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Home » How To Disinfect A Used Cat Tree

How To Disinfect A Used Cat Tree

February 20, 2023

Let’s face it, cat trees can be extremely expensive. In our guide on the best cat trees, half of them were over $50 and some were even over $100. Moreso, a quality cat tree is supposed to last a long time, so let’s talk about repurposing and saving a used cat tree from the garbage can. 

It’s a bit of an unpopular opinion, but we don’t believe everything has to be new for your cats. That’s not to say there’s not a huge benefit to buying something brand new, mainly for sanitary purposes, but there’s no reason to skip on a perfectly good used cat tree if the opportunity presents itself. 

What To Look For

Let’s start with the selection process for a used cat tree. You’re going to find no benefit to spending your day cleaning a used cheap cat tree. We’re all familiar with the little ones that are so commonplace in cat homes. Skip it and buy a new one for your cats if it’s under $50. 

Next, when you’re selecting something used for your cats, wear and tear is critically important. Does the sisal look like it’s on it’s last scratch? Skip it, it’s not worth it. Are there deep stains in the fabric or an extreme odor? The cat was probably sick - skip it. 

In fact, when we talk about disinfecting a used cat tree, we strongly encourage this to only be done on a near-new cat tree. 

In our case, we found a cat scratching post in nearly perfect condition. With its sturdy base and thick rope, we knew it would cost us a fortune to buy new, so we opted for the $10 and a day option. The day, meaning it took us the better part of a day to clean it up and get it ready for our cats to scratch, even though it looked almost brand new. 

Dangers Of A Used Cat Tree

Let’s talk about why we’re being so meticulous with cleaning a cat tree. One of the most common places for parasites to bury themselves is in carpets due to they’re harder to detect. Fleas, ticks, and mites are all common lurkers in carpet, and if you don’t know where your used cat tree is coming from, you definitely don’t want your cats near it before thoroughly cleaning it. 

Outside of parasites, you can also subject your cat to various bacterias and all sorts of nasty things. The least of your worries at this point is probably saving a few dollars. But there’s ways to make sure you properly disinfect a used cat tree so it’s safe for your cats. Let’s start with the first cleaning. 

Steps To Clean A Used Cat Tree

Your first steps when bringing a used cat tree home should be a top level cleaning. Grab a vacuum and vacuum up anything you can see. Take the cat tree apart as much as you can so that you can get into every nook and cranny possible. 

Once you’ve vacuumed any top level dirt or dust and disassembled the tree, you can really see what you are working with. Is there a ton of dirt in your vacuum? You may want to just toss the cat tree out now. 

First Disinfectant

Let’s start the disinfecting process early. We will repeat this several times on our journey to clean your used cat tree, just to be truly sure it’s clean for your kitties. 

We recommend purchasing a dedicated disinfectant that’s safe for pets such as the REScue disinfectant, but you can also opt for hydrogen peroxide or bleach (but be extra careful with bleach and be sure it’s fully cleaned off before giving it to your cats. 

Removing The Hair From A Used Cat Tree

Cat hair is one of the biggest reasons your cat will avoid your newfound cat tree. The smell of another cat can deter them from using the tree, or even worse, it could encourage them to urinate on it to claim it as their own. So let’s be sure to get rid of the pet hair as best we can. 

You can and should start by vacuuming. If you’re a cat owner, you know that a good vacuum makes a huge difference in your quality of life. We recommend Dyson because they are powerful, but for cleaning, we won’t rely on a vacuum, so any vacuum with smaller attachments that allow you to get everywhere will do just fine. 

Once you’ve completed the top level vacuuming you will want to run through all of the carpet areas with a lint roller, or even better, a pet hair removal tool. You can also use a standard razor and “shave” the cat hair off. It works better than a lint roller, especially for lots of cat hair. 

Removing The Smell From A Used Cat Tree

Once you’ve removed the hair from the cat tree, you should notice it smelling a lot cleaner. That’s because hair is a primary component of the smell for cats. But there could be other smells present as well. To do a deeper clean for smells, we recommend creating a baking soda and vinegar combo with water. Take a brush and scrub the carpeted areas as best you can. 

Hopefully you will get some additional hair out of the carpet from brushing it as well, but more importantly, if the smell doesn’t disappear it could be older. In these cases we recommend an enzyme cleaner as they are specially formulated to remove cat odors. 

Cleaning Sisal On A Used Cat Tree

Finally we need to find a way to deal with sisal, the part most likely to contain traces of other cats' nails. For this, we recommend sticking with your baking soda and vinegar mixture and brush. You will need to deeply brush the sisal as there are so many small grooves in there. After you do a first round of this, we recommend going back to your choice of disinfectant and using that with a brush. If you purchased the REScue wipes, you can brush with the wipes to make sure you get all nooks and crannies properly disinfected. 

Final Cleaning

If you’ve completed all these items, you’re nearly done. We would recommend putting any cloth fabrics you can directly into a washer now, but if that’s not possible, we suggest a final round of disinfectant wipes and scrubbing. To finalize your cleaning, we suggest scrubbing the entire cat tree with water to wash off any cleaning scents. 

Introducing Your Cat To Their New Cat Tree

Sometimes cats can still smell the other cats, even with your intense cleaning session. In these cases they may be a bit hesitant to use the cat tree. We’ve found that using catnip is a very effective way to encourage your cat to explore their new toy. After a few uses they will have their scent all over it and be comfortable with it. 


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