The Dangers of a Dirty Litter Box

At your vet, they will check for worms and give you vaccines for some common kitty ailments, but a great deal of your pet’s health is up to you to maintain. This is important both for the healthy life of your cat and your own.

Most often it is your commitment to cleanliness when it comes to your cat’s litter box that is the most important factor when making sure that both you and your feline friend remain healthy. The litter box is a magnet for bacteria, harsh chemicals, parasites, and disease so make sure you are wary of how you maintain it.

Feline Urinary and Bladder Diseases

If you are not diligent about cleaning a cat’s litter box it can have dire consequences for your cat’s urinary tract. Cats are notoriously finicky and will turn up their nose and their tail at a dirty box (yes, this is the same animal you caught gnawing on a dead chipmunk). Instead, a cat will try to hold in their urine (yes, this is the same cat that marked every cushion in your living room). Holding it in is bad for the feline urinary tract and can cause Feline urinary tract infections, bladder infections, and kidney failure.

While these diseases are usually not fatal, there is some significant cost associated with their cure. Additionally, the pain associated with the condition can cause your cat to abandon the idea of using a litter box altogether. And that’s something we all want to avoid.

Humans are at risk as well. While a dirty litter box is a danger to your pet, it is also a considerable danger to humans.

Risk of Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that infects nearly an estimated one-third of the human population according to a study by the University of Chicago. Most healthy immune systems can fend off any effects of this parasite, but it is dangerous for pregnant women who can pass it to their unborn children. In a fetus, toxoplasmosis can do considerable damage including leading to blindness and permanent brain damage.

Cats are the primary host for Toxoplasma Gondii and infected animals can excrete hundreds of millions of infected oocysts per week! Just one can contaminate a human host.

The full effects of the parasite are not known and there is no known cure. Scientists believe that, because of its effect on dopamine and testosterone, the infection even alters human behavior. It may make people impulsive and it has been linked to schizophrenia.

One interesting aspect of the infection is that it might make a host less wary of predators, something that is a pretty good perpetuating strategy for a parasite that wants to live in cats. Accordingly, cats get the infection from hunting and consuming raw animal meat.

Just like most people with the parasite, very few cats that are infected exhibit any symptoms, however for anyone with a compromised immune system, exposure can be deadly. Humans and cats alike can be infected by contact with cat feces. That is why it is so crucial to clean your litter box thoroughly and avoid contact with fecal matter (and why you don’t eat raw meat too).


Avoiding contact with cat urine and feces and keeping a clean litter box may seem counterintuitive, but that’s a very good reason to invest in an automatic litter box. If you want to know more about some of the best products on the market, Your Best Digs did a recent study starring their own cats Kit Kat and Jelly Bean. The results speak for themselves. And at the bottom of the review, you can find homemade cat litter recipes with a free label to save money on cat litter costs.

Other Parasites

Giardia is another infection that can be caused by exposure to cat feces and urine. While this is treatable, giardia causes some severe stomach issues that will definitely have you calling in from work – like flatulence and diarrhea.

Exposure to Ammonia

Because of how cats break down their food and drink, their urine and feces gives off a distinctive smell of ammonia. The fumes can become overwhelming if given a chance to build. Cat urine is concentrated with ammonia which can pose risks to anyone with a compromised immune system or pulmonary or respiratory issues like asthma.

A person exposed to concentrated ammonia over time can develop bronchitis and pneumonia. Children and seniors are at the most risk and people have been known to asphyxiate from exposure.


Keep your litter box away from carpeted areas so that ammonia does not soak into the fabric. Also, a tray liner can help avoid spills. There are a number of products that break down the ammonia smell in your cats urine, but using one with cedar or pine sawdust can be useful because they have absorbing properties and naturally neutralize ammonia odors.

Bacterial Infection

Cat Scratch fever is caused by a bacterium called Bartonella henselae, which creates a virus that can be contracted by exposure to cat urine and feces. Usually, the symptoms are relatively mild, infection can cause swelling and pain in lymph nodes (as well as a mild fever — thus the moniker). While the initial contact may be minor, the virus may present itself up to 7 weeks after initial exposure. The disease is long lasting and can cause fatigue and headaches for months!

Salmonella poisoning is another potential risk from infected cats which again is contracted from cat stools. This can cause terrible diarrhea, fever and stomach pain for several days.


In addition to keeping the litter box clean, try to avoid scratches and bites by not rough-housing with cats or kittens. Also keeping them from hunting raw meat will help avoid salmonella. Make sure you wear gloves or get an automatic litter box.

Wrap Up

The lesson to be learned is a simple one – clean your kitty’s litter box thoroughly every day. Be careful when cleaning and use gloves or an automatic box to lower your risk. Allowing their business to build up causes health risks for your furry friends, for yourself and for your family.

So be as tidy as you can with your cat. No matter how tired you may be, it’s not worth the risk exposing yourself or anyone else you love to potential illness.

About the Author
Sarah is the Content and PR Manager at Your Best Digs. She’s passionate about evaluating everyday home and pet products to help consumers save time and money. When she’s not putting a product’s promise to the test, you’ll find her hiking a local trail or collecting new stamps in her passport.



 Related Products

Ourpets SmartScoop – Intelligent Litter Box

PetSafe Simply Clean Litter Box

Simple Solution Cat Litter Box Deodorizer (16 oz)

Fresh Step Unscented Drawstring Litter Box Liner – Jumbo (7-pack)

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