health effects from breathing cat urine odor
Questions About Cats

Is Cat Urine and Feces Harmful to Humans?

The daily task of removing eliminations from your pet’s litter box is not an enjoyable job. Worse still, if the process is mishandled and various precautions are not taken, you could be placing your health at risk due to illness caused by cat urine and feces.

It can cause breathing issues, as well as infectious diseases. While taking precautions can considerably reduce these threats, the mishandling of urine and feces can make humans ill.

Although the transfer of animal-to-human illnesses is rare, cat urine and feces can be very harmful to pregnant women, babies, and children. It is paramount that these groups are particularly careful.

Is Cat Urine and Feces Dangerous?

Cat urine and feces are dangerous because they can spread illness and disease. Would you stand over a toilet while it is flushed? If that scenario seems gross and unsanitary, it is essentially the same thing as a dirty and unclean litter box.

The breathing in of both urine and feces (especially urine) and the mishandling of a dirty litter box (while cleaning) can introduce additional concerns. The handling of feces (without gloves) can lead to the transfer of parasitic infections, some of which can result in serious illness.

If you already have pre-existing respiratory ailments or a weakened immune system, you are naturally more at risk of developing health problems.

What are the Risks of Cat Urine for Humans?

The health risks associated with cat urine are linked to many respiratory health issues.

Let’s explore some of these dangers…

1) Ammonia

The health effects from breathing cat urine odor can be significant and complex.

Highly concentrated in ammonia before it solidifies in the litter, cat urine is potent. Once mixed with urine, the concentration increases and the inhalation of ammonia can become a more significant issue.

Although ammonia is found in various cleaning agents and industrial products, the emission usually is of a controlled nature. Litter boxes that are open and soiled with cat urine for several days can potentially create a moderate health concern. The issue could become significantly more severe if ammonia from cat urine is inhaled on a daily basis for many years.

If your respiratory system is already impaired, breathing in ammonia can trigger an adverse reaction.

cat litter ammonia poisoning

Symptoms may include…

  • Red eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Rash
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Gagging

Catological.com has detailed piece on the dangers of cat urine and the consequences that ammonia can cause.

If you have ever smelled a fresh urine puddle in a litter box, you are not likely to forget the unpleasant and potent scent. This is why it is crucial that you avoid close contact with the box if you have pre-existing respiratory issues.

2) Allergies

While it is commonly believed that only cat fur and skin particles are the primary allergens, cat urine is a significant problem. Contrary to popular belief, urine, once solidified in the litter, does not eliminate the concentration of allergens.

PetMD notes that cat urine is similar to the urine of other animals but what makes it a significant issue is the passing of time. Because some cats tend to mark territory and urinate outside of their box, it can be difficult for an owner to realize that something has occurred.

As times passes, the bacteria in urine begins to decompose. This is what produces the potent ammonia-like scent. The longer urine sits, whether in or out of a proper litter box, the more harmful it can become to human respiratory health.

The overpowering smell of urine can be intensified by hormones. If you have a male cat that is not neutered, the testosterone elimination in the urine can make the scent all the more potent.

In extreme cases, cat urine ammonia poisoning can occur. Quite rare, this issue occurs when traces of ammonia are ingested after placing dirty fingers in your mouth.

What are the Risks of Cat Feces for Humans?

The primary health risks are defined as protozoal Infections. They are a larger part of zoonotic diseases that can be transferred from cats to humans in a variety of ways. Most diseases occur due to biting and scratching, but the handling of feces can cause illness.

The dangers of cat feces to humans is genuine. However, most of the documented illnesses can be avoided by taking proper precautions and hygiene measures.

1) Toxoplasmosis

Impacting babies, infants, children, pregnant women, and individuals who have an already depleted immune system, toxoplasmosis is born from a parasite.

Acquired by cats through the process of consuming infected rodents, birds, and any other infectious animal, toxoplasmosis is shed through feces. Living off the host for as much as two weeks, feces from an infected cat will carry the parasite.

While humans can get Toxoplasma from eating raw or uncooked meat, the parasite can be transferred during the mishandling of feline feces. Touching an elimination with bare hands and then rubbing your mouth, for example, can lead to infection.

Symptoms of infection may include…

  • Deep muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting

General hygiene practices can be the best defense against this condition. Wearing latex gloves while cleaning your cat’s litter box and washing your hands thoroughly afterward can be invaluable.

Protecting children and pregnant women from exposure is also critical. Neither should go near (or clean) your cat’s litter box.

  • If you have a sandbox meant for your child, always cover it when not in use. This will keep your cat from eliminating in the box and exposing your child to this condition.

2) Cryptosporidiosis

Causing diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and a host of other symptoms, cryptosporidiosis can affect both cats and humans in a similar way to toxoplasmosis.

Common to most zoonotic diseases, cryptosporidiosis has the most impact on those who already have low immune health.

Contracted through contact with contaminated feces, using gloves as a preventative measure can play a significant role in eliminating transmission.

  • A routine vet consultation and exam can lead to the prompt diagnosis and treatment of cryptosporidiosis. If you have a multi-cat household, this is crucial.
ammonia smell in cat urine

How to Prevent Illness Caused by Cat Urine and Feces

Those responsible for removing eliminations from a litter box are at the most risk from breathing and parasitic conditions.

To protect yourself from sickness, you should take the following steps:

  • Wear a mask
  • Never handle urine or feces with exposed hands
  • Wash your hands after elimination removal
  • Clean the litter box daily
  • Wash the box at least once per week

Neutralizing the odor of urine and feces is also a vital preventative measure. Baking soda and vinegar can reduce the long-lasting odor of urine due to the acid found in vinegar. Mixing a small amount of water with vinegar can provide a lasting solution while also decreasing the potent smell of the vinegar itself.

Another way to protect your health from cat urine and feces is to think beyond the litter box. Cleaning your carpets, sofa, cushions, bedding, etc., is recommended. Using cleaners that are enzyme-based and specially formulated to eliminate the smell of cat urine, you will not only remove the strong scent but also rid your home of bacteria.

Surface cleaning is also critical. Not only is it wise for protecting your only health, changing the scent of your home can prevent your cat from urine spraying. If a specific area is no longer appealing, your cat will be less inclined to urinate. It will prevent your home from smelling like strong ammonia and also keep your respiratory health in good standing.

Taking care of cats is often a family effort, and cleaning goes far beyond the litter box. By using protective measures while cleaning and also treating your entire home you can restore the air quality in your living space while also eliminating the chance of disease from contaminated feces.