If you have a feline friend in your life, you probably deal with cat litter often. With litter boxes being the main spot that indoor cats do their business, cat litter has found its way into virtually every cat owner’s home. But is cat litter potentially harmful to us? Is breathing cat litter dust harmful to humans (or cats)?
In this article, we’ll discuss the details of the potential dangers of cat litter, and offer you information to make an informed choice on litter options moving forward.
Is Breathing Cat Litter Dust Harmful?
What Is In Cat Litter Dust?
When you hear about cat litter being potentially harmful to humans, they’re often talking about the chemicals in the litter itself. With having to mask odors and clumping on contact with liquid, there are a few chemicals that have to be present to get the job done.
Sodium bentonite is a chemical often found in clumping litters. It has impressive clumping abilities and acts as an expanding cement when it comes in contact with litter. This chemical is the reason your cat’s urine is easily scoopable and seems to expand to make it even easier to collect.
Though this chemical is helpful, it has the potential to be extremely dangerous for the humans that come in contact with it. Multiple poison centers have presented evidence of humans experiencing toxicities from chronic exposure to sodium bentonite, especially those who breathe in litter dust often. If it’s potentially dangerous for us, it can be dangerous for our cat’s as well.
Crystalline Silica Dust
Crystalline silica dust is another common ingredient found in clumping litters that is a known lung carcinogen to humans and cats. When this dust is inhaled on a regular basis, even in small amounts, it can lead to fatal lung conditions that can affect our lung’s ability to expand properly.
Is Cat Litter Toxic to Humans?
After discussing the two common ingredients in litter above, it’s safe to say that cat litter can be potentially toxic to humans. With chemicals that are known carcinogens and the ability to cause potentially fatal toxicities, it only makes sense as to why so many organizations warn us about the dangers of cat litter.
Is Inhaling Cat Litter Dust Harmful?
Have you ever gotten an accidental whiff of cat litter? Whether you are scooping the litter or pouring a new batch into the box, it’s easy to become engulfed in a cloud of cat litter dust. Not only can we acknowledge taking in accidental whiffs of cat litter dust, but we are also constantly exposed to microscopic particles that are present in the air.
Even when we are unaware, we are inhaling cat litter.
Anytime we inhale something in the air around us, we give it a direct path to our lungs. With litter containing known carcinogens and irritants, it is extremely concerning to know that these chemicals can sit within our lungs. With multiple ingredients in cat litter having the ability to make us ill down the line, it is clear that breathing in cat litter dust is harmful to humans and cats alike.
Can Humans Get Sick from Cleaning Cat Litter?
Though the transmission of cat disease and bacteria through cleaning their litter box is extremely rare, there is a small chance of getting sick from cleaning your cat’s litter box. While the toxins are more likely to cause illness down the line with repeated exposure, some immunocompromised people can be at risk with each cleaning.
Some of the dangers that can be present in a cat’s litter box include:
- Irritating fragrances
- Harmful bacteria
- Intestinal parasites
If you are an immunocompromised person cleaning out a litter box, you should be extremely mindful of the potential dangers in your cat’s litter box. However, it is still very unlikely to become suddenly ill from cleaning your cat’s litter box. Most of the risk that comes with cleaning your cat’s litter is from chronic exposure to known carcinogens.
Pregnant women should not clean out the litter box in order to avoid breathing in cat litter dust as well as staying clear of toxoplasmosis present in cat poop.
Can Cats Get Sick from Inhaling Cat Litter Dust?
Like we mentioned before, inhaled cat litter dust has a direct path to our cat’s lungs. If a chemical can cause toxins in humans and is a known carcinogen to us, it is just as dangerous to our cats as well. Because of this, our cats are at just as much at risk and can experience illness down the line from prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals.
Instead of environmentally-damaging clay-based litters, switch to natural alternatives. We use and recommend sustainable and eco-friendly cat litter.
Another factor to consider is the potential for respiratory irritation in cats. Litters with dust and fragrances can have an irritating effect on our cats, causing them to sneeze and cough.
Not only can our cats inhale their litter dust, but it can also cling to their fur each time they are in the litter box. Since our cats groom their fur frequently, these chemicals gain another entry into our cat’s bodies.
Can You Get Toxoplasmosis from Breathing in Cat Litter?
One of the most well-known dangers of cat litter exposure is toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis is known to be extremely harmful to pregnant women, as well as immunocompromised humans. Though infections from breathing in the litter are rare, it is possible. The most common transmission of toxoplasmosis, however, is through contact with contaminated feces. The person cleaning the litter box will accidentally get particles of contamination on their hand, and either rub their eyes or mouth accidentally following.
In order to be as safe as possible, it’s best to keep all pregnant women and immunosuppressed individuals away from the litter box.
Benefits of Dust-Free Cat Litter
When it comes to litter, the best option for your feline friend is choosing a natural litter or dust-free litter. Not only can dust-free litter be healthier for your cat, but it’s better for everyone that may come in contact with the litter. Some of the many benefits of a dust-free cat litter include:
- Minimizes irritation and allergies for cat owners with allergies
- Better for cats with asthma and other respiratory problems
- Less chance of you or your cat inhaling toxic chemicals
- No dust to stick to your cat’s fur and be accidentally consumed during grooming
- Much kinder to your cat’s lungs since they won’t stir up dust in the box
- Not as much mess around the box since there is no dusty residue
As you can see, the benefits of using a dust free cat litter are pretty impressive. Now, let’s introduce you to some of the dust free cat litters that we trust.
Dust Free / Natural Cat Litter
So now that you understand the potential dangers of standard litter, you may begin to wonder which litters are safe. Since the majority of these chemicals are consumed by inhaling cat litter dust, it makes sense as to why the safest litters happen to be dust-free.
Since there are so many litters to choose from on the market, let’s introduce you to some of the dust free cat litters that we trust.
- Dr. Elsey’s Premium Cat Litter
- Skoon All-Natural Cat Litter
- Arm & Hammer Dust Free Formula
- World’s Best Cat Litter
- Yesterday’s News Litter
- Yesterday’s News Clumping Litter
- Naturally Fresh
- Feline Pine (this is the one we use for Yoda when we are in the US)
As you can see, traditional cat litter can pose a risk to us and our furry friends. Not only is breathing in cat litter dust harmful, but it also has serious negative environmental impacts. Luckily, there are cat litters out there that are 99.9% dust-free that don’t harm, our pets, or the earth. Switch to an eco-friendly or natural-based cat litter today!