How Your Cat’s Litter Box Could Be Affecting You

Cat Behavior & Training > Bonding With Your Cat > Litter Box Training >
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Does your cat’s dirty litter box seem like a chore to maintain? Although cats are relatively independent creatures that don’t need to be taken for walks, they do require a clean place in which to do their business, so to speak. However, can cleaning out the litter box put you at risk for health problems? And can ignoring the box be even worse?

Your cat will be the first to experience adverse effects from a dirty litter box. However, failure to maintain a clean cat box can pose health concerns for pet owners too. According to the Humane Society, you should scoop poop and clumps from a cat’s litter box daily and replace their litter completely about twice a week. The Humane Society also suggests that you scrub the container with a gentle dish soap every time you change out the litter. Meticulous litter box care should prevent you from dealing with the following cat litter health risks.

Urinary Problems in Cats

Most cats are germaphobes. That’s why they groom themselves frequently. Sure, they use their tongues to clean their butts. However, this is one of the safest ways to handle feces, according to this BBC Earth Unplugged video. We’re not recommending that you do the same thing, but grooming itself doesn’t put your cat at an increased risk for disease. Regrettably, avoiding the litter box because it’s too dirty could.

Your cat might hold in its urine if its toilet area isn’t clean enough, and this behavior can lead to urinary tract infections, bladder inflammation, and kidney problems. Urinary tract diseases can make peeing painful, causing cats to further avoid using the litter box. Because kidney failure is one of the primary causes of death for older cats, you don’t want to put added stress on your kitty’s organs.

Contagious Diseases

Cats can also get diseases from another cat’s feces. Feline distemper and feline leukemia virus are both passed along through infected litter. You’ve probably vaccinated your own cats for these diseases, and you keep an eye on their health. Therefore, these conditions aren’t usually a problem unless you invite other cats into your home.

Salmonellosis is a bacterial disease that can cause intestinal problems and blood infections. Almost 20 percent of healthy cats have salmonella as one of the millions of microbes in their intestines, according to Mercola Healthy Pets. It doesn’t make them sick because it’s part of their balanced gut environment. However, those bacteria are eliminated with feline waste and can make you sick.

Catching Parasites

In addition to bacteria, parasites can be lurking in your cat’s stool. Toxoplasma gondii is the most dangerous. Although it’s not commonly shed in cat stool, it can be especially harmful to pregnant women and their fetuses. You may wash your hands well after you handle your cat’s litter box, but this parasite can also be inhaled when you scoop the poop. Consequently, pregnant women are advised not to handle litter box duties.

Ammonia Poisoning

If you’ve ever let the cat box go for several days, you might have noticed that your cat’s urine seems to smell stronger than anything else in the box. If your eyes burn while you clean out the box, you could be exposing yourself to too much ammonia. Although it’s more common to experience ammonia toxicity from cleaning supplies, it’s possible to get it from a neglected litter box. Don’t let your litter box get to the point where it reeks of ammonia. This issue is particularly dangerous for people with respiratory problems, children, and the elderly.


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Tips for Keeping a Clean Litter Box Area

The mess from a litter box can spread beyond the boundaries of the container, especially if the litter box is uncovered. However, some cats don’t like using a covered litter box. You’ll have to determine which type of area your cat prefers. If you have more than one cat, you might want to leave the boxes uncovered so that cats don’t get ambushed while they’re in a vulnerable position. A covered box might work for a single cat.

To cut down on the pebbles that can stick to your cat’s paws and get all over the floor, set the litter box on a mat made for this purpose. Some are made from easy-to-clean, waterproof plastic. Others look like a sand sifter. As your cat exits the toilet area, any clay on the feet drops down inside the tray.

You might be tempted to use a litter box liner to cut down on cleaning time. Some liners have holes in them. You insert the entire package of liners in the box. Then, you remove one at a time, sifting out the clean litter as you pull it off. Other liners just work like garbage bags. They prevent the inside of the pan from getting dirty, reducing the need to wash it with soap and water when you replace the litter. However, cats like to bury their poop, and as they scratch away at the litter, they can shred the liners to bits.

Should you use more litter to keep the box cleaner? Some cats won’t use the box if the litter is too deep. Using lots of material won’t keep the pan any cleaner, either. If your cat isn’t using its toilet pan but doesn’t have a medical problem, try changing up the amount of litter you’re using to see if that’s the culprit.

Preventing Health Problems

According to Catster, you can keep an eye on your cat’s well-being by checking its rear end and the stuff that comes out of it. If you’re maintaining a clean litter pan, you’re more likely to notice when something has changed. Wear gloves and a mask when cleaning the litter box so that you don’t inhale the dust or get germs under your fingernails. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after handling the litter. You don’t have to worry so much about your cat transferring these health conditions to you just by snuggling. The parasites and bacteria that linger in dirty litter don’t tend to hang out on the cat’s fur.

Learn More About How to Care for Your Feline at PetPlace

If you have any questions about your cat’s health or want additional advice on providing optimal care for him, then be sure to contact us today. We value the happiness and well-being of your feline just as much as you do, and we’d be happy to set you up with any additional resources or counsel that you need. And remember, if your cat begins to experience a health problem or medical emergency, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Safety first!


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