I learned that even if you are studiously avoiding the most well-known toxic cleaners (such as the phenol-based cleaners, which usually end in the letters “sol”), some sensitive cats will have very strong reactions to seemingly innocuous cleaning products. You simply cannot be too careful when deciding what you use to clean your house. One of my cats had mysteriously developed an on-again off-again vomiting problem and I finally figured out that these episodes almost invariably occurred the day after “cleaning day” in our house.

I wonder sometimes whether people with chronically vomiting cats–who are spending a small fortune on diagnostic tests and medications to stop the vomiting–aren’t inadvertently causing or aggravating the problem simply by virtue of using unsafe cleaning products around the house.

Take a long, hard look at the items in your cleaning cabinet. Then look around your house and notice what surfaces your cat sleeps, eats, or walks on every day. Then remember that your cat is regularly grooming herself, thus ingesting anything she comes in contact with.

Me? I ended up throwing out virtually all the products that I’d been using to wash floors, clean carpets, and dust surfaces throughout the house.

There is a terrific website which helps explain how using a small number of VERY simple and inexpensive products which, when diluted and combined as necessary depending on the job, can help avoid unnecessarily introducing toxins into your and your cat’s environment. (Please note, however, that many of the sites on “nontoxic” cleaning  recommend using ingredients like tea tree oil for certain purposes. Tea tree oil–and indeed many essential oils–are highly toxic to cats in their pure, undiluted form.)

The real lesson here is to spend a moment whenever you’re thinking of buying something used to clean a surface in your house — and take a very hard look at the ingredients in that product. Ask yourself whether there is any chance that your cat could come to harm by coming in contact with that product. If the answer is “yes”, then don’t use it.

If you buy one of those nifty mops with a disposable rag that dispenses a solution for cleaning wood or tile floors?  Throw out the solution that comes with the mop, washing the container thoroughly, and refill it with a safer solution of water, maybe a few drops of castile soap, and some plain white vinegar. Your floors will be just as clean and you won’t be putting something down on surfaces your cat walks on that might harm her if she ingests it. It’s cheaper too.

For dusting wood? Buy or make a very simple olive oil-plus-vinegar solution.

Cleaning glass? A simple vinegar, liquid detergent, and water solution works beautifully. See the site I mentioned above for a “recipe” to make this and other safe cleaning products.

Phenols are for losers.