Go Ahead, Kiss Your Pet: 7 Things Dirtier Than Your Cat's Mouth
Kiss Your Kitty: It's Cleaner Than So Many Things
Pucker Up, Puddytat (and Pooch, Too)
Aww, come on, Mr. Clean! Everybody needs a little sugar. When you look at your cat's furry face, do you think "parasite potential?" Or, do you pucker up and lean in for a good smackeroo?
Yep, cats use their tongues as washcloths. I get that. How else do you expect them to clean their poop shoot? And dogs eat only—who knows. . .Hey, it happens. But before you second guess your kissing habit, consider that you're probably already doing some pretty gross things in your everyday life. And you haven't died yet, right?
Here are seven things that are nastier than your cat's—or dog's—mouth and not nearly as adorable. Go ahead, kiss the kitty! Smooch your pooch! We've got your back.
Adorable Kissing Cat: Not A Gross Thing About This
1. The Kitchen Sponge: Booming With Bacteria
Don't even pretend you're innocent on this one.
The biggest source of germs in the entire house is the kitchen sponge.1 You used it to soak up that raw chicken juice, spot-clean the floor, then wipe up the kitchen table after dinner. (The Health Department will be right over.)
As many as two-thirds of kitchen sponges are contaminated with fecal bacteria, typically through contact with raw meat.2 Although it takes only a few pathogens to make you ill, many sponges contain millions of bacteria and viruses—including E. coli, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, and Norovirus.
Aww, Come Here ...
These organisms thrive in warm, damp conditions and can multiply rapidly, with one bacteria cell becoming as many as 8 million within a mere 24 hours.3 And beware if you don't routinely toss that nasty sponge into the microwave or dishwasher. The most common cause of foodborne illness—the Norovirus—can live on a sponge as long as a week.
Feeling queasy yet? If not, consider this: some scientists have suggested that based on the number of germs present, it's probably safer to lick your toilet seat than your kitchen counters.
Instead of doing either, kiss your pet. There are worse ways to get cooties.
Do You Kiss Your Mama With That Mouth? Heck, YEAH!
2. The Bottom of Your Purse: Friend to Fecal Bacteria
When is the last time you cleaned your pocketbook? If you're really honest with yourself, you probably cannot recall.
Purses are notorious carrying cases for contamination, with research indicating that as many as one-third having fecal bacteria on the bottom.4 (Excuse me while I throw up in my mouth a little bit. Yuck!) Germs particularly love leather purses because of their porous surfaces.5
Cuddles and Kisses
Do you kiss your pet? (Be honest. We won't tell.)
What Are Poop Germs Doing On Purses?
Rather than using the hook on the back of the stall door, ladies often put their purses on the floor of public restrooms. Then, they place those traveling bags of bacteria on desks, kitchen countertops, and other surfaces, cross-contaminating as they go.
However, even if you never sit your purse on the floor, it's still probably pretty gross. That's because poor handwashing practices mean that we're all walking Petri dishes.
One study found that a whopping 95% of people cut corners when hand washing.6 (Men were much worse at handwashing than women.) Examples of "short cuts" include
- a failure to use soap
- not washing long enough, and
- skipping hand washing altogether.
As a consequence of poor hand washing practices, there are often high levels of bacteria on items inside your handbag, as well as purse handles and straps. Hand or face lotions, lipstick, and mascara, for example, frequently come into contact with unclean hands before being returned to the purse. Unclean hands make them breeding grounds for bacteria.
So what's a dirty girl to do?
Your Breath Doesn't Smell Great Either
What You Can Do to Reduce Germs on Your Purse
You can reduce the spread of germs on handbags using the following tips:
- never sit your purse on the floor (seriously—that's what those hooks are for!)
- avoid touching your face unless you have just washed your hands
- use antibacterial wipes to regularly sanitize the bottom of your pocketbook, purse handles, and items you carry, and
- practice good hand washing!
In the meantime, go ahead and smooch your pooch. Pucker up for your puddytat. If you're going to catch cooties, you may as well enjoy the experience!
That's Just Gross! Dirty Things You Commonly Touch
Germiest Places In Your Kitchen
Germiest Places In Your Hotel Room
Germiest Places In Your Office
Germiest Places In the Mall
Sponges & dishcloths
Break room sink faucet handles
Food court tables
Sink drain area
Microwave & refrigerator door handle
Toy stores and gadget shops
Television remote controls
Water fountain buttons
Vending machine buttons
What's Growing In Your Wallet?
Especially for those among us who are non-Australians, paper cash has been found to harbor up to 3,000 different types of bacteria, including those causing
- gastric ulcers
- food poisoning
- staph infections
- acne and
- antibiotic resistance.8
In addition, the flu virus can live on paper money for 17 days. Think about how many times a banknote could change hands during that time, and it's no wonder we suffer regular flu epidemics!
You Can't Say You've Never Touched Drugs
Sadly, bacteria and viruses aren't all that's hitching a ride on paper money. If you've never thought about where your cash has been before it touched your hands, then consider that 90% of circulating dollar bills in the United States contain traces of cocaine.9 Percentages are nearly as high for other countries worldwide.
Unfortunately, sometimes it's not just trace amounts of drugs. Three employees at a Michigan convenience store became sick after they handled money coated with a methamphetamine residue.
Go spend your dirty money on your pet, for health's sake.
3. Money: A Motherlode Of Microbes
Here's a major cootie alert. Dirty money is not simply cash made through illegal and immoral means. It's a motherlode of microbes, and it's what's in your wallet.
Scientists have studied the cleanliness of banknotes from countries across the globe, and they have found that an average of 26,000 bacteria contaminate paper money.7 Average banknote cleanliness is a function of how long the cash has been in circulation, the numbers of folds and creases it has, and the type of material it is made of.
Research discovered that Swiss francs, Danish krones, and Chinese yuans were among the dirtiest money, while the Australian dollar was by far the cleanest banknote. So are those Aussies simply super clean, or what?
Rather than using cotton paper fiber, Australia produces banknotes using polypropylene polymer, the same material that drinking straws are made from. Germs have a harder time sticking to the material.
Pets: All In the Family
- 70% of people sign their pet's name to greeting cards10
- 58% of people include their pets in family or holiday portraits
- 68% of Americans who own pets have given Fido or Fluffy Christmas gifts.11
- 17% of all pets have a Halloween costume.
- Up to 62% of cat owners sleep with their cats.12
- One in five people say they'd prefer to spend time with animals than humans.13
Yucky Euros, Disgusting Dollars: How Nasty Is Your Cash?
Interesting (and Disgusting) Fact!
A survey of American cell phone users found that 75% admitted to not being able to put the device down long enough to use the toilet.
You've Got Potty Hands
Do you use your phone or iPad in the restroom?
4. Telephones: Teeming With Germs
Nasty news flash: your cell phone is filthy. One in six have fecal bacteria on them.14 Hmmm. Any idea where that would come from, my chatty friend?
A survey of American cell phone users found that 75% admitted to not being able to put the device down long enough to use the toilet.15
Yeah, you know who you are ... browsing social networks, texting, and yapping away with friends, business associates, and family while you do your bodily business. (Is anyone truly that busy?)
The study found that while toileting
- 67% of survey respondents read a text,
- 63% received calls,
- 41% initiated phone calls, and
- 39% surfed the Internet.
Men were more likely to conduct their work while sitting on the throne. Such heinous hygiene habits help explain how approximately 1 in 5 people have dropped their phones in the toilet.
Dirty purrson, you've been caught by the poo patrol. (We already suspected that you protest too much about hygiene!) Set the phone down and give your pet a big kiss.
So what if Fluffy uses her tongue as a washcloth or Fido occasionally eats excrement? Your habits aren't exactly stellar.
Clean Enough To Kiss
5. Escalator Handrails: Do You Really Want To Know?
Your habit of not keeping your hands to yourself could be making you sick. Americans typically touch around 300 surfaces every 30 minutes. Chances are, if you're in public, then one of those surfaces is a handrail. And that handrail is gross! (We already know you don't wash your hands well.)
People can transfer germs up to seven times before it leaves their skin. Testing has shown that when you grab a handrail on a public transit system or escalator, for example, you could be exposing yourself to
- feces, and
- blood — as well as the bacteria, viruses, yeast, and mold they can transmit.
Is your stomach churning yet? This is just more proof that you aren't as clean as you thought you were. Elevator buttons, ATM machines, and gas pump handles are other filthy surfaces, and you probably touch them all in your daily life.
Oh, Dear God: This Puppy Teaches His Owner A Lesson
6. Hotel Rooms: Hazardous To Your Health?
While Fido and Fluffy may fight fleas (hey, do something about that), you may be battling your own pests.
Whether you stay in a swanky, high end hotel or a seedy motel suite, you may be checking out with some extra baggage. And I'm not just talking about those hotel shampoos you hoarded.
One in 10 Americans have encountered a bed bug problem, with the most frequent source of contamination being hotels. Some experts believe that the rise in worldwide travel is contributing to the global epidemic.
Other common sources of bed bug contamination include:
- college dorms
- nursing homes
- office buildings
- schools and daycare facilities
- vehicles (trains, buses, and taxis)
- movie theatres, and
- used furniture.
Cute Video: A Cat's Guide To Taking Care Of Your Human
Be Wary of Bedbugs and Other Hungry Critters
Bedbugs are flat and rust-colored, about the size of an apple seed. They also don't discriminate in their hunt for a meal; the pests simply like warm bodies.
When these insects come out at night, bedbugs can drink seven times their weight in human blood. They can also survive months without a meal. Summer is their peak season.16
As disgusted as you might be by the thought of sharing your bed with thousands of these insects, the damage they do is simply a nuisance, much like that of a mosquito. Bedbug bites produce itchy red bumps and sometimes no reaction at all.
Bedbugs Aren't All That's In Your Hotel Room
If bedbugs aren't enough to make you second guess your hotel stay, consider this gag-worthy nugget: Researchers who examined hotel room cleanliness found traces of semen and urine in every single room tested. Traces of urine were even found on the nightstand Bible. (Is nothing sacred?)
The bedspread, television remote and the main light switch were particularly contaminated areas, harboring fecal bacteria, streptococcal and staphylococcal infections. These bacteria can produce a variety of illnesses, including
- blood infections
- skin infections, and
- food poisoning.17
With cooties like that, do everyone a favor and just stay home. Cuddle with your furry friends. Dogs and cats aren't nearly as dirty as places you've been.
Your Pet Isn't the Only One Who Sheds
You can usually tell cat and dog lovers by the extra hair they wear on their clothes. However, they aren't the only ones who shed.
Here are ick-worthy facts about you.
- Humans lose an average of 50-100 hairs from their head each day. A normal scalp contains about 100,000 hairs.
- You're probably ingesting human hair. Some food manufacturers use human hair to derive an amino acid called L-cysteine, a softening agent for bread. Ewww.
- Dust is made up mostly from dead skin cells. Out of the 1.6 trillion skin cells on the human body, you shed about a million each day.
- You shed about 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of dead skin cells each year.
- One human probably sheds enough skin to feed a million dust mites. Although invisible to the naked eye, dust mites definitely share your bed and your home.
Be happy that you have a pet who loves you regardless!
Mwah! Not a Cootie in Sight
7. Hospitals: A Playground For Pathogens
Cooties can be downright dangerous, and unfortunately some of the meanest cooties hide in hospitals. It's best to stay away, if you can. (Besides, your pets are waiting for you at home.)
Over 2 million Americans get drug-resistant infections annually, and tens of thousands die from them.18 Examples include C. Diff, MRSA, and flesh-eating bacterial disease. The elderly, very young, and immunosuppressed are at special risk for these superbugs.
Hospitals are the most acute source of antibiotic-resistant infections, and a prime source of contagion is medical personnel checking IVs and catheters with dirty hands. Studies have consistently found that doctors and nurses wash their hands only about half of the time.
Observe those who care for you. Do they wash up before touching you? How about after writing in your chart? And what about you? Even though you're a patient, are you washing your hands before eating that hospital meal?
Consider every touch, every incision, and every tube a potential access point for super germs. And don't assume that hospital rooms are thoroughly disinfected between patients. One study found that 75% of hospitals had been cited for sanitary violations.
A Kiss Is Worth a Thousand Purrs
Just Kiss the Cat: You Probably Already Have Cooties
Based on the gross things you're already doing in your everyday life, you probably already have the cooties. So go ahead -- cuddle your canine and kiss your cat.
The warmest hearts often have cold noses.
Summary: 7 Things That Are Dirtier Than Your Pet's Mouth
Why It's Nasty
Soiled sponges in the kitchen
Your kitchen sponge is the biggest source of household germs. You probably use it to unknowingly spread pathogens throughout your home -- including fecal matter from raw meat that you prepare on countertops.
Because you sit your purse on the floor and don't wash your hands thoroughly, your pocketbook may be cross-contaminating your world with fecal matter, Miss Thang.
Drug and microbe infested cash
Paper money can transmit 3,000 different types of bacteria, and the flu virus can live on banknotes for 17 days. If you have dollar bills in your wallet, they probably contain trace amounts of cocaine. Don't ever say you've never touched drugs.
iPhone while iPoop
Your cell phone may have fecal bacteria on it. Most Americans admit to not being able to put down the device long enough to "finish their business" in the bathroom.
Escalator handrails: heinous hygiene
When you touch handrails and other common objects in public, you expose yourself to food, urine, mucus, feces, and blood -- as well as the pathogens they transmit.
Bedbugs frequent hotel rooms and can drink seven times their weight in human blood. Traces of semen and urine frequently "decorate" hotel rooms -- including the walls, phone, and even the hotel Bible.
Your Pet's Mouth: Cleaner Than The Blarney Stone
1Mann, D. (2007, October 18). Kitchen Germs: Stopping Germs Where They Breed. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/germs-in-kitchen.
2 University of Wisconsin Extension Office (2008, February). Consumer Food Handling Practices Indicate Need For Food Safety Education: A Summary Of Research. Retrieved from http://www.uwex.edu/ces/wnep/files/08resfdsaf.pdf.
3Mann, D. (2007, October 18). Kitchen Germs: Stopping Germs Where They Breed. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/germs-in-kitchen#1.
4Dahl, M. (2013, May 30). Your gross handbag is germier than a toilet. Retrieved from http://www.today.com/health/your-gross-handbag-germier-toilet-1C10120964.
5Castillo, M. (2013, May 20). Handbags may contain more germs than average toilet flush. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/handbags-may-contain-more-germs-than-average-toilet-flush/.
6Jaslow, R. (2013, June 12). 95 percent of people wash their hands improperly: Are you one of them? Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/95-percent-of-people-wash-their-hands-improperly-are-you-one-of-them/.
7McCafferty, G. (2013, March 28). Dirty money? Check your wallet. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/28/business/dirty-money/.
8Singletary, M. (2014, April 24). Dirty Dollars: That paper money is teeming with germs. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/dirty-dollars-that-paper-money-is-teeming-with-germs/2014/04/24/ae806962-cad2-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html.
9Dirty Money - Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Money. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2014, from http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1914560_1914558_1914544,00.html.
10AAHA (2004, November 29). Pet Owner Survey News Release. Retrieved from https://www.aahanet.org/Media/PressRelease.aspx?key=791b3ae0-3ff9-424e-a60d-db550842a41c.
11Newport, F., Jones, J., Saad, L., & Carroll, J. (2006, December 21). Americans and Their Pets. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/25969/americans-their-pets.aspx.
12Gardner, D. (2011, January 25). Don't sleep with your pet, you may catch something (possibly bubonic plague). Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1350168/Dont-sleep-pet-catch-possibly-bubonic-plague.html.
13Dell'Amore, C. (2013, June 19). U.S. Pet Poll. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130619-pets-poll-animals-united-states-nation-dogs-cats/.
14USA Today (2011, October 14). 1 in 6 phones have E.coli traces. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/health/story/2011-10-14/1-in-6-cellphones-have-traces-of-fecal-E-coli/50774456/1.
15Castillo, M. (2012, February 2). Survey: 75 percent of Americans admit to using phone while in bathroom - CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/survey-75-percent-of-americans-admit-to-using-phone-while-in-bathroom/.
16New Bed Bug Survey Shows Problem is Not Waning. (2013, April 22). Retrieved from http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130422005785/en/Bed-Bug-Survey-Shows-Problem-Waning-Bed#.U25YnvldWSo.
17NBC News (2012, June 17). Germiest hot spots in hotels? TV remote, light switch, study finds. Retrieved from http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/17/12241651-germiest-hot-spots-in-hotels-tv-remote-light-switch-study-finds?lite.
18Castillo, M. (2013, September 16). CDC: Hospitals major source of antibiotic-resistant infections. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cdc-hospitals-major-source-of-antibiotic-resistant-infections/.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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