How safe are used pet supplies?

You want the best for your pet, but items like cat beds, toys, food bowls, and climbing trees can be pricey. So why not use used pet equipment instead of buying everything new?

Today we live in a throwaway society where very few people “get it together and fix it” like they did in our grandparents’ days. Our habit of throwing away our broken or worn-out items contributes massively to environmental problems. You can save a lot of money by using pet supplies that other people no longer need. By using second-hand pet products, you are helping to reduce waste, so you are also doing the environment a favor.

But it is important to proceed with caution; you don’t want to expose your beloved pet to contaminated or dangerous products.

What second-hand pet supplies can you use?

Take a trip to a garage sale and you’ll see plenty of second-hand pet products you might consider buying, such as:

  • Beds
  • Toys
  • Food and water bowls
  • Crates and carriers
  • Leashes, harnesses and collars
  • Clothes
  • Cat climbing trees
  • Aquariums

You can find just about anything pet related for sale on popular auction sites and advertised on the classified pages of your local newspaper.

How safe are pet supplies?

Veterinarians are somewhat divided on the safety aspect of using second-hand pet products. However, most agree that some items are safe to reuse, provided you take the necessary precautions.

Safety first

If you plan to use a plastic item, always check the item carefully to make sure there are no sharp edges that could hurt your pet. Avoid anything with rough or deeply scratched surfaces where bacteria could grow.

Before buying a cat carrier or dog crate, check that the item is in good condition. Metal and plastic crates should not have any sharp edges, cracks, missing screws, or weak joints that could affect the integrity of the crate. The carrying handle should fit snugly and not be loose or damaged in any way. Note that most airlines insist that you use a new approved travel crate, especially if your pet is traveling as cargo.

Cloth cases should have no tears or splits, and zippers should work smoothly and fasten securely.

Food and water bowls

Look very carefully at food and water bowls before buying them used.

Metal and ceramic dishes are generally fine, provided you clean them thoroughly. Just check for cracks or rust before purchasing. But avoid plastic bowls. Even fine scratches and cracks in plastic can easily collect germs and debris that will end up in your pet’s water and food.

Clothing and Bedding

Some people like to dress up their pets in cute costumes and fancy collars, and you can often find great second-hand bargains. Beds for dogs and cats can also present great deals for pet owners. But be sure to check for tears or other damage that could pose a choking hazard to your pet.

Before exposing your pet to these items, wash them with hot water and environmentally friendly laundry products. You don’t want to transmit ticks, fleas or other parasites to your furry friend!

Olfactory marking

Dogs and cats usually mark materials with their scent as a means of establishing territory. So, have a good look at the item before buying it. If the item passes the smell test, it’s probably safe to pick it up. Dogs and cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, so if you can smell animals on the item, chances are your pet will too.

Some cats and dogs react to something that already carries another animal’s scent and may use their own urine to try to drown out the other creature’s scent. This is why buying used cat trees and scratching posts is often not a good idea.


Cleanliness is key when it comes to using second-hand pet supplies. Millions of bacteria live in our pets’ mouths, and you don’t want your canine companion or beloved feline friend contracting a nasty illness from a second-hand item.

Viruses and some parasites can persist in the immediate environment for up to an entire month, and used cat and dog items can provide a haven for fleas and flea eggs. To avoid bringing these unwanted hitchhikers into your home, be sure to disinfect or clean all equipment used for your pet.

How to safely clean items

You don’t need to use harsh chemicals that could harm your pet and the environment to effectively clean used pet products. Instead, try using castile soap. Castile Soap is a non-toxic, biodegradable soap that provides an effective natural alternative to dish soaps, floor cleaners, shampoo and laundry detergent.

Vinegar is a natural disinfectant. So, by using vinegar in combination with Castile soap, you clean and sanitize your items simultaneously.

To clean solid objects…

To clean sturdy items, such as bowls and crates, mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with warm water in a bucket and add a pinch of Castile soap. Wipe the item down, taking care to get into any nooks and crannies that might harbor bacteria, then rinse the item thoroughly with hot water.

Place the washed item outside in direct sunlight to kill any remaining pathogens.

To clean the fabric…

To wash fabric items, such as beds and pet clothes, combine one part hot water with four parts Castile soap. Thoroughly soak items, then rinse with hot water. Air dry items, preferably in direct sunlight to remove remaining dirt.

African gray parrot playing with a toy

Used Pet Supplies – Do’s and Don’ts

Buying used pet products is a viable proposition that could save you money while extending the useful life of items that might otherwise be thrown away. However, there are a few do’s and don’ts:


  • Check all items for damage, especially dog ​​cages and aquariums.
  • Disinfect and clean solid items thoroughly to remove pathogens and harmful substances.
  • Wash used pet bedding and clothing with pet-safe cleaning products and repair as needed. Parasites, such as fleas and worm eggs, and some viruses can remain active in items such as blankets and beds for many weeks.


  • Food bowls present potential hygiene issues. Do not use plastic or cracked objects, as they can harbor bacteria.
  • Dog chew toys can harbor worm eggs, especially if they are used outdoors in your yard. We recommend that you discard any toys that have areas damaged by chewing.
  • Dog odors can cling to objects, especially if the dog has marked them. This can be very off-putting to a new dog, so make sure the used item doesn’t stink on another dog before using it.

Use second-hand pet supplies safely

You can give your pet the best while saving money and helping lighten the load of landfills by using used pet supplies.

Generally, used pet products are safe to use, provided you check for damage and sharp edges that could harm your pet. You should also thoroughly clean any used items; we recommend using a pet-friendly product that will not harm the environment.

About the Author

Tammi Avallone grew up in the countryside on her parents’ farm where animals, including dogs, always surrounded her. Tammi’s first love was a gorgeous chocolate Labrador named Toby, who loved to snack on farm-fresh produce. Tammi is the editor and managing editor of