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Is My Cat Allergic to Their Litter? Signs, Causes & Solutions

Genevieve Dugal

By Genevieve Dugal

cat looking at crystal in litter box eco friendly

With the vast amount of litter now available on the market, it’s no wonder some of them can cause allergies in our feline friends. To find out if your cat is allergic to his litter box, you’ve come to the right place! Here are 10 signs to look for.

How Do You Know If Your Cat Is Allergic to His Litter Box?

If your cat is allergic to his litter box, he should show one or more of the following signs after using it:

  • Sneezing
  • Dry cough
  • Wheezing
  • Runny eyes and/or nose
  • Puffy eyes
  • Vomiting/Diarrhea
  • Hair loss from excessive grooming or scratching
  • Irritated skin
  • Avoidance of litter (and therefore uncleanliness)
  • Swollen face and/or severe respiratory distress (Note: This might be a sign of an anaphylactic shock, which constitutes an extreme veterinary emergency.)

Also, note that the symptoms described above can also be caused by other allergens, such as pollen, fleas, or food. In any case, a visit to the veterinarian is strongly recommended.

What Causes a Litter Allergy in Cats?

cat beside litter box
Image Credit: Tanya Plotnikova, Shutterstock

But what exactly can cause a litter box allergy in cats? Litter dust, of course! Indeed, some types of litter give off dust that can irritate the respiratory tract and is difficult for cats to bear. But it can also be a problem for you! Indeed, people with allergies or respiratory disorders, particularly asthma, can be significantly affected by their pet’s litter. Especially when they put it in the bin or change it.

Moreover, allergies in cats can also be triggered by the scent of the litter or the plastic of the box. Indeed, these two elements are particularly allergenic.

Some Cats Are More Vulnerable Than Others

Some cats are more likely than others to develop an allergy to their litter box.

This is particularly the case for kittens, elderly cats, Immunocompromised cats (for example, those with feline immunodeficiency virus, or cat FIV), and cats with flattened noses (such as Persians, Himalayans, Exotic Shorthairs, etc.). Indeed, these breeds are genetically more prone to respiratory diseases due to their particular morphology.

How To Avoid a Litter Allergy in Cats?

To minimize allergy problems in your cat, it is advisable to choose a litter made from natural, clumping materials, without chemicals, fragrance, or dust. Also, in order to minimize contact with plastic, you should get a metal or ceramic litter box.

Furthermore, clay, bentonite, or silica-based litters, which are among the most popular litters, are, in fact, particularly allergenic. Indeed, they are mostly dusty and therefore not recommended for cats with a history of respiratory allergies or suffering from asthma.

Likewise, corn or wheat-based litters should be avoided because of the mold they can develop. Also, remember to regularly clean your cat’s litter box and keep it clean by picking up droppings every day.

Why Your Cat’s Litter Box Can Also Be Dangerous for You

ginger cat with pellet litter
Image By: Yuliya Alekseeva, Shutterstock

All feline lovers and cat owners should know that kitty litter comes with risks. Indeed, according to this study, the germs contained in your cat’s litter, and more particularly those contained in the small “gifts” left by our animals, could have harmful effects on the brain.

This is because cat feces can become infected with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite can cause toxoplasmosis, a fatal disease in people with weakened immune systems, as well as in fetuses, which can be infected by the mother.

Although this disease is well known to the scientific community, its effects on the human brain and behavior are surprising.

Indeed, according to the authors of the study, 30% to 50% of cat owners are already infected with the Toxoplasma parasite, but the immune system would be able to counter the disease in the vast majority of cases.

But, in its common, undetectable form, toxoplasmosis could lead to mental health issues like anxiety, schizophrenia, and even depression.

In addition, behavioral changes may be observed in some people: for example, some individuals may suddenly become more outgoing than usual. Aggression, risk-taking, and other similar symptoms are also seen in some individuals.

To mitigate these risks, it is strongly recommended that you clean your cat’s litter box well and do it often, in addition to keeping the feline toilet in a reserved area isolated from the rest of the house.

Final Thoughts

Allergies in our four-legged friends are often a significant cause of stress, both for them and for us. However, you should know that cats’ allergy to their litter box is relatively common and easy to spot, especially if your cat shows one of the ten common signs associated with allergies right after using his box. Nonetheless, if the symptoms continue even after changing the litter box substrate, it’s time to make an appointment with your vet.

Featured Image Credit: Axel Bueckert, Shutterstock

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