A dirty litter box is not only dirty, it is also a risk to your health. Cleaning the litter box may be a frustrating chore, but it is really important.
What are the risks of a dirty litter box?
- A dirty litter box can make people sick.
Can a dirty litter box make you sick? Certainly, living with a dirty litter tray can lead to a large number of unpleasant diseases, such as these:
Cat-scratch disease (CSD)
Cat-scratch disease is just one of the bacterial infections that people can get from dirty cat litter. In particular, children under the age of nine and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of this disease. Cat-scratch fever can only be contracted by a cat, never by anyone else.
Like cat-scratch disease, salmonella first infects the cat, which may or may not show symptoms, before the disease reaches humans. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and nausea.
Overexposure to ammonia
Inhaling cat urine can also make you sick. A cat's urine is full of ammonia, a toxic gas that can cause headaches, asthma attacks and even serious respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. Children, older adults and people with weak immune systems are at increased risk.
Sounds scary! But these parasites build their home in cat feces. And these worms can pass from cat feces to humans, causing their new host to suffer from diarrhea, coughing, weight loss, nausea and more! If you suspect your cat has roundworms, make an appointment with the vet right away.
- It can also make your cats sick.
Your cat will stay in the litter box long enough to use the toilet, so it's no surprise that she's probably the first one to get sick. Dirty litter boxes can cause kidney-, bladder- and urinary tract disorders in cats. Simply put, when a cat squats over a pile of feces, bacteria can rise through the urethra and cause infections.
- Cats do not use an unclean litter tray.
Have you ever visited a public toilet that was so filthy that you ran away very quickly? Then you know how your cat feels when she steps into an unclean litter box!
Cats are naturally picky animals (you already knew that!) who are obsessed with keeping their fur and paws clean. So the idea of using a dirty toilet is just as disgusting to them as it is to us. And by the way, cats have a 20 times stronger sense of smell than humans, so...
Will a cat use a dirty litter box? Maybe once or twice, but cats who are regularly forced to use a dirty litter box will quickly take their business elsewhere. Think about your sofa, carpet or shower!
- Toxoplasmosis is a serious risk for pregnant women.
One of the most serious dangers cat litter poses to humans is toxoplasmosis. Cats can harbour the toxoplasmic gondii parasite and excrete it in their feces. If you touch those feces, which you are likely to do when the litter tray is full, you could get infected. Most people don't show any symptoms, but a few people get symptoms like the flu. And pregnant women may experience miscarriage or stillbirth due to toxoplasmosis.
- Your house will stink.
Molded cat feces does not smell good, and the smell will infect the whole house. A covered tray certainly helps a lot, but is no substitute for regular shoveling and cleaning. You may not notice the smell yourself after a while, but your guests or neighbours will!
So keep your cat's litter box clean. Scoop daily. Change the litter twice a week. Wash the litter box weekly with soap and warm water.
Cleaning the litter box when your eyes, nose or calendar indicate this is an important part of keeping yourself and your cat in top condition.