Our feline friends are great fun to have around; they lower stress and blood pressure and make for great companions. However, just like human feces are harmful to us, cat feces can also lead to many zoonotic diseases and allergies. Cat feces are particularly known to be responsible for many fatal diseases including Toxoplasmosis. In this article, we will cover the hidden and unknown dangers posed by cat feces and cat urine and also study ways to protect ourselves from them. It is particularly important to know how to maintain the cat litter box properly in order to avoid cat feces related infections.
The dangers posed by cat feces
Two of the most common illnesses occurring from cat feces are:
- Escherichia Coli bacterial infection-Commonly known as E.coli, this bacterium is responsible for various infections that can affect human and animal digestive system as well as the urinary tract. If ingested through cat feces, this bacterium can lead to severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Antibiotic treatment is necessary to cure E.coli infections.
- Toxoplasmosis- This is another common infection in humans caused by cat feces. Cats often poop in the backyard instead of their designated litter box. Children playing outdoors in uncovered sandboxes, or adults participating in activities like gardening unknowingly come in contact with such infected soil. Toxoplasmosis can be fatal to the fetus in pregnant women. Most healthy human adults could unknowingly have the organism causing toxoplasmosis (T.Gondii) but their immune system prevents its symptoms from showing up. However, in the elderly patients or patients with weak immune systems, severe symptoms like high fever, diarrhea etc may develop. Toxoplasma has also been shown to alter our personalities, with infected women 54% more likely to attempt suicide, among other disturbing side effects.
Cat feces also contain roundworm eggs and larvae which can then enter the intestine of humans.
Cat Urine infections
Cat urine is also harmful to humans. If cat urine is allowed to sit for long hours without cleaning, it can emit ammonia which could lead to severe allergic reactions in humans. Typical symptoms of cat urine allergy include: red eyes, itchiness of the skin, nose etc, sneezing, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, coughing etc. Highly concentrated ammonia in cat urine can also cause dangerous diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis. Kids are at a greater risk from these infections owing to lower immunity and body weight ratio compared to adults.
Keeping safe from dangers of cat feces
- Wash your hands thoroughly from time to time, especially after petting cats or after performing activities like gardening etc.
- Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables from home gardens before consuming them.
- Educate kids about the importance of hand washing after playing in the sandboxes or petting cats.
- Avoid placing the litter box in carpeted areas as urine can seep into the rugs and form ammonia crystals.
- Immediately clean up cat poop or cat urine when it is outside the litter box.
- Use pine or cedar sawdust in the cat’s litter since both these substances absorb urine and prevent urine crystals from forming.
- If the cat’s urine is foul smelling it might have a urinary tract infection. Do have it examined and treated promptly by a vet. The same is true in case of cats suffering from diarrhea.
- Do line the cat litter box with litter lining paper as this can greatly ease the process of emptying the box.
- Do cover sandboxes and kid’s play areas to prevent cats from littering there.
- Do clean any spillage outside the litter box immediately. Do not rub the sprayed area-rather, blot it clean using tissues or rags. This will limit the urine/feces to small area and prevent the bacteria from spreading.
- Do not use ammonia based cleaners to clean cat urine as the ammonia in the cleaner can react with the ammonia in the cat’s urine.
- Do use natural cleaners like diluted Vinegar or baking soda and water to get the urine out. Hydrogen peroxide is also very effective for cleaning soiled areas.
- Do use gloves when gardening outdoors and also when cleaning the litter box.
Dos and don’ts of maintaining cat litter boxes
Have your cat’s urine and feces tested from time to time to ensure they are free of bacteria, roundworm and other disease causing pathogens.