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Dirty litter boxes cause disease

Dirty litter boxes cause disease

Posted by Armarkat on 1st Jul 2024

Your cat values a clean toilet as much as you do. Bad smells might be the first thing you notice about a dirty litter box, but the effects on your cat are much worse. Procrastinating on litter box chores can have serious consequences for your cat’s health. Leaving poop unscooped can cause damaging conditions, from bladder inflammatory diseases to urinary tract infections and salmonellosis.Think of the litter box from a cat’s point of view. “Cats find a dirty litter box an affront to their dignity,” write the experts at Petful. “Without the cat equivalent of a clean toilet and soft toilet paper, they face a stark choice. Hold on and hope someone finally cleans the tray, use a facility they find repellent, or find their own spot to relieve themselves.” Does that scenario sound familiar? Most of us have faced a similar situation with dirty toilets at public restrooms.

Your bad restroom experiences may have been temporary, but your cat’s only toilet options are the litter boxes inside your home. When cats see an unpleasant litter box situation, the stress ramps up hormones that inflame nerves reaching the bladder. Once the bladder wall is inflamed, it informs the body that the bladder is full, even if the bladder actually isn’t. The cat believes they need to urinate, only to yet again face the decision if they should use the dirty litter box or not. This cycle repeats, increasing the bladder inflammation.

Bladder issues and urinary tract infections are the most common types of illnesses related to poor litter box maintenance. Petful reports that the two health issues show many of the same symptoms in cats, such as frequent visits to the litter box, urinating away from the litter box, the presence of blood in urine, vocalizing pain or agitation while using the litter box, and frequently licking their rear areas.

Some cats are more at risk for bladder problems than others. Elderly cats, cats with kidney disease, and cats with lower-functioning immune systems are especially vulnerable to bladder-related illnesses. Bladder inflammation from using dirty litter boxes can develop bladder stones, which “form when minerals and organic materials accumulate in the bladder,” according to Anasazi Animal Clinic. Bladder stones can lead to intense constipation by preventing the passage of urine through the urethra.

Bladder problems should not be taken lightly. Veterinarians at Catster urge that “if your cat struggles to urinate and cannot pass any urine, you should immediately take them to an emergency vet, as the inability to pass urine is life-threatening if not promptly treated.”

Along with the effects of bladder inflammation, urinary tract infections are a common health risk that comes with ignoring litter box standards. Cats using neglected litter boxes end up making physical contact with old, rotting poop. As a result, “bacteria from festering waste in the dirty litter box can travel up the urethra, causing a urinary tract infection,” Anasazi Animal Clinic explains. Not only are urinary tract infections painful, but they can cause severe kidney damage if left untreated.

Did you know that a filthy litter box can affect your health as well? Unlike bladder problems or urinary tract infections that stem from poor litter box conditions, salmonella from a dirty litter box can make you sick. If you are cleaning up a litter box that has not been properly maintained, be careful when handling surfaces that have come in contact with the old, soiled litter. According to Catster, your cat may have contracted salmonellosis if they have diarrhea, show signs of pain in their abdomen, or have a fever. However, even if your cat doesn’t show symptoms, you are still at risk: “Your pet may be asymptomatic, so you might not even know they have the infection.” See your doctor if you experience fever, stomach cramps, or diarrhea.

Mold is another consequence of a dirty litter box that affects both humans and cats. Air quality specialists at 911 Restoration warn that if a litter box is not scooped often enough, “mold can quickly begin to grow inside and around the litter box within 24-48 hours.” Protecting your cat from the dangers of a dirty litter box will also protect the humans in your household.

Fortunately, keeping a clean litter box is not difficult. Scoop each litter box once per day, replace the litter once per week, and rinse each litter box with warm water once a month. For more information about best litter box practices, check out our article Mind Your Litter Box Manners.

Your cat wants a sanitary, stress-free restroom. Keeping a clean litter box will decrease your cat’s stress and give you peace of mind knowing that both you and your cat will be healthier for it.

Quote of the day: "A cat is the only domestic animal I know who toilet trains itself and does a damned impressive job of it." - Joseph Epstein


“6 Health Risks of Keeping a Dirty Litter Box: Vet-Approved Sickness Signs,” Catster

“Can Cats Get Bladder Infections From a Dirty Litter Box?” Petful

“Cats, Litter Boxes, and Mold: What Pet Owners Need to Know,” 911 Restoration

“What Are the Health Risks of a Dirty Litter Box?” Anasazi Animal Clinic