the dust in our homes, including 7,000 different bacteria, according to a 2015 study. Most of them are harmless.
They are all over you all the time; on your hands and face, and in your house. We are constantly shedding bacteria through our skin and through the air we breathe.
And concerning the safety of the floor, the same article writes:
There are certainly some harmful pathogens around. But if one is lurking on your floor, it could also be elsewhere in your house, perhaps on your kitchen counter or door handle. You could become ill regardless of whether you ate food from the floor.
The good news is that almost all of those bacteria are completely harmless. They live in us and we live with them, and so does your cat.
The better news is: The toy is already teeming with (harmless) bacteria, too. As long as those survive, they will fight off other (possibly harmful) bacteria that try to settle on the surface.
So in general the toy is safe and doesn't need to be washed for sanitary reasons.
The few exceptions are:
- Fecal matter. That, too, is teeming with bacteria, but some of those can cause illness if they are ingested. Parasites also often spread through feces. I would wash the toy if it ever fell into a puddle of pee, the litter box or the toilet, but that is a no-brainer.
- If you happen to have any pests in your house, like mice or rats in the basement or bats in the attic and the toy might ever find its was there, that also counts as contact to fecal matter. These pests often carry parasites and germs into the house.
- Existing illnesses. If your cat has any kind of bacterial infection like diarhea, an inflamed eye or ear, these bacteria are also shed from his body. To avoid a reinfection it's best to wash the toy and bedding very hot once the cat is cured.