A friend once told me she never cleans her cat's toys because "cat spit isn't dirty like dog spit." Having had cats and dogs for years, I could only reply, "Hey, spit is spit."
Experts tell us about 50% of the bacteria that live in dogs' mouths are also found in cats. But dog spit has about 600 different types of bacteria while a cat has 200. On paper, a cat's mouth may seem cleaner than a dog and my friend is right - sort of.
How to clean cat toys
1. Fabric cat toys can be soaked and hand-washed in the sink. If the toys aren't torn, they can be placed in a mesh bag (like the ones we use for our undies) and tossed into the washing machine. Either way, you do it, leave out the scented soaps - you know how funny cats can be about things like that! Tossing cat toys into the dryer is fine if they are not ripped or in danger of shrinking. Leave the ones that have seen better days to dry flat, so they don't get further damaged, and if they're too far gone, stick them in the trash (while kitty isn't looking, of course!)
2. Plastic cat toys can easily be washed by hand in hot water and unscented soap. Gently sponge off any remnants of food. I would never assume cat toys to be safe for the dishwasher. It's hard to know the makeup of the different plastics, and the toys could get broken or warped if thrown around in a machine.
3. Fuzzy, furry cat toys or those with feathers are delicate and must be hand washed. Use hot, soapy water and spread them out flat or hang them up to dry.
4. Cat toys containing catnip can lose their potency if not cleaned or dried correctly. Hand-rinse these toys and after gently wringing them out, hang them up to dry - beyond kitty's reach. Some of these toys can be dried then refilled with fresh catnip.
I've mentioned throwing out cat toys after they've lost their stuffing. Sometimes you hate to do this, especially when a particular toy is kitty's favorite. But safety must come first, and you don't want your cat getting choked on shreds of fabric, bits of plastic, or balls of stuffing. Once plastic toys are scratched up, they need to go too because the scratched areas hold bacteria. And rid your home of all small or broken toy pieces so kitty doesn't end up in the animal emergency room with a major stomach issue. If your cat pees on her fabric or feather toys, discard them immediately.
Being a good kitty parent includes doing a perimeter check every so often, looking for hazardous items or situations, and things that need to be washed. This would include her toys but don't forget her bedding, food and water bowls, scratching posts, and other structures upon which she may perch, sleep or play. Keep three or four of her favorite toys around at all times, particularly that one she loves so much it's practically Velcroed to her, and you'll keep her happy and safe.