The litter box is one of the most important “accessories” when it comes to life with cats. After all, it’s used several times a day, and choosing the right box, the right litter, and keeping it scrupulously clean all contribute to keeping your cat happy and healthy. But could your litter box present health risks to you and your cat?
Your litter box could be causing allergy problems for both you and your cat. Sensitive people and cats may experience respiratory irritation from sodium bentonite. Sodium bentonite is the element in clumping litter that swells when it becomes wet. It’s ultra-absorbent and creates large clumps make it easy to lift them out of the litter box. However, it can also cause allergies in sensitive individuals. Your cat comes face to face with this allergen every time she uses her litter box. Also, when she visits the box, the dust from clumping litter can settle on her fur, which then gets tracked through your house and bothers others.
Dust is a common allergen that can irritate both the human and feline upper respiratory tract. If you’re using a clay litter or another litter made from natural mediums, you’re likely dealing with at least some dust every time you change the litter box. This may be especially true with clay-based litters.
A cleaner option
You can avoid allergens associated with traditional litters by switching to a silica-based cat litter like PrettyLitter. Silica-based cat litters don’t create any dust (despite being super lightweight) and they don’t contain any harmful allergy-inducing chemicals like sodium bentonite.
Another benefit is that the litter changes color depending on certain properties in your cat’s urine. If your PrettyLitter turns yellow or olive green, that’s a good sign. Other colors can indicate a health problem and give you a heads up that it’s time to take your cat to the vet.
Porous plastic can harbor bacteria
Most cat litter boxes are made of plastic, which is a porous material full of microscopic holes. Bacteria, which are also microscopic, like to hang out and establish homes in these little holes. If you have a self-cleaning litter box, you have even more surfaces that could be contaminated with bacteria. The two main issues are:
Also known as E. coli, is a common bacteria that resides in the lower gastrointestinal tract of most mammals, including humans and cats. There are hundreds of different strains of E. Coli, and the majority are not harmful. However, E. coli can cause problems when a harmful strain of the bacteria is introduced into the system, which can lead to symptoms such as abdominal cramps, severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, and urinary tract infections.
When an infected cat uses the litter box, E.coli can be transferred into the cat litter. When the dust in your litter box is kicked up by your cat or when you clean or change the litter box, it can be inhaled.
Toxoplasmosis gondii is a parasite that can be found in the feces of cats who eat infected mice, birds, raw meat, or contaminated soil or water. It is rare in the United States, and the highest risk of contracting the disease does not come from cat feces, but from eating raw or undercooked meat or unwashed fruit and vegetables, or from gardening in contaminated soil. However, there is a small possibility that toxoplasmosis gondii can be transferred into the litter and inhaled via the litter dust .
Toxoplasmosis gondii can cause birth defects in infants, which is why women are advised to take simple, common sense precautions during pregnancy.
Beat the Bacteria
Scoop the litter box at least once a day, ideally, several times a day. Replace the litter at least once a month and clean the litter box thoroughly with hot soapy water. Replace plastic litter boxes every 6-12 months to prevent overgrowth of bacteria.
The ammonia smell from cat urine can lead to respiratory problems in humans and cats, such as asthma and allergies. Symptoms can range from nausea and headaches to serious respiratory issues such as pneumonia in sensitive individuals. However, under normal conditions, when you are only dealing with a small area of spilled urine, the likelihood of it harming your respiratory system is minimal to non-existent.
To prevent ammonia build-up, keep your cat’s litter box in a well-ventilated area. Covered litter boxes trap all odors, including ammonia, and are not a good choice for cats. Clean and change your cat’s litter regularly to prevent the build-up of urine and feces.