A common location for litter boxes, particularly for those who live in smaller houses or apartments, is the bedroom. But with increased awareness of the potential dangers associated with cat litter, some have been left wondering — is it dangerous to keep a litter box in the bedroom?
In most cases, it’s perfectly safe to keep a litter box in the bedroom — as long as you don’t suffer from a medical condition that makes you particularly vulnerable to the dangers associated with cat litter and are properly caring for your cat’s litter box.
The Potential Dangers of Cat Litter in the Bedroom
Before we can draw any meaningful conclusion, it’s important to first understand the potential dangers of cat litter.
Cat poop sometimes contains a harmful parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (T.gondii) — which causes the disease Toxoplasmosis.
The CDC estimates that as many as 40 million Americans may be infected with the Toxoplasma parasite. But most will never know. In healthy adults, the immune system easily manages the parasite, often preventing any signs or symptoms from developing. And when they do develop, they’re generally mild symptoms — like headaches, fatigue, body aches, and fever — and are often mistakenly attributed to other minor illnesses
But expectant mothers, their unborn children, and individuals with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk.
Unborn babies whose mothers become infected by T.gondii may experience symptoms such as seizures, jaundice, severe eye infections, and an enlarged liver or spleen. Stillbirth and miscarriages are also possible.
Those with compromised immune systems may experience much more severe symptoms as well, such as seizures, decreased coordination, lung problems, and blurred vision.
Reducing the Risks of Toxoplasma gondii
Needless to say, if you’re in a high-risk category, exposure to T.gondii is best avoided. Luckily, there are steps that can be taken to protect yourself:
- get your cat tested for toxoplasmosis.
- have someone else clean your cat’s litter box whenever possible.
- wear gloves and a facemask if you have to do it yourself, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
- change litter daily, so excreted cysts have less time to become infectious
- avoid feeding your cat raw meat, or letting them outdoors where they could catch and consume another infected animal.
Ammonia in Cat Urine
Cat urine contains ammonia, which when inhaled in high amounts over longer periods, can cause throat irritation, lung irritation, respiratory infection, bronchitis, and sometimes even pneumonia. Those with compromised immune systems, asthma, or other pulmonary illnesses are at particular risk.
The good news is that it takes a relatively large amount of ammonia to cause harm. If you clean your cat’s litter box as regularly as you should (at least once a day), both the smell and dangers of ammonia will be largely eliminated.
Clay Litter and Respiratory Illness
It’s not just your cat’s waste that can make the litter box unsafe. Sometimes it’s the litter itself.
Many clay litters contain crystalline silica, a known carcinogen when inhaled. When pouring litter, or when your cat stirs litter around during use, fine particles of silica dust become airborne and can be inhaled by both you and your cat.
Frequent inhalation of silica dust can lead to silicosis and other serious respiratory issues — including pulmonary fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, tuberculosis, and lung cancer.
While many cat parents and cats use clay litter and never develop any respiratory issues, is it really worth the risk? Consider swapping to a plant-based litter, like those made from wood, paper, or wheat. As an added bonus, they’re better for the environment too!
If your cat is very particular, and can’t adjust to a non-clay litter, try to avoid having a litter box in a bedroom, or any room for that matter, with poor ventilation.
Parasites, toxic fumes, and lung cancer. Sounds pretty scary, right?
Well, not so fast. As long as you’re properly caring for your cat’s litter and aren’t in a high-risk category, there’s very little danger to keeping a litter box in the bedroom. Just make sure you’re keeping the litter box clean by scooping and/or sifting at least once daily, and are using a plant-based, silica-free litter.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 3). Parasites – Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma Infection). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/faqs.html
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2019, October 16). Crystalline Silica: Health Risks of Exposure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/silica/risks.html
- American Lung Association. (2020, March 23). Learn About Silicosis. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/silicosis/learn-about-silicosis
- Mayo Clinic. (2020, October 13). Toxoplasmosis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/toxoplasmosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20356249
About Matthew Alexander
Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.