Risky or Not: Pets in the Kitchen

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dogs and cats in front of pink screenReaders of this column know that I frequently write about topics discussed on a podcast called “Risky or Not.” In this podcast, two extension food safety specialists talk about a question they have gotten about a specific food or food practice. They look at the science and related research and give their rational for deciding if it is risky or not.

The specialists our own Dr. Ben Chapman from N.C. Cooperative Extension and Dr. Don Schaffner from Rutgers in New Jersey. Both professors are pet lovers and both have dogs. During the pandemic when they were producing the podcasts from their home, the dogs could frequently be heard on the podcast. I’m telling you this because pets in the home have been the topic of several podcasts.

Episode #115 Cats in the Kitchen

The question was about cats in the kitchen and occasionally on the counter top. Both professors agree that this is NOT RISKY. They do admit that it’s best to try to keep animals off the counter tops and tables. But admittedly cats are hard to control. 

They do mention that cats are a risk for toxoplasmosis. Pregnant women should not clean litter boxes due to risk from this parasite. But, just having cats in the house is not a risk factor for pregnant women. 

Having an animal is riskier from the pathogen perspective. But, then, there are also positive reasons for having pets such as stress reduction.

Episode # 120 A Dog Licked Plate

They discussed the practice of letting your dog lick a plate, after you’ve finished eating from that plate. Again, the professors say that this is NOT RISKY. But the plate then needs to be washed, cleaned and sanitized. No data says this is a human health issue. They did say that they are not veterinarians but caution that owners should talk with their vet about giving human food to animals

Pets can share pathogens with people if they are sick. It’s riskier hugging and sleeping with your pet than allowing them to eat off a plate that will then be washed afterwards.

Episode #269 Cat Licked Cake

This discussion was about eating a cake after a cat licked it. Both professors agreed that this is RISKY.

There may be pathogens on the cat’s tongue. These pathogens could get on the cake and then the human could get it if they ate the cake. They mentioned several pathogens that could be on a cat’s tongue including giardia, campylobacter, hookworm, ringworm, salmonella and toxoplasma gondii.

Although cats can be great companions, they can cause illness in humans. Cats frequently clean themselves and could transfer these in cat saliva to the people. Wash hands frequently when handling cats or if the cat licks you. Don’t eat share food with your cat.

They recommended a CDC publication on Cats Healthy Pets and Healthy People. 

Episode #284 Dog Kisses

Both professors agree that getting kisses from your dog is NOT RISKY. However, there is an illness called Capnocytophaga that you can get from your dog. They recommend visiting the CDC webpage on this topic.

There was also a discussion on if this is your dog or someone else’s dog. Because of your close relationship to your animal, you’re already exposed to much of the same pathogens.

They do caution If you’re at risk or immune compromised you might want to avoid dog kisses because there is a possible transfer of pathogens. They also say you don’t want “dog food” kisses, so avoid kisses from the dog right after they’ve eaten.

They concluded that there is a hazard in dog kisses, but there is low probability.

While I’ve tried to summarize these episodes, sometimes the nuances are in the discussions. If you’re interested I these topics, I encourage you to listen to the complete podcast.

Risky or Not? Logo with thumbs up and thumbs down clip art

Image shared with permission by owner.

“Risky or Not” episodes are short with each edition about 10 minutes. They usually post a new episode several times a week. There are also show notes for each podcast, so you can read the research yourself to understand the risks and how they made their decisions. To listen or see these notes go to riskyornot.co (yes, that’s co not com).

Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at Cheryle_Syracuse@ncsu.edu