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Your Guide to Routine Care for Your Pet’s Environment

Habitat cleaning

Whether you are the proud parent of a rambunctious puppy or a playful hamster, a large part of taking care of your pet is ensuring they have a safe and clean environment. Keeping the area where your pet eats, sleeps and plays clean is not just about making your home pleasant; it is also critical to keeping you and your pet healthy.

During cleaning for any species, take care when handling your pet and their supplies (i.e. habitat, kennel, litter box, décor and accessories) as all species have potential to carry zoonotic diseases (diseases that are transmissible to humans). Cover any open wounds and use appropriate PPE such as rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves, a mask and goggles while removing bedding, disinfecting the habitat and its contents to reduce exposure to waste, dander, micro-organisms and chemicals. Always thoroughly wash your hands and/or use sanitizer before and after handling pets or their supplies.  

Whether you are looking for information on how often to clean and replace dog and cat supplies or have questions about caring for your reptile, bird or small pet's habitat, the following guide will help you create an inviting and clean home for your beloved family member.

How to clean pet's cage

Providing a clean environment for your dog

If you are the proud parent of a dog (or two), it is important to keep your dog’s environment clean. Put together a calendar of routine activities using the guidelines below.

  • Clean food and water dishes: Use water and mild soap to thoroughly wash food and water bowls daily. This will help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and molds.

  • Wash their bedding: Clean and rotate all bedding your pet uses once a week to remove dirt, bacteria, allergens and potential pests from both the bedding and your home. Follow the care instructions on the bed/bedding to keep it in its best shape.
  • Disinfect pet toys: Your dog’s toys can be a hotbed for bacteria, dirt, yeast and mold, which is why cleaning them thoroughly and regularly is important. To do so, wash all plastic and rubber toys at least once a week with warm water and mild soap. Plush toys often have care instructions on the tag. Otherwise, you can usually run them on a gentle cycle with a mild detergent in the washing machine or wash them by hand.
  • Dispose of expired products: Products past their due date—especially food and medicine—should be disposed of right away. Take time once a week to go through all the dog products you have stashed in your house and toss and replace all expired items, such as flea & tick preventives, prescriptions, supplements, food and treats, in addition to the products we think about less frequently like ear cleaners and shampoos, etc.

  • Deep clean their crate: If your dog has a crate, on one of the days you clean bedding, wipe the entire crate down with a pet-safe disinfectant at least once a month.

  • Replace damaged beds: Every six months, replace beds with tears, loose stuffing or other unfixable damage.

  • Replace nail clippers every year or two: If you clip your dog's nails at home, you may wonder how often to replace your dog's nail clippers. Generally, quality nail clippers should last anywhere from one to two years. When in doubt, purchase a replacement pair to ensure they are not dull causing nails to crack or splinter at the time of a cut.

  • Throw out damaged toys: Toys that can't be cleaned or are beyond repair can become a hazard and should be thrown away and replaced. Ripped seams, exposed stuffing or squeakers signify that it's time to say goodbye.
  • Replace damaged water and food dishes: How often to replace your dog's bowl depends a lot on the material it's made from. For plastic and ceramic bowls, replace when the bowl shows signs of cracking, nicks, staining or chew marks (plastic). Stainless steel bowls generally do not need to be replaced unless they are dented, rusting or damaged.

Petco dog supplies

Keeping your cat’s space clean

Your cat might be an expert at keeping their coat clean, but they need your help to keep their home environment hygienic. For cats, create your checklist based on the following guidelines.

  • Clean food and water bowls: Empty your cat’s food dish and water bowl daily and clean with warm water and soap. This will help prevent harmful bacteria and molds from growing.
  • Scoop your cat’s litter box: Cats with dirty litter boxes may find other places to relieve themselves. Keep your cat's litter box clean by scooping daily to remove any deposits and replace your cat's litter.

  • Clean your cat’s entire litter box: If you are wondering how often to change cat litter, the answer is at least once a week. Daily refreshes to the litter box are great, but to keep it in tip-top shape, replace all the litter inside at least once a week (more often if it gets particularly dirty), and wash it out with mild soap and water.
  • Disinfect toys: Your cat’s toys can harbor bacteria, dirt, yeast and mold. To prevent this, wash all plastic and rubber toys weekly with warm water and mild soap. For plush toys, follow the care instructions on the tag or wash them by hand.
  • Dispose of expired products: Every week, go through your cat’s medicine, supplements, food and treats to check expiration dates. Any product that is past its prime should be disposed of and replaced right away.

  • Fully replace your cat’s litter box at least once a year: Wondering how often to replace your cat's litter box? Ideally, you should aim to replace the entire thing about once a year.

  • Replace damaged toys and trees on an ongoing basis: While cats may not tear apart their toys in quite the same manner as dogs, remember to replace worn or broken toys so your pet doesn't injure themselves. If you have a cat tree, you might wonder how often to replace it; the answer depends a lot on how much your cat uses the tree and how many cats live in your home. Most cat trees will start to show enough wear and tear that they should be replaced after two years.

Petco cat supplies

Taking care of your bird’s habitat and accessories

Routine cleaning of a bird’s habitat is imperative to help keep them healthy. Use the following guide to keep your bird's habitat clean.

  • Wash out food and water bowls: Anything your bird uses to eat or drink from should be thoroughly cleaned with mild soap and water, dried and refilled daily.
  • Spot-clean your bird’s habitat: Habitats should be spot-cleaned daily by removing uneaten food and any waste on perches or accessories as droppings can cause contamination that may lead to illness for your bird. If fresh fruits or vegetables are offered, these should be discarded within 10 hours to prevent spoilage. Bird species who eat millet and/or cuttlebones should have these replaced as needed if eaten or contaminated with waste.
  • Clean out bird baths and fill them with fresh water: Any bird baths in your bird's habitat should be cleaned daily—since feathers, food and other things can easily get caught in them—and refilled with fresh water.

  • Replace habitat linings: Your bird's habitat lining could be filled with food particles, droppings and other debris. When you clean the habitat each week, take the time to replace it entirely and start fresh. Substrate or habitat liners should be replaced once a week at a minimum or more often as needed, especially if multiple birds are housed together.
  • Clean your bird’s entire habitat and all accessories: After removing, use a pet-safe habitat cleaner or diluted 3% bleach solution to thoroughly disinfect the habitat, bowls and dishes, accessories, perches and toys. Habitats should be cleaned in a well-ventilated area or outside and never around food preparation areas. Never use a vacuum on a bird's habitat as it may spread disease; the vacuum will stir up dried fecal matter and dander into the air, which can be inhaled or ingested. All items should be rinsed thoroughly in warm water and completely dried before returning to the habitat. If you cannot go outside to disinfect the habitat, the area used should be thoroughly disinfected after cleaning. During thorough disinfection of the habitat, birds should be removed from the habitat and secured in a safe location away from the cleaning area; they can be sensitive to fumes from disinfectants. Birds should not be allowed to roam freely in the home due to the risk of escape or injury to the bird, as well as the spread of droppings/dander that can potentially spread disease. Additionally, if you or anyone in your home is high-risk or immunocompromised, be sure to talk with a physician before bringing a bird into the family or interacting with birds due to an increased risk of illness. 

  • Replace damaged items as needed: During cleaning, take the opportunity to thoroughly examine all perches, dishes, toys and other accessories for any excessive wear or damage. If this is noted, items should be replaced with new items to prevent ingestion of pieces by your bird or potential injury to your bird caused by broken accessories. In addition, toys should be rotated in the habitat regularly to provide mental stimulation and help prevent boredom for your pet bird.

Petco bird supplies

Caring for your aquatic life’s home

Your aquatic life will remain happiest and healthiest when you take the time to keep their environment at its cleanest. So, if you're wondering how often to clean your aquarium or how often to clean and replace your aquatic supplies, the following guidelines are the perfect place to start.

  • Measure and keep the water at appropriate levels: Aquatic life forms require a stable environment to stay healthy. According to Don Spaeth, National Aquatic Care Manager, "Every day, you should visually observe aquatic life while feeding to ensure they are eating and they all look healthy. Check that the filter and other equipment, such as the heater, are functioning correctly. Verify the water temperature. If the water level has dropped, top off with fresh dechlorinated water. In a marine aquarium, check the specific gravity and top off with fresh dechlorinated water if needed, ensuring the specific gravity does not fluctuate by more than .001 in a 24-hour period."
  • Pay attention to the health of any aquatic plants: If your aquarium contains plants, keep them healthy by using fertilizer and removing any dead leaves or plant parts.

  • Test the water quality: If caring for a reef aquarium, you'll also want to ensure the calcium, alkalinity and magnesium levels are stable.
  • Every few weeks, perform a substrate siphoning and water change: Every 2–4 weeks or as needed, Spaeth recommends performing a 10–25% substrate siphon and water change to help maintain pH levels and to remove any waste byproducts like ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. This will help ensure the aquarium is functioning correctly, the nitrogen cycle is working smoothly and prevent any potential concerns with deteriorating water quality from a buildup of organic material within the aquarium.

  • Clean all tank paraphernalia: The tubing and filters, should be cleaned with mild vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and water solution at least monthly. Clean and scrape off any undesirable algae growth. 
  • Change filter media: Once a month, change your mechanical and chemical filter media to ensure that the filter is functioning properly and is keeping the water quality safe.

  • Change full spectrum light bulbs every six to 12 months: This helps ensure the health of your aquatic plants, corals and light-dependent invertebrates.

Petco aquatics supplies

Sprucing up your small pet’s space

Routine cleaning of a small pet's habitat is essential to helping your pet maintain a healthy life. So, if you are looking for how often to clean or replace your hamster or guinea pig habitat, the following recommendations are perfect tips for you.

  • Wash out food and water bowls: Anything your small animal uses to eat or drink from should be thoroughly cleaned with mild soap and water, dried and replaced daily.
  • Spot-clean your small animal’s habitat: Habitats and litter boxes (if applicable) should be spot-cleaned daily by removing soiled bedding or excess waste from habitat surfaces, water and food bowls or accessories. Any soiled or uneaten food and hay (if applicable) should be discarded and replaced daily; droppings can get in bowls and cause contamination that can lead to illness for your small pet. If you give your pet fruits or vegetables, these should be discarded within 10 - 12 hours to prevent spoilage.

  • Disinfect your animal’s habitat: Thoroughly disinfect your pet's habitat, bowls and accessories and replace substrate or bedding 1–2 times a week or more frequently as needed—especially if multiple animals are housed together. Animals such as ferrets, guinea pigs, mice and rats will generally require more frequent cleaning due to the amount of waste they produce. For species who enjoy a weekly dust bath, such as chinchillas, gerbils and hamsters, provide the dust bath the day before disinfecting the habitat, as these pets will often spread the dust throughout the habitat. When preparing to disinfect your animal's habitat, remove your pet and secure them in a safe location away from the cleaning fumes, as small pets can be sensitive to these chemicals. Small animals should never be allowed to roam freely through the house; they can escape, become lost, injure themselves and may even spread disease by contaminating surfaces with droppings. Substrate or bedding should be completely removed, discarded and replaced with fresh substrate once the habitat has been thoroughly disinfected and dried. Disinfection can be done with a  pet-safe habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution applied to the entire habitat, all food and water bowls, hides, toys and other accessories for a minimum of 10 minutes before being thoroughly rinsed and dried. Like other species, small animals can potentially carry zoonotic diseases that are transmissible to humans. Therefore, use personal protective equipment when cleaning their habitat, and thoroughly wash your hands after handling your pet, their habitats or accessories.

  • Inspect other items in the habitat and replace them as needed: During the cleaning process, all accessories should be inspected for excess wear or damage and replaced as necessary to help prevent accidental ingestion of pieces or injury to the pet. If your pet uses chewsticks, you should replace them as necessary for your pet's dental health.

Petco small pet supplies

Maintaining your reptile’s habitat

Your reptile will spend most of their time in their habitat, so just as with your home, keeping it clean is a priority. Luckily, some simple regular maintenance can make a big impact on their health and wellbeing.  

  • Spot-clean their habitat: To keep your reptile’s space as hygienic as possible, you should do a simple spot-clean of their habitat every day. This will not only keep their home looking good, but it will also reduce your reptile's exposure to bacteria and disease that can be spread via fecal oral transmission. This process should also include a daily cleaning of their food and water bowls (remember to dry bowls before refilling) to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria. If your reptile hasn’t eaten their fresh fruits and vegetables (if applicable) within 10–12 hours, discard them so they don’t spoil.
  • Check temperature and humidity: The temperature and humidity in your reptile’s habitat are a crucial part of their health and wellness. Temperatures and humidity levels that are either too high or low can cause illness and stress. Therefore, you should be checking these levels on the thermometer and hygrometer (humidity gauge) daily to make sure they are staying consistent and at suitable levels for your species of reptile.  

  • Thoroughly disinfect habitat: It is very important to deep clean your reptile’s habitat on a weekly basis. While your regular spot-cleaning will help remove buildup, a more thorough disinfecting session once a week will help you get rid of microorganism growth that can result in infections and diseases in your reptile. 
  • First, remove your reptile from their habitat and place them in a secure enclosure. Next, turn off and remove the lights from the habitat. Finally, discard any bedding or substrate that cannot be disinfected and clean the habitat and all décor and accessories with either a species-safe habitat cleaner or a 3% bleach solution and water.

Petco reptile supplies

Taking care of your pet’s environment is an important part of being a responsible pet parent. By providing your pet with a clean place to call home, you can help contribute to their overall wellbeing. Now that you know how to care for your pet’s environment, gear up with pet-safe cleaning supplies.

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Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.

Reviewed by Don Spaeth, Petco’s National Aquatic Care, Education and Programs Manager

Don is Petco’s National Aquatic Care, Education and Programs Manager. He is an avid aquarist who has worked with and cared for freshwater and marine aquatic life for over 40 years. Throughout his 27+ years with Petco, Don has actively been involved with our aquatic vendor partners and worked to promote aquatic education both in store and company-wide.